Allison Galbraith wins Fleming Business Student Award at 2020 Businesswomen of the Year Awards

Congratulations to Allison Galbraith, who is the recipient of the Fleming Business Student Award at the 2020 Businesswomen of the Year Awards!

Allison, who recently completed her final semester of Fleming’s Business Administration – Human Resources Management Advanced Diploma program, will receive the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough (WBN) award via mail as the WBN Awards Gala was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This award is sponsored by Inclusive Advisory.

“Each year, we continue to be amazed by the talent, dedication and enthusiasm of our post-secondary students,” said Grace Reynolds, WBN President. “Allison is an inspiring student leader who has demonstrated academic achievement in her respective discipline, as well as professional promise. On behalf of myself, the Board of Directors and WBN, we congratulate Allison on receiving this award and wish her much success.”

Allison is proud of this achievement and recognition. “It’s rewarding, and I feel grateful for the network of connections I’ve made at Fleming,” said Allison, who is completing her full semester placement with Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) focusing on Health and Safety.

Allison has a passion for the area of Health and Safety in Human Resources and aims to work in that field after graduating from Fleming College this year. During her placement at PRHC, Allison conducted mask fit testing for all employees, worked with the Health and Safety Department on the development of a new Supervisor Competency Training Program, participated in working groups throughout the hospital, and created risk assessments.

“It was a phenomenal experience to see behind-the-scenes of many PRHC operations,” said Allison on working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. “I found it particularly interesting the variety of skills and roles involved in every process. It was a hands-on, real-world experience that allowed me to try a little bit of everything while taking on significant responsibility in Health and Safety.”

Allison was nominated for the Fleming Student Business Award by program coordinator Joanne Tully for her leadership skills, engagement in class, volunteer experience, dedication and more. In addition to serving as Student Governor on Fleming’s Board of Governors, Allison maintains a 3.8 GPA, is a Peer Mentor, volunteers at Fleming’s Open House and Orientation events, is a student member of the Human Resources Professionals Association (Peterborough Chapter), volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and has taught math, English and physical education in Tanzania, Africa.

Outside of school, work and volunteer activities, Allison is a wife and mother. The Fleming student said returning to school as a mature student with a young son was intimidating at first, but the resources and supports at Fleming College helped with the transition.

“I quickly learned being a mature student is respected in the Fleming community,” she shared. “Advice I’d give to other parents is to take the leap, you will surprise yourself with how quickly you can fit Fleming into your life.”

In addition to winning the Fleming Business Student Award at the 2020 Businesswomen of the Year Awards, Allison has been recognized for her academic achievements several times during her Fleming studies. She earned the Outstanding Student Award, received a Dean’s Letter for all semesters, and was awarded the Human Resources Professional Association Award.

She is currently working towards her Canadian Registered Safety Professional Designation through the University of Fredericton and Certified Human Resources Professional Designation (CHRP), governed by the Human Resources Professionals Association. Allison is committed to lifelong learning and holds a diploma in Police Foundations and certificates in CPR/First Aid and Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and Code White – emergency response to a violent person.

Congratulations, Allison!

Practical Nursing student Erin Bourne committed to long-term care amidst COVID-19

Practical Nursing student Erin Bourne is committed to caring for residents in long-term care.

“I’ll never leave long-term care. I love that age population,” said Erin, who works as a healthcare aid at Hope Street Terrace in Port Hope, Ont. “The history the residents come with, the strength they have, it’s incredible. People may look at the elderly as frail, but the strength and what they’ve gone through is incredible. I never leave work without learning something new.”

As a healthcare aid, Erin is responsible for resident care, getting them ready, bathing, toileting, nursing restorative care, feeding and more. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin said her work routine has become more challenging.

“Staff aren’t able to work at different locations right now, so we have less help. We have to wear masks during all shifts, so residents can’t see you, and it’s hard for residents with hearing impairments to hear you through the mask,” she explains. “I’ve always worn PPE when I’ve needed to, but I didn’t realize how much damage it can do to your skin when worn for long periods of time. It hurts.”

Despite the challenges, Erin is happy to continue caring for long-term care residents. She has been working at Hope Street Terrace for years, previously working in a management position in the Scheduling Department doing scheduling and payroll for nurses. Erin also worked casually as a Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapy Assistant, as she is a graduate of Fleming’s Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant program (Class of 2005).

“I always wanted to work in healthcare and in high school I did my co-op placement at a hospital in the Rehabilitation Unit. I wasn’t ready for nursing, so I took the Physio program at Fleming instead because I wanted to help people live independently and give joy,” said Erin. “But when you work in physio in long-term care, you encounter the things that scared you about nursing anyway.”

After undergoing IVF treatments to have her daughter, Erin decided to enroll in Fleming’s Practical Nursing program to become a nurse. She explains, “After having my daughter, it really sparked an interest in nursing to help people. Although I didn’t want to work in maternity, I did want to help others as a nurse.”

Erin said she felt nervous to return to school 14 years after graduating from her first diploma program, but those fears went away as soon as she entered the classroom.

“I was really nervous going back as a mature student because I didn’t think I would relate to my classmates, but in the Practical Nursing program there is a big age range; from students fresh out of high school to second career students like myself,” said Erin. “And Fleming feels smaller than it is, and everyone is super friendly.”

Erin recently completed her fourth semester of the program and shared that she is more involved her second time studying at Fleming College. She is developing lifelong friendships with her peers, volunteers at Fleming Open House events, and has worked as a Lab Assistant on campus.

“I would recommend this program to others and I already have. Two people I spoke to are starting the program this month!” said Erin, who especially endorses the School of Health & Wellness Simulation Lab that helps develop skills through immersive simulations. The Simulation Lab provides access to a high-fidelity manikin, “Apollo,” that records video and gives students and faculty the opportunity to review their actions. For Erin, this gave her the opportunity to practice her CPR skills and feel confident if she’s ever in that situation.

Outside of her studies, Erin also keeps busy as a wife and mother, and working part-time at Hope Street Terrace.

“I love being a mom and I love being there to help other people. I thrive when I’m busy,” said Erin.

Her advice to others right now is to stay home and avoid unnecessary trips. “I also recommend having empathy and compassion. Everyone is dealing with this in different ways, so understand that some people will not deal with things like you. Have empathy and compassion for them,” she said.

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:



Vanessa Raaymakers balances Fleming College studies with PSW work amidst COVID-19

Although the start of her workday has changed, Vanessa Raaymakers is continuing to work as a PSW amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s definitely challenged PSWs a lot more,” said Vanessa, who works at Extendicare Lakefield while studying Practical Nursing at Fleming College. “Unfortunately, there is a PSW shortage – even before the pandemic – and now we’re on overdrive to keep ourselves healthy to ensure we keep our residents healthy as well. It’s scary because we can’t physically distance in our jobs.”

To enter the building, Vanessa said she first visits a vestibule to answer a series of questions. She then enters the building and sanitizes her hands, takes her temperature, answers a series of questions in writing and adds her signature.

Vanessa has worked as a PSW for five years, spending the past three years at Extendicare Lakefield. She works day shifts and helps 12 to 13 residents get ready in the morning, which includes dressing, toileting, brushing, feeding, communicating with them and lying them down.

“This isn’t a Monday to Friday job; you talk to people all day, you’re in their personal space and you become like family. They are counting on you,” said Vanessa.

“I love my residents. You go in everyday and you’re there for them, you hear their stories about where they’ve been and about their kids. When you see them happy and you hear about their life, it brings so much happiness to this job,” she explains.

One of Vanessa’s favourite moments working in long-term care was discovering that her house was previously owned by a resident.

“Her daughter had pictures of her room and I showed her what it looks like now, and she just lit up,” said Vanessa. “They told me all that they did to the house and it made her so happy.”

While continuing her PSW career, Vanessa is studying Practical Nursing at Fleming College to gain more critical thinking and hands-on skills. She is currently in her second semester and, despite the disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Vanessa said her experience at Fleming has been good overall.

“Being out of school for a long time and coming back as a mature student, it was difficult,” said Vanessa, who is 25 years old. “But there’s really good support and I was able to ask lots of questions, and there’s lots of help.”

Vanessa said she is already applying skills gained at Fleming College to her PSW role. After learning more thorough and specific terminology in the Anatomy & Physiology course, Vanessa is now able to relay more detailed information to the nurses who create care plans for residents.

The Fleming College student said she has always lived her life according to plan; she has been with her partner for eight years, bought a house at 20 years old, works hard and has a strict schedule. But one thing Vanessa is looking forward to when she graduates is being open to adventure.

“Now that I’m in school, it’s giving me a different perspective and, as I’m getting older, maybe my plan doesn’t need to be so strict,” she said.

Vanessa is currently brainstorming possibilities for the future, including moving north. “My family is from Alderville First Nation and I’d like to see what it’s like in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and work as a nurse on a reserve,” she said.

But she isn’t setting any plans beyond dreaming of possibilities. Vanessa is not worried because she knows that, with her PSW experience and a Fleming Practical Nursing diploma, there are so many opportunities to make a difference.

Ecosystem Management is an international adventure for Celeste Thompson

Celeste Thompson’s Fleming College experience has been an international adventure. From field work in Lindsay, Ont., to conservation initiatives in Costa Rica and a conference in Washington, D.C., Celeste is busy building her resume while making memories to last a lifetime.

“My experience at Fleming so far has been more than I could have dreamed,” said Celeste, who was born and raised in Orangeville, Ont. “The Ecosystem Management professors have made a world of difference in making the three years the best school experience of my life.”

Celeste chose the Ecosystem Management program because she loves being in the natural environment and wanted an environmental career. “The Ecosystem Management programs tie in all ends from wildlife to trees and soil and protocols. It allows for graduates to branch off to many different career paths,” she explains.

After accepting her offer to Fleming College, Celeste attended the Fleming College Open House to explore the Frost Campus before starting classes. She said it helped prepare her for college and recommends the event to future students.

“This gave me a perspective on what I was going to be getting into. I feel attending the Open House motivated me and got me more excited to attend college,” she said. “I recommend these events to students thinking about coming to Fleming.”

Celeste is happy with her program choice and loves the close-knit Frost Campus community, which she describes as supportive and feels like family. Her favourite place at Frost Campus is the back forty, the main location for class field work, which Celeste credits as the perfect space for environmental students. 

“With full confidence I would recommend the Ecosystem Management program to others. This program has made me the person I am today, and I am positive all students will leave with a special place in their hearts for EM,” said Celeste. “I am convinced the work I have done in this program will ensure my success in future endeavours as we cover a wide variety of topics to a professional and high standard.”

One of Celeste’s favourite Fleming experiences is the two-week field placement in Parismina, Costa Rica during her second year. Students who participate in this organized placement experience are selected based on a rigorous screening process. 

“That experience is something that I will always be appreciative of and drives me to follow my goals,” said Celeste, who volunteered to support Leatherback sea turtle conservation initiatives.

The Ecosystem Management adventures continued in 2020, kicking off the new year with a trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Council for Science and the Environment Conference.

This conference is organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment and features presentations on new research, innovation, and shows the power of collaboration. It engages more than 800 leaders from the sciences, education, government, policy, business and civil society to foster dialogue on environmental policy.

This experience was a nice way to start our final semester in this program,” said the third-year Ecosystem Management Technology student. “We gained lots of experience communicating with experts in the environmental field. It allowed us to grow into young professionals who are confident in our work and background.”

In addition to the conference experience, Celeste also enjoyed site-seeing in Washington. She and her peers visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum and the Lincoln Memorial.

Celeste plans to graduate from the Ecosystem Management Technology program in June 2020. After graduation, she would love to travel and do contract work in her field. Since Celeste believes in lifelong learning, she may return to Fleming College to continue her education journey and earn other diplomas in relevant fields.

Business Administration graduate continues education journey in Ireland

It was a code red weather warning that made Claire Campbell think of home during her student exchange in Ireland. Specifically, Canadian winters.

“It snowed about 12 centimetres,” said Claire, who was attending LIT in Limerick, Ireland for her student exchange at the time. “It was funny because in Canada we see snow all the time but in Ireland it was almost a crisis.”

Schools were closed for days, people stocked up on food, and shops struggled to keep bread and milk supplied, said Claire. But the Fleming Business Administration student, who had experienced many harsh Canadian winters, was unfazed and enjoyed her time.

“I had visited my friend for the weekend and we all stayed at home eating food and playing in the snow,” she said. “We were using sacks of coal as toboggans and every house you drove by had a snowman in the front yard. It was fun to see the Irish experience snow, but also it gave me a little taste of home.”

Claire decided to travel to Ireland for the student exchange at LIT because she wanted to broaden her cultural experience and challenge herself in a different educational environment.

“It’s important to take every opportunity that comes your way and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t,” explains Claire. “I am extremely thankful for Fleming College and all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had.”

Claire recommends the exchange because it introduces a new world of education, culture, perspectives, people and experiences. She describes it as the biggest and best decision she has ever made.

“The most valuable thing I’ve gained from my experience abroad is my self-perception and independence. It takes a lot to move to a new country completely on your own,” said Claire, a self-described homebody. “I thrive challenge and this whole experience has motivated me to step out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and try new things.” 

Claire moved back home after her six-month student exchange and graduated from Fleming’s Business Administration program in 2019. She was employed as a Project Assistant at BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada, but dreamed of returning to Ireland to continue her education journey.

“It was a very tough decision for me to quit my job, sell my car and move to the other side of the world, but I don’t regret it at all,” said Claire, who is now earning her Level 8 Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the Cork Institute of Technology. “I believe it’s extremely important to invest in your personal and professional growth, and the experience itself is priceless.”

Claire describes Ireland as a beautiful country with so much to see and do, and an amazing transportation system to help you explore it. “The people are friendly, the teachers are dedicated, and the culture is one-of-a-kind,” she adds.

Claire plans to graduate from the Cork Institute of Technology this May and believes her educational experience in Canada and Ireland will benefit her career.

“I have learned an abundance of new skills and I enjoy the applied style of learning, which helped push myself out of my comfort zone,” said Claire of her Fleming College experience. “Educational experience in both a Canadian college and an Irish institution has given me a versatile professional background.”

Fleming student Mitchell Maracle named one of Canada’s top geoscience students

Earth Resources Technician Co-op student Mitchell Maracle isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty, which is why the second-year student is excited to participate in the Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop this May.

Each year, 26 of the top geoscience students from post-secondary institutions across Canada are nominated to attend this intense two-week workshop in Sudbury, Ont. This workshop, which is hosted by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, aims to develop future leaders of the mineral exploration and development industry.

“The Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop is a highly competitive application process targeted towards university students, so Mitchell’s acceptance is a big deal,” said Joanna Hodge, Earth Resources Technician Co-op program coordinator. “I am very proud of Mitchell for his well-deserved acceptance and I know he will make Fleming College proud when he goes to Sudbury this May.”

Mitchell is looking forward to the networking opportunity, as well as learning more about the mineral exploration field.

I did my program co-op in the Yukon, helping to find economically viable mineral deposits, and I want to learn more about the industry,” said Mitchell, referring to his co-op placement at Big River Mineral Exploration. At his co-op placement, Mitchell sampled soil, staked claims, worked as a drill hand and at the sluice box, and panned for gold, among other responsibilities.

