Breakfast Television Toronto surprises Fleming College student with virtual convocation ceremony

Elliot Smith never imagined he would complete his final semester of the Community Integration Through Cooperative Education (CICE) program at home. He also never imagined Breakfast Television Toronto would broadcast a virtual convocation ceremony for him and his mom.

On April 16, Breakfast Television Toronto featured Elliot on their “BT Bright Spot” segment, where Elliot and his mom Debbie discussed his Fleming College education. Elliot was also treated to a surprise virtual convocation ceremony on the morning show.

“It was amazing! It was a great speech,” said Elliot, who received 500 tweets, 300 emails, and texts and phone calls congratulating him.

Elliot’s mother Debbie is so proud of Elliot’s accomplishments, including his education. “Elliot proved a lot of people wrong,” said Debbie. “There was a teacher who said he wouldn’t graduate from high school.”

Elliot has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Debbie credits the Autism Resource Team at Ajax High School for creating a success plan and providing supports. She is also grateful for the amazing gym teachers at Ajax High School for ensuring Elliot was included and able to take gym class every year, as she said many students on the spectrum are exempt from gym.

“The gym teachers encouraged me and they understand me,” said Elliot, who loves sports and plays on the Durham Region Challenger Baseball League, Archery 2 You, Pickering Football Club All Abilities, and has a black belt in material arts. Elliot also serves as the first Youth Amplifier for the Jays Care Foundation, where he attends weekly meetings to provide insight and suggestions for their Challenger Baseball programming.  

It is this strong passion for athletics that led Elliot to the CICE program at Fleming College, hoping to gain independence, confidence, and pursue his dreams of journalism and radio broadcasting in sports and entertainment.

“I wanted to take the CICE program to learn how to live on my own independently and learn life skills,” said Elliot, who moved to Peterborough from Durham Region to live in Fleming Residence. He shared a Residence suite with another CICE student, as well as students from other programs.

“It was a great experience to live independent and do my own chores. I like to keep everything tidy and clean,” said Elliot, who helped his suite win the Cleanest Suite Award in second semester.

Debbie said this was Elliot’s first experience away from home. “He had never been on his own or away from us. I was going to move to Peterborough so that he could go to college, but [CICE program coordinator] Patty Thompson told me to try this and said she will help,” said Debbie.

“Elliot lived on his own for two years and that exceeds our expectations. This is huge for him and the skills he gained from that – making meals, getting to class by himself on time, keeping to a schedule – is huge. The CICE team helped with that, they made visual schedules, helped him learn to take the bus in Peterborough, taught practical life skills,” she said. “We found at Fleming that inclusivity is a huge priority.”

Elliot said he enjoyed living in Residence, kept active at the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre, and made new friends at Fleming. Some of his highlights include meeting boxer Cody Crowley in the Steele Centre, having lunch with race car driver Austin Riley on campus, and going to FanExpo 2019 with friends. He also enjoyed doing his CICE program placement at the Peterborough Petes, where he took scout identification, greeted guests and collected tickets.

Through the CICE program, Elliot learned about how to be a good leader and how to live independently.

“I feel incredibly confident after taking the CICE program,” said Elliot. “It’s made a huge difference and I would recommend it to others because it will teach you to be independent and teach you life skills.”

Now that Elliot has finished his Fleming studies, he plans to continue writing as Sports and Entertainment Correspondent for Outfox Magazine, is co-writing a book with Debbie called Living My Best Life with ASD; When the Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary, and will start an employment program in September at Kerry’s Place Autism Services.

Watch Elliot on Breakfast Television Toronto: