OACYC provincial conference inspires Child and Youth Care student Denise Borg

Program coordinator Heather Sago (left) with Denise Borg

Child and Youth Care student Denise Borg loves to learn, which is why she signed up to attend the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care (OACYC) provincial conference.

“I felt like this would be a huge learning opportunity,” said the third-semester student. “I’d be able to introduce myself to people in the field and hear their stories, and learn a lot more about what career I’ve put myself into.”

Denise is one of 230 participants who attended the sold-out conference this June, which welcomed local, provincial, national and international speakers to Peterborough. Entitled “Weaving Perspectives: Challenging Ourselves and Others Through Storytelling and Narratives,” the three-day conference featured keynote speakers, panel presentations and interactive workshops that explored ways to enhance relational care practice, methods and models, and encouraged attendees to continue working towards excellence.

“One workshop moved me that I began to think of ways that me, as a student, could begin to make a change,” said Denise on the Working with young people experiencing death, loss or bereavement workshop. In that workshop, the group discussed that while there is a program for helping youth deal with the grief of losing a loved one, there is no program in place for new foster children dealing with the grief of losing the life they had been living before being placed in foster care. “The next workshop I attended was about influencing change in your organization [Influencing organized culture], and those two workshops together had the wheels turning in my head.”

Denise explains that when children are taken to a foster home, there is a “tiptoe period” where they try to behave, be good, and always do everything right so they can stay and not be moved. It is a huge life change, with new rules, a new home, and new people.

“I want to help foster kids deal with that form of grief,” she said. “Having someone to be there to work with that young person, to ask them if there’s anything you can do to make them more comfortable in this situation or happier, or any extracurriculars they want to do, or if they’re missing something from their culture that they want… just having someone there to support you with this, that is huge.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Denise lived in foster care in her home province of Nova Scotia, bouncing from foster home to foster home before running away to move back with her mom.

“There was no one I could trust or talk to about being in care,” said Denise. “You’re taken away from your family and put in a stranger’s house. You don’t feel safe surrounded by strangers.”

When Denise read the description of Fleming’s CYC program, she felt inspired. “I thought, this is the person I needed in care. I wanted that, and I want to be that person,” she said. “I lived with addictions for four years of my life. When I saw I could work with young people who live with addictions, I thought ‘If I could work with foster kids who live with addictions or out of care with addictions that would be essential.’ If I had someone that I could have gone to and discussed my issues with, I don’t think I would’ve fallen down the path that I did.”

Denise said she reflected a lot about her past at the OACYC provincial conference and her experiences in foster care. One powerful moment Denise experienced during the conference was listening to Ziigwanbinesii Charles sing at the sunrise ceremony, opening ceremony and closing ceremony.

“My heart filled with so much love that I cried. It was so beautiful to hear her sing,” said Denise. “When I was in Nova Scotia, I was in a Mi’kmaq studies course and Ziig sang one of the songs my teacher sang to me when I was in school. It touched a part of my soul.”

She said the conference experience has also been beneficial in discovering more ways she can help others.

“I don’t think that I would have made the connections I did or that I would’ve thought about the grief that foster kids go through when they’re apprehended– and that there’s nothing in place for that,” she said. “It’s been beneficial, and I’ll take everything I learned and put towards my practise and next two years of school.”

Denise said she is enjoying her time in the CYC program at Fleming College and attributes it for her personal growth over the past year. She said the program’s inclusion of self reflection has helped her to move forward.

“I’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart moments with some of my professors and that makes the program that much more enticing,” said Denise. “You can tell Heather, Aurora, Cherylanne and Patricia really care, they are willing to meet you where you’re at– all of the teachers, really. My legislation teacher is the woman I inspire to be; Lisa Fenn inspires, has so much passion, she is my role model.”

Denise is excited to continue learning and developing skills for her career path. She said the OACYC conference confirmed that this is the right fit for her.

“Hearing other people’s outlooks and experiences put me in a spot where I need to do this. This is who I am meant to be,” she explained. “I feel it in my heart that I’m in the right place.”

A childhood in foster care inspires Andrew Chartren to make a difference through Child and Youth Care

Andrew Chartren did not have an idyllic childhood.

He remembers being placed in the foster care system, spending time with his father under supervised visits, feeling incredibly angry and acting out in school, and being grateful he and his brother were able to stay together.

“One time, my dad lost it. He yelled at the worker, ‘I don’t need you here, babysitting me with my kids!’” said Andrew, recalling an interaction between his dad – who had supervised visits for a period of time (and later unsupervised) – and a Child and Youth Care Worker. “It’s an invasion of privacy in a sense.”

Because of Andrew’s personal journey, he chose to become a Child and Youth Care Practitioner to support other families through this experience.

“I go up to the parent and I let them know ‘I’m here to support you. I’m not here to look over your shoulder, I am just here to keep you safe.’ I talk to them, I crack jokes, I make them comfortable,” said Andrew. “I’m more involved as a Child and Youth Care Worker than most of the service providers I had when I was in care. There is no awkward silence and I make it very relational, because the parents might think I’m judging them and I am not.”

Andrew, who was born premature with Cerebral palsy and spent months in care at Mount Sinai Hospital, was placed into foster care when he was eight years old. Andrew and his brother were able to stay together through foster care, which Andrew explains is uncommon and something he feels incredibly grateful for.

Although Andrew was obedient to his foster care family and behaved well at home in Warsaw, he felt a sizzling anger inside. “At home, I was good and listened, but at school I was bad. I had anger problems,” he explained. “I used to get made fun of, so I’d retaliate in anger; and sometimes I would just smack people around because I wanted to. People would ask my brother why I was so angry.”

As a speaker in the Children’s Aid Societies’ PRIDE program, Andrew says he tells new foster parents to expect their limits to be tested. He encourages foster parents to sit down with the child and reassure them, “I’m here for you. I know things are hard.”

Andrew does this because he strongly believes that a great support system can make a huge impact.

“Your support team will determine your progress,” he said. “If you have a great support team who want the best for you, you will do better.”

When Andrew left foster care at 18 years old, he went through a rebellious stage, but his support team got him through it. He credits his youth group at church for never giving up on him, and always speaking highly of him and saying kind words.

“Those were words of healing to me,” he shared. “Because of that, I was able to bounce back. I was able to look at myself and say, ‘Andrew, wake up man!’”

He signed up for Academic Upgrading to earn the English and math credits needed for post-secondary school and completed them when he was 23 years old. With a goal to work in the foster care system one day, Andrew enrolled in Fleming’s Child and Youth Care (CYC) program because the curriculum covers this field.

“I really like that the teachers came in with their own experience in the field. That was really encouraging to me,” he said. “These aren’t teachers who just read and talk about it and don’t actually have the work experience; these are teachers with real work experience in it. Everything my teachers said was accurate and I know it because I went through it.”

One learning experience that reminded Andrew of his past was preparing for supervised visits as a Child and Youth Care Practitioner. “I had to go through that and this class made me see that this program is real,” he said. “It is emotional, spiritual, intellectual… it is real to a person.”

Andrew recommends the CYC program to others, especially the Therapeutic Interventions courses that prepare students to help young persons work through real life issues, facilitating opportunities for change (“those three courses were a highlight. I’d recommend CYC just for that”).

Through the program, Andrew has developed notetaking and communication skills, learned theories from the field, and gained knowledge.

“I came in at an advantage with a lot of knowledge of the system already, but I feel like this program really added to my tool belt and is super beneficial. They did a good job,” he said.

Andrew graduated from Fleming College this June and is already employed full-time as a Child and Youth Care Practitioner working in the care system. His career goal is to work in family interventions to help reunite families, instead of placing children in care.

Andrew is still very close with his brother, visits his mom regularly, and said that his father passed away six years ago (but they were in contact before that). Andrew is happily married, a certified minister who leads a youth group, and his goal in life is to free others from their hurt.

“This career is important. We need CYCs in the foster system because children and youth need help and support,” said Andrew. “I want more people in this field. It’s super rewarding; it’s about caring for the lives of others and being selfless. It’s not about a pay cheque, it’s about making a difference.”

Integrated Design student’s bright idea earns Best Student Product Design in New York

Convocation day was extra sweet for Integrated Design graduate Kelly Van Raay. In addition to receiving her diploma and Ceramics certificate from the Haliburton School of Art + Design, Kelly crossed the convocation stage with an award from [Wanted Design] Brooklyn.

Kelly earned Best Student Product Design for her Lump Lights featured in the Human/Nature: Meditations on Material Culture exhibition. The exhibition, curated by Integrated Design program coordinator Barr Gilmore, displayed in New York at [Wanted Design] Brooklyn during NYCxDesign last month.

“I’m very honoured to have received an award,” said Kelly, who is one of 12 winners out of 150 nominations. “It was exciting. I’ve never won anything in my life before!”

Not only is this Kelly’s first award, the experience is also Kelly’s first time in New York. She travelled to Brooklyn with classmates Christina Dedes and Kelsey Redman, and Integrated Design program coordinator Barr Gilmore for the event.

“It was exciting! I’ve never been to New York before,” she said. “It was crazy to see my work amongst everyone else’s. There were some really prestigious schools there, like the Pratt Institute and Rhode Island School of Design. Being there, I felt like a part of the design community on a world stage. And I’m really happy people enjoy my weird art!”

Kelly, who earned the Ceramics certificate within the Integrated Design diploma program, was asked by program coordinator Barr Gilmore to produce work for the Human/Nature: Meditations on Material Culture exhibition. Kelly coil-built and textured the Lump Lamps by hand, which she then bisque fired, glazed, and then glaze fired.

Patience is a virtue, she learned, as the process is slow and tedious.

“I had to not work too fast, so they take me a couple months to do. I had them done a week before New York,” she said. “I take my time with it. When hand building with wet clay, it’ll slump if you’re working too fast and the piece will crack if you’re drying it too fast, so I have to work slowly.”

After months of hard work leading up to [Wanted Design] Brooklyn, followed by an amazing visit to New York to see her work on display, Kelly is honoured to receive the Best Student Product Design award. Unfortunately she had already left New York before the awards (Barr accepted it on Kelly’s behalf), but was happy to be presented with it on stage at the Haliburton School of Art + Design convocation ceremony.

Kelly said she enjoyed her time at Fleming’s Haliburton Campus, especially the small campus environment and class sizes.

“I had freedom to be creative with my process. It was a very encouraging environment; if I had an idea, I could talk to my instructors or classmates about it,” said Kelly. “It’s always a good environment when you’re surrounded by people making.”

Kelly came to Fleming College after earning her diploma in Theatre Arts – Technical Production from Fanshawe College, where she developed an interest in prop making.

“I thought the Integrated Design program was good for getting more experience related to prop making because it gives you an introductory to many art practices, approaching each practice with good design in mind” said Kelly, who worked in the theatre and entertainment industry in London, Ont., briefly before starting Fleming College. “My Props teacher told me that the most important thing I could do for my career [in prop making] is to go to art school and learn to draw—which, I’ve never had a teacher say ‘go to art school for your career’ before!”

Last month, she graduated from the Integrated Design diploma and Ceramics certificate from the Haliburton School of Art + Design, and is now working as a Studio Technician at a pottery studio in London. Kelly said her experience in the program, as well as at [Wanted Design] Brooklyn, helped shape her as a designer and human by reminding her that practice makes perfect.

 “You’re going to mess up, but that’s okay because you’ll learn for next time,” said Kelly. “I’m at the beginning of my journey, but I learned that I should stick with my gut of what I think is good design, because it’s obviously working.”

Fleming Justice Programs community cheers for Rachel Cooper’s Valedictorian success

Rachel Cooper had a special support system throughout her studies at Fleming College, her six-year old son Austin. Austin was there at the Justice Programs convocation ceremony last week to cheer on his mom and watch her serve as Valedictorian.

“He had many opportunities to join us in classes at Fleming and always loved to inquire, raising his hand often,” said Rachel, who graduated from the Customs Border Services (CBS) program. “I have no doubt that when he gets older and is choosing colleges, Fleming will be a huge contender.”

Rachel is a two-time Fleming College graduate; in 2008, she graduated from the Preparatory Health Science program (since renamed Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Advanced Diplomas and Degrees), and this June she graduated from the CBS program. Rachel said when she returned to Fleming, she had her sights set on being Valedictorian.

“I had set many high goals for myself at Fleming, Valedictorian was one of them. To actually be chosen, though, was indescribable,” said Rachel.