“I like this career because I like history, and this is the earth’s history, but you can find work in it. I also like that it’s science, so it’s great!” said the Fleming student.

Mitchell decided to take Fleming’s Earth Resources Technician Co-op program after earning his degree in Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University and travelling Australia. When he returned to Canada for a friend’s wedding, Mitchell decided he wanted to gain more hands-on skills and train towards a career.

“When I came back to Canada, I decided I should get my career going and the ERT program was right up my alley. I’m glad I chose it, it’s been perfect,” said Mitchell. “I like how hands-on and informative the program is, and I like that the class sizes are smaller—I know all of the professors and students, and the professors care if you’re struggling with anything.”

After he graduates from Fleming College, Mitchell plans to continue his studies at Acadia University, using Fleming’s education pathway to earn his Bachelor of Science in Geology with two additional years of study after Fleming.

“I enjoy learning and feel it’d be better to specialize in the field,” explains Mitchell. “I’m passionate about earth sciences and I want to learn more!”

Meet Social Media Ambassador Joao Borges

Given Joao “John” Borges’s ability to effectively manage a very busy schedule, it is not surprising he is in the Project Management program at Fleming College.

In this post-graduate program, students develop skills and knowledge to efficiently manage all aspects of a project to achieve organizational goals. For John, time management and organizational skills are key to his student success at Fleming, where he serves as Director of Student Administrative Council and Communications Lead in Enactus Fleming, while attending school full-time.

“I love getting involved on campus!” said John. “I have been involved with SAC and Enactus Fleming for almost two years now. I would say these are my favourite ones, as I get to do different things every week, engage and meet students, while improving my  skills and doing good for my campus.”

After graduating from the Business Administration – Marketing program this year, John decided to continue his studies at Fleming College and take the Project Management graduate certificate to further build his resume. His career goal is to work in advertising one day.

“I believe learning about the Project Management areas will be an asset to my career path,” he explains. “Fleming offers a stellar Project Management program and I’ve heard wonderful things from students that already graduated and are now currently working.”

In addition to his studies at Fleming, John also took a part-time position in Fleming’s Marketing Department. He is working as a Social Media Ambassador, creating content for Fleming College’s social media accounts.

“This is a huge milestone for the career path I want to pursue and I believe I will be learning great things with the Fleming Marketing team,” said John. “Secondly, I want to contribute to Fleming and give back to the students, and I want to try to showcase all the great things that Fleming has to offer!”

John loves the “lively and vibrant atmosphere” at Sutherland Campus, the amount of opportunities to get involved, and the support students receive from staff and faculty.

“At Fleming, everyone wants you to succeed, so ask as many questions as you can,” said John. “Try to step out of your comfort zone and take advantage of all the opportunities Fleming provides, because trust me, there’s always something that matches your interests!”

Meet Social Media Ambassador Hilary Wright

Hilary Wright grew up with a passion for animals and nature, which is why it’s so important to her that future generations get this same opportunity.

“With our current climate crisis, I wanted to do my part to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the wildlife we’ve all had the chance to enjoy,” she explains.

After earning a certificate in Performance Horse Handling from University of Guelph – Ridgetown Campus, Hilary enrolled in the Ecosystem Management program at Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences.

“Ecosystem Management not only educates me on how I can make a difference for the animals I care about, I get hands-on experience every week!” she explains. “I love studying Ecology because the more I learn, the more I can see how everything and every action is connected in some way. It’s both incredibly challenging and beautiful to realize how we’re all linked together.”

The second-year student says she loves the hands-on learning opportunities that Fleming College offers, as well as the amazing faculty.

“I love having the opportunity to be in the field practicing the skills I’ll use in my future career,” she said.  “Paired with having the most passionate and experienced faculty who truly take the time to know you… it’s a unique experience!”

