Business Administration – Accounting placement leads Ruixin Li to employment at “dream firm”

Ruixin (Rayna) Li came to Fleming College from China with a background in law, ready for a new career and life change.

“I was so shy and quiet before. I lacked leadership skills and did not want any attention,” said Rayna, who got involved with the SAC Street Team, served as an International Student Ambassador, volunteered on- and off-campus and more while at Fleming College. “I changed my career and my personality here. Coming to Canada is the best choice I have ever made.”

Rayna came to Fleming College for the Business Administration – Accounting program, which she describes as awesome, amazing, wonderful and meaningful. She credits her program faculty for their support, advice and kindness, explaining “They are all warm-hearted and care for us. The Accounting program is much more like a family.” 

Rayna says she truly values the advice of her faculty, including program coordinator Shelly York, who advised Rayna to earn her CPA designation through CPA Ontario. “I am really lucky to have followed her advice. It will have life-long benefits for me!” said Rayna.

What drew Rayna to the Business Administration – Accounting program was the work placement, where students apply their knowledge and skills to a real work setting. Rayna completed her four-month work placement at Baker Tilly, providing review and audit technician support for large businesses and non-profit organizations; accounting and bookkeeping for small to medium clients; supporting the preparation of financial statements and tax returns; and liaising with third parties, partners, managers, clients and staff.

“All of the content you learn, like QuickBooks, Profile and Audit, all come together,” said Rayna of her placement experience. “All the things I learned from College are useful and handy, and I got practise through real-life experience.”

Rayna said her colleagues, managers and partners at Baker Tilly were all very approachable and kind, and always checked in to ensure everything was going well for her.

“It is a wonderful learning environment,” said Rayna. “We have so many fun activities and people here are professional with a sense of humour, not just suits.”

Rayna believes work placements are an amazing opportunity for all students, and advises those entering a placement opportunity to always be on time, responsible and have a good attitude.

“It is a job, not only a learning placement,” she said. “Do not be afraid of asking questions and making mistakes—that’s how we learn. Please keep telling yourself ‘you can do it,’ and tell your boss ‘I am willing to learn and I can do it.’”

Rayna graduated from Fleming College this June and is thrilled that her placement led to full-time employment.

“I love the job I am doing now. I love it,” said Rayna, who is working as a Staff Accountant at Baker Tilly. “The Partners Richard Steiginga and Joanna Park, and COO Kim Freeburn surprised me; they had planned on hiring me but nobody told me anything about it. Then, I got my offer and I literally cried with happiness in their office. It is so good when you get hired by your dream firm!”

Rayna said she loves working at Baker Tilly because it is fast-paced and challenging. “There are different clients and different files and different problems to tackle, which makes me excited and lights me up immediately,” she explains. “Accounting is not only about numbers, it is more like you have to understand how their business and industry works and then you work with your client’s numbers, the policies and rules. It’s an interesting and challenging job.”

Michael Tamosauskas builds a ‘golden’ resume in the geological field

A thick fog quickly rolls in while Michael Tamosauskas collects glacial till samples atop a mountain in Nunavut. With his nearest colleague at least 100 metres away, Michael’s radio alerts him that an emergency helicopter pick-up is on its way before the pilot loses more visibility.

When the roar of the helicopter sounds close, all Michael can see is the thick, white fog enveloping him. “I was kind of panicking because if they couldn’t pick me up for a certain period, I would have to camp out on the tundra overnight,” said Michael.

The helicopter pilot, with Michael’s crew on board, struggles to spot Michael and, when he does, there is nowhere nearby to safely land. 

“I made the decision to sprint – and fall – down the side of this mountain to flatland, where he was able to pick me up… with him and my crew laughing at my tumble down the mountain,” said Michael.

Fleming Career Fair leads to summer employment at GroundTruth Exploration

The opportunity for Michael to spend his summer working at GroundTruth Exploration, a mineral exploration company, came from attending the annual Career Fair at Fleming’s Frost Campus. At the time, Michael was an Earth Resources Technician Co-op student looking for work experience in his field.

Michael has spent the past couple summers working for GroundTruth Exploration; first in Nunavut, later in Labrador. The company, based in Dawson City, Yukon, is involved in gold exploration projects across northern Canada and begins a new project in Alaska soon.

As an Exploration Field Technician, Michael marked soil sample site locations, collected soil samples and described their physical attributes. He worked four weeks on, one week off, and then another 4 weeks on, with workdays being seven to eight hours.

“Nunavut was a very unique place to work,” said Michael, adding that his camp was approximately 200km north of the nearest