“Being in a program I loved contributed to being successful, but I couldn’t have worked so hard without the constant cheerleading from my friends spread throughout the Justice programs— we all wanted each other to succeed,” she explained. “Our friend went as far as to open her home to us to do our work­­­­. We called it ‘Homework Camp’ and spent countless hours of our semesters there, from PF students to CBS to Paralegal… everyone was welcome!”

Rachel chose the CBS program because she heard amazing reviews from her cousin, a CBS student who endorsed the courses and program coordinator Jesse Pudwell.

“We discussed the future possibilities this program would bring and I felt like it was right for me,” said Rachel. “As a graduate from Fleming in 2008, I knew Fleming was the college I wanted to attend. The faculty was amazing then and proved to be amazing again through my most recent experience.”

Rachel credits the faculty for their support and for making class time enjoyable. She also has a huge appreciation for the Common First Semester that students in Justice Programs take, which introduces them to a variety of career options and other Justice programs, and develops their knowledge and fundamental skills.  

“The Common First Semester allowed us to get into the groove of college life, academically and socially, before moving into our specialties,” said Rachel. “The College itself provided endless possibilities to get involved socially through extracurricular events, pop-ups, and volunteering. I enjoyed being involved in the community atmosphere at Fleming.”

Rachel shared that she learned some valuable lessons outside of the classroom at Fleming, including her awareness of obstacles and experiences faced by transgender people.

“My favourite memory was experiencing the joy that washed over my friend’s face when he, a transgender student, learned Fleming would have gender neutral washrooms,” said Rachel. “I learned a lot about what it means to be transgender through hearing about difficult experiences and obstacles. That’s why Fleming’s rainbow crosswalk installation was another on the favourites list. Those involved will never forget the day we put paint to pavement. It gave a whole new emphasis on belonging at Fleming.”

Rachel (left) poses for a photo with faculty member Shauna Longmuir (centre) and Fleming College President Maureen Adamson (right) at the re-dedication ceremony of the rainbow crosswalk this month.

Rachel, who graduated from Fleming College last week, said she felt well prepared to leave the Sutherland Campus and enter the work world thanks to her five-week program field placement.

“I was able to apply everything I learned while at my field placement at PepsiCo. I was prepared for all of the Customs tasks delegated to me. This gives me confidence going out into private industry,” said Rachel. “I’m excited to find a role in the trade side of Customs within Ontario. I also plan to take the Certified Customs Specialist designation this year.”

Ontario Skills Gold medalist and Fleming Valedictorian Mark Melong strives for greatness

Mark Melong is ending his studies at Fleming College with two major wins: a Gold medal in Metal Fabrication at the Skills Canada – Ontario competition and the School of Trades and Technology G.E. Outstanding Achievement Award.

But the Welding and Fabrication Technician graduate worked hard for this, both inside and outside of the classroom, and is proud to serve as Valedictorian at the School of Trades and Technology convocation ceremony.

“The message that I will give to my classmates is to not settle for anything less than you feel you deserve,” said Mark. “Strive for greatness and push your boundaries to keep bettering yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your career in order to get to where you want to be. Above all, find what you love to do, because we spend almost half our lives working, so it might as well be somewhere you want to be every day.”

Mark was introduced to welding in high school and enjoyed it, so he completed his first-year apprenticeship during grade 12 through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). He wanted to learn more and build his resume, so Mark chose to earn his Welding and Fabrication Technician diploma at Fleming College.

“I had a ball of a time at Fleming,” said Mark. “Getting to know my classmates and professors was the best part about it all. By the last semester there was only about 16 students in the class and we were a very tight-knit group. We went through a lot in the past two years, so it made us become the best of friends.”

During his first year at Fleming College, Mark lived in Residence and loved the experience of meeting amazing people from different Fleming programs. Mark’s Residence Advisor (RA) inspired him to become an RA for his second year of studies at Fleming, and Mark said it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

“I gained so many skills that I never knew I needed,” said Mark. “The team I worked with was full of amazing and inspiring people. This made my second year one of the best years of my life and being able to go to the Skills competition at the end was the cherry on top.”

Mark attended Skills Canada – Ontario, Canada’s largest skilled trade and technology competition, during his second-year at Fleming. It was his third time in the competition, having earned 3rd Place in grade 12 and 7th Place during his first-year at Fleming. This time, Mark walked away with a Bronze medal in Welding and a Gold medal in Metal Fabrication.