Outside of academics, Hilary loves participating in the fun clubs and activities at Frost Campus. As a member of the Foraging and Bushcraft Club, Hilary explores acres of campus land with her club members searching for plants they can eat or craft into tools. She also loves Auk’s Lodge events, such as karaoke night, pub night, and even a Bob Ross-themed paint night.

“There are so many fun things to do on campus!” said Hilary, whose advice to new Frost Campus students is to get involved and try as many things as you can. “Whether it’s operating a drill rig, climbing a tree or trying your hand at Loggersports, there are so many once-in-a-lifetime events you don’t want to miss out on!”

Next semester, Hilary is excited to have another once-in-a-lifetime experience: she is travelling to South Africa!

Hilary and a group of Ecosystem Management students are spending the winter semester abroad through a partnership with the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme.

“Every year, up to 10 students from EM get to spend their fourth semester living on a wildlife conservation reserve in South Africa,” said Hilary. “I can’t wait to experience this for myself!”

Hilary is enjoying her Fleming College experience so much that she is now a Social Media Ambassador with Fleming’s Marketing Department. She is creating social media content, such as Instagram Story videos and Facebook photos, that highlights her experience at Frost Campus.

“I can’t wait to show everyone the crazy things we as students get to do everyday!” said Hilary. “Whether we’re in the field planting trees, in the lab analyzing invertebrates or enjoying a pub night down in the Auks Lodge, we’re always up to something new and exciting!”

School Within a College inspires Shelby Baldino to strive for success

Shelby Baldino never imagined herself graduating from high school, serving as Valedictorian for her class or attending college, but thanks to School Within a College, Shelby achieved more than she thought possible for herself.

“I never in a million years thought I’d graduate high school, let alone be Valedictorian. It was a great experience,” said Shelby. “When I got the message, I cried. In high school, I was put down a lot by my teachers and peers because they didn’t think I was making an effort, but I had depression and that’s what was stopping me.”

In high school, Shelby had poor attendance, struggled with authority figures, and was battling depression. Her guidance counsellor introduced her to the School Within a College program, a partnership between the school board and Fleming College.

School Within a College offers a college learning environment for senior secondary students to complete their Ontario Secondary School Diploma credits. The program includes a dual credit course, where students are able to earn one college credit.

“I loved it! It’s more of a college setting and it’s up to you to do the work. For me, it was a better environment and I felt safer, and the people who work here are more approachable and try to help,” Shelby explains.

“My attendance got a lot better— I used to not go to school at all. After being in this program, I saw how much I could get done in a day and that made me feel good,” she said. “I went from 50s and 60s in high school to 70s and 80s here. That made me feel good and made me want to come. It influenced me to try harder.”

Through the School Within a College program, Shelby said she improved her attendance, time management skills, organizational skills, work ethic and more. She also felt supported with her mental health and is especially grateful for being introduced to the Peterborough Sport & Wellness Centre.

“When my teacher Amy brought me to the Wellness Centre and I saw how everyone just does their own thing, I realized this isn’t bad,” she said. “Now I find exercise is relaxing and it makes me feel better if I’m stressed.”

After completing her Ontario Secondary School Diploma, Shelby decided to continue her studies at Fleming College. She is currently in her first semester of the Law Clerk program with plans to earn a dual diploma in Law Clerk and Paralegal.

“I have nine siblings and I’m the first one in my family who will graduate from college. My mom said, ‘you’re not allowed to drop out!’ It’s exciting, but I’m also nervous because I’m setting the bar for everyone after me,” Shelby explains. “It’s showing them that you can struggle and make it. Even if you have problems, you can do it.”

Shelby’s long-term career plans are to finish the Law Clerk and Paralegal programs at Fleming College, use an education pathway to earn a degree at Ontario Tech University, go to Law School, work as a lawyer for 10 years and then apply to become a judge.

“Back in high school, I never would think to push myself. But after graduating with good marks and being Valedictorian, I might as well strive to be the best that I can be,” said Shelby.