“I absolutely loved going to the competition. The vibe of the whole event is that of prestige and pride in the trades. Being in a room with the best welders in college and going head-to-head with all of them is exhilarating,” said Mark. “Also, being able to hang out with your professors for three days is fun too.”

For the Welding competition, Mark had six hours to follow a blueprint to fit and weld metal pieces (that were cut to shape) using a welding machine. In the fabrication competition, Mark had an I-beam, metal pieces (not cut to shape) and equipment to fit and weld everything to the specifications of the provided blueprint. Both are challenging and competitive, so Mark is honoured to win Gold in Metal Fabrication and Bronze in Welding against competitors from other Ontario colleges.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling,” said Mark. “It was so nerve-racking waiting for the awards. When I heard my name called and I looked over and saw [program coordinator Darryl Madussi] with the biggest smile on my face, it made me feel so accomplished. After three years of competing, it was nice to win Gold.”

Mark said Fleming does a good job exposing students to the variety of techniques and accompanying theory for welding.

“The final welding project we did allowed us to touch upon many different aspects of the trade to see what we enjoyed the most,” said Mark on the fourth-semester Industry Showcase, where students display their pressure vessel project. “From that, many of my classmates decided where they wanted to apply for jobs and many of them got hired from it.”

Mark labels the Industry Showcase as his favourite Fleming College memory.

“We got all dressed up and showed off our pressure vessel project that took us 15 weeks to complete. We were all so proud of what we had built and all the skills we had learned,” said Mark. “To see the few classmates that I started with in Week 1, and how far we had come, made me proud to be working with such amazing people.”

Now that Mark has finished his classes at Fleming College, he is working at Chematics Inc. in Pickering, Ont. The shop builds custom pressure vessels for the mining and gas industries, as well as nuclear operations and other industrial applications.

The Class of 2019 graduate plans to gain more skills at Chematics and doesn’t want to set any long-term career plans in stone, as he’d like to keep an open mind and consider all the different routes available to him. But what Mark does know for sure is that he will strive for greatness, push his boundaries, keep bettering himself, and not be afraid to take career risks. 

Valedictorian Lyndin Belleau finds home away from home at Fleming College

Lyndin Belleau was nervous to leave his home in Garden River First Nation, east of Sault Ste. Marie. In high school, Lyndin was told students are just numbers at colleges and universities, and that wasn’t something he was used to—and luckily, it isn’t something he ever has to.

“My experience at Fleming was nothing that I imagined. Fleming gave me so many opportunities that I don’t think any other college would have been able to provide me,” said Lyndin. “All my professors knew my name. It was nothing like they tell you in high school where you’re only known as a number.”

Lyndin took the Business Administration – Human Resources Management program because he wanted to work with people. He describes the Sutherland Campus in Peterborough, Ont., as amazing, with the beauty of the countryside and the convenience of city life.

To complement his studies, Lyndin worked as a Career Services Assistant with Fleming Career Services from September 2016 to April 2019. “Working with Career Services provided me with opportunities that the classroom couldn’t,” said Lyndin, who credits Job Fair planning as one of the skill-building experiences he gained on the job.

“But also learning a completely different side of business,” he explained. “In HR, we learn what is best for the business, whereas in Career Services we tailor services to the student/client to get them into the job. It was a great experience learning a completely different side from [Career Educators] Joanne Duffy and Lou Anne Hanes.”

Lyndin also volunteered his time on campus, sharing information with prospective students at Fleming’s Open House events, welcoming new students at Fleming Knights Orientation, recruiting new team members to Enactus Fleming during its inaugural year, and more. But its his involvement with Indigenous Student Services that Lyndin considers very special.

“I consider Indigenous Student Services one of my saviors during my time at Fleming,” said Lyndin, who participated in Tipi Tuesdays and Medicine Walks. “During my time at Fleming, I gained more then just a support system from Indigenous Student Services; I gained relationships from both the staff and students who accessed the lounge. The staff in Indigenous Student Services (Ashley Safar and Kylie Fox-Peltier) have a way of making the lounge feel like it’s a home away from home. They make everyone feel welcomed and are always willing to help when they can.”

Lyndin said he never expected to become so involved at Fleming College, but is glad he did.

“Getting involved on campus made my entire college experience that much better,” said Lyndin. “My time at Fleming had so many great experiences, in both the classroom and out of the classroom.”

One of his favourite experiences at Fleming was the Travel-Based Learning course, where Lyndin and his classmates travelled to Jamaica with two faculty members for one week. “This course allowed me to travel internationally for the first time, to experience different cultures, explore the tourism industry and how it works, and as well as having fun,” he said.

Lyndin said the Business Administration – Human Resources Management program prepared him for his career and he is already putting his knowledge into action as a Human Resources Assistant at Garden River First Nation, where he is working for a third summer. In September, Lyndin plans to continue his studies at Laurentian University, where he will study Sports Administration. Lyndin hopes to one day work in Human Resources at a sports organization.

But before that, Lyndin will serve as Valedictorian at the School of Business convocation ceremony this week.

“Being selected as Valedictorian was like a mix of emotions. I felt excited, scared, nervous, honoured and shocked all at the same time,” he said. “The message that I am trying to give to graduates is to never give up on continuing your journey in life, whether it is educational, workplace, or just life in general. You’ll always have a place at Fleming.”

A curiosity about learning and development leads Sharon Jose to Early Childhood Education

Sharon Jose was teaching at a college in Kerala, India when she realized that each student has their own unique learning style. Wanting to understand how people begin to learn and develop, Sharon started researching online and discovered Early Childhood Education.

“Children are like sponges, they grasp everything,” said Sharon. “I wanted to learn more about child development and so I enrolled myself at Fleming College.”

Sharon, who is graduating this week, describes her time at Fleming College as “truly spectacular and memorable.” She arrived at the Sutherland Campus not knowing anyone and was greeted by friendly student volunteers at the International Student Orientation who guided her through the school and instantly made Sharon feel welcomed, included, and part of the Fleming family.

Her favourite experience was celebrating Canada Day and attending the Cultural Showcase event, which Sharon describes as great opportunities to learn from each other.

“As an International student, I was thrilled to learn about the cultures, traditions, and lifestyles of students from various parts of the world,” said Sharon. “It was on celebratory days like these that made me realize how unique and special each of us are. Each student was proud to share their knowledge of their culture to all those seeking to learn. The singing competition, dance competition, Holi celebration, rangoli, pin the tail on the beaver, and face painting are some of the best experiences and memories I’ll never forget.”

Sharon also made lasting memories in her ECE program and won’t soon forget the amazing support she felt from her Fleming faculty.

“My professors were very supportive and great motivators, especially Tanya Pye. She has always been there for me, at all times,” said Sharon. “Tanya has inspired me in many ways and is one of my role models. Any student could count on her and we knew we had a professor to share our happiness and troubles. Our voice was heard and what we said did matter.”

Sharon currently works as an Early Childhood Educator at Nursery Two Child Care, and strongly believes this program prepares graduates for the field. She especially appreciates the program’s work placements, where students put their theoretical education to work in a child care environment.

“I personally found the placements to play a huge role in my understanding of theoretical knowledge, as I was able to see for myself and gain the first-hand experience of what I was learning in class,” said Sharon. “This was a bonus in not just my assignments but also in terms of being employed. I currently work at the site I had done my placement during my period of study.”

When she wasn’t in class, studying or working on a project, Sharon kept busy on campus. She worked part-time as an International Student Ambassador, was an Executive Member of the Fleming College Catholic Club, raised awareness of drinking responsibly as a DrinkSmart Student Ambassador, helped others on campus as a Peer Mentor, and volunteered with Student Life, Enactus Fleming, the Student Administrative Council Street Team, and more.

Because of Sharon’s numerous contributions on campus, she was awarded the Renie Steele Award from the Student Administrative Council. And now, Sharon is being recognized as Valedictorian for the School of Justice and Community Development – Community Development Programs convocation.

“I am truly humbled and honoured to have been selected as the Valedictorian and grateful to God,” said Sharon, who won the School of Justice & Community Development Academic Achievement Award.

“My message to all my fellow graduates is to be true to themselves and not be quitters,” said the Class of 2019 graduate. “All of us are winners and deserve to be proud of ourselves for the effort, hard work, and determination. All of us have stories to share, memories to keep forever, and experiences that became our best teachers.”

2019 is a big and busy year for Valedictorian Alicia Alvarez

2019 is a big year for Alicia Alvarez.

In June, she is graduating from Fleming College. In September, she is writing the national exam to become registered to practice as a Registered Practical Nurse in Ontario. And in October, she is getting married.

But the Practical Nursing graduate enjoys being busy. While studying at Fleming College, Alicia also worked as a Personal Support Worker at Fairhaven LTC and volunteered on Sundays at Pathway Church.

“I love people and I wanted a career that was challenging and rewarding, while at the same time allowing me to make a difference every day,” said the Class of 2019 graduate. “I have always wanted to be a nurse.”

She is currently busy completing her 10-week nursing consolidation experience, applying the knowledge and skills she gained from the Practical Nursing program in a real healthcare setting.

“Even though I feel like I have so much to learn, the content learned in the Practical Nursing program has already proved useful in the real world,” said Alicia about her consolidation experience.

In Fleming’s five semester Practical Nursing diploma program, students learn concepts and skills related to health and nursing, as well as nursing practices and interventions in specific health situations, and more.

Alicia enjoyed Physiology taught by Kim Patterson and Anatomy taught by Kathryn Jarvis most. She explains, “They were always fun and interactive with great everyday life examples that facilitated our learning.”

She describes her time at Fleming as great, adding, “I loved the outdoor spaces of the Sutherland Campus and made friendships that will last a lifetime. I also had some amazing teachers that inspired me and taught me things you can’t find in a textbook.”

Now that Alicia is finished classes at Fleming, she is busy preparing her Valedictorian speech for the School of Health and Wellness and School of General Arts and Science ceremony.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said Alicia on being selected to serve as Valedictorian. “It took a few days for the news to sink in and then I felt very humbled and honoured.”

In her speech on Tuesday, June 11 (2 p.m.), Alicia plans to remind graduates to never give up, don’t be afraid of failure, and to always fight for your dreams.

After convocation, Alicia plans to work for three to five years and then return to school to continue her education and further develop her skills.

“The healthcare field is constantly evolving, and I believe that continuous learning is essential in order to deliver the best care to patients and families,” said Alicia.

Dharav Pandya credits Campus Health Workshop Series with helping him “fight back and win” to become Valedictorian

Dharav Pandya’s ideal day on campus is arriving for his 8 a.m. lecture, treating himself to a delicious lunch made by Fleming Culinary students, and spending quality time with friends around the fireplace in the cafeteria.

Outside of Fleming’s Sutherland Campus, the international student enjoys paddle-boarding in Little Lake, cycling through the Trans-Canada Trail, and strolling through Millennium Park, among other outdoor activities.

“Peterborough is a beautiful city in all seasons,” said Dharav. “I had so much fun staying in Peterborough.”

Dharav moved to Canada for Fleming’s Health Information Management (HIM) program, after earning his degree in Biomedical Engineering and working as an associate in medical records review and abstraction. He wanted to study health records and chose Fleming’s HIM program because it covers a wide range of subjects, features work placements, prepares students for the National Certification Examination, and is recognized by the Canadian Health Information Management Association.

“My experience at Fleming College was incredible. The quality of my program is excellent,” said Dharav. “Most of our faculty are working professionals who provide us with real world scenarios and a tried-and-tested current way of working, which has given me a good reference for when I will start working in this profession.”

Dharav enjoyed studying at the Sutherland Campus, describing it as easy to navigate with facilities that make the student learning experience very comfortable, including: water refill stations, silent study areas and group study rooms, a learning centre equipped with computers, a Library and Bookstore, comfortable seating throughout the campus with charging outlets, and more. There are also lots of fun activities and events organized by the Student Administrative Council, which Dharav enjoyed participating in.

But his favourite experience at Fleming was during his third-semester, when he found himself feeling homesick, stressed and sick.

“It was a little too much for me to handle. I was stressed,” Dharav shared. “I am so grateful that I had services available to me right here on the campus. I consulted the Health Services and attended the Campus Health Workshop Series conducted by Counselling Services. At the end, my performance in that semester turned out to be the best one amongst all four semesters. This was remarkable!”

He added, “To have the College support me through different services, and using that support to be able to fight back and win is a great feeling. This experience is very motivating for me and probably the best memory I have!”

Dharav is now graduating as Valedictorian for the School of Health and Wellness. He said he feels honoured to be chosen and is proud to be the first person in his family to serve as Valedictorian.

In his Valedictorian speech, Dharav will stress the importance of education and how knowledge empowers us to do good things in the world and make a positive impact.

“I want to remind us that, through education, we get an opportunity to serve as well, and we shouldn’t miss out on that! Even at our jobs where we get paid, if we work with the intentions of serving the community, or merely helping people around us, that will make our next phase of life rewarding and sweet,” said Dharav.

After graduation, Dharav plans to take the National Certification Examination of the Canadian College of Health Information Management. He would like to work in a healthcare setting and eventually work in clinical documentation, data quality and data analysis.

Valedictorian Hengda Liu makes nature his office

Dream big, take on challenges, and don’t quit.

Hengda Liu says this is his credo in life and he wants to share it with fellow graduates of the School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences at convocation, where the Forestry Technician graduate will serve as Valedictorian this Friday.

Hengda came to Fleming College’s Frost Campus as an international student from China, wanting to learn everything about nature.

“Just like many other Forestry Technician students, instead of working behind a desk we want nature to be our office,” he said. “I want to be one of those forestry professionals to seek the harmony zone between our economic needs and ecological sustainability. This is why I chose the Forestry Technician program: its outdoors, meaningful, hands-on – get my hands and boots dirty – and I get to stay in the environment where I’m supposed to be in.”

He credits the College for its efforts on making Frost Campus sustainable, and appreciates the warm and welcoming campus community.

“The faculty, staff and students here at Fleming are incredibly friendly and warm. They have never treated me differently because I am from another country or because of my language barrier,” said Hengda. “I have always felt like a part of the Fleming family, and I am really proud and grateful for that.”

Hengda said the Forestry Technician program combines theory with hands-on experience to prepare students for their careers, including fundamental skills courses like communications and applied mathematics, as well as forestry skills courses like forest inventory and forest management using GIS, among others. He describes the faculty as very supportive, helpful and “lightning fast” to respond to emails.

“I’ve truly learned a lot during my time here at Fleming and I want to pat my own back to thank myself for choosing Fleming. Great job, Hengda!” he laughs, patting his back.

The programs two field camps were Hengda’s favourite experience at Fleming. At The Canadian Ecology Centre and Haliburton Forest, students learned how to safely operate a chainsaw, canoed to an island to do a stream assessment, participated in tree planting, took forest inventory, and more.

“We basically combined the knowledge we learned in school and applied it to the real world during these two camps, with the help and supervision of forestry professionals who are working in the industry,” said Hengda, who also enjoyed networking with experienced technicians and forest managers at the field camps.

Outside of class, Hengda worked part-time at a local Chinese restaurant, Friendly Restaurant, which improved his English speaking skills and cooking skills.

“I am an okay chef now,” he said. “I love to cook some Chinese food for my friends sometimes and the smiles on their faces while they are eating my dishes is such a priceless reward.”

Moments such as this are treasured memories to Hengda, who enjoys documenting life and has a passion for video editing. He created a YouTube channel to share his Fleming experiences with others, including this beautiful tribute video for the teachers, technicians and staff of Fleming’s Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Video by Hengda Liu as a tribute to Fleming’s teachers, technicians and staff from the 2019 Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Now that Hengda has completed classes at Frost Campus, he is working full-time as a Forestry Technician at Spectrum Resource Group, a forestry consulting company in Prince George, British Columbia.

“Last shift, we went to a logging camp in a place called Ospika, BC, where you can’t even find it on the map! It’s a mountainous area and we were constantly climbing a 75% slope with tons of blowdowns and devil’s clubs,” he explained. “It’s tough but I loved every single piece of it. It’s a dream come true for me.”

He plans to continue growing his career in this field, and hopes to one day lead others in sustainable forest management and to enhance communication between Canada and China in terms of forestry.

“What I love about the Forestry Technician career path is that it is outdoors,” he said. “As a Forestry Technician, we are literally getting paid to walk in the forest. The forest is my office, birds and wild animals are my sidekicks. Nature is where I came from and I want to be there for the rest of my life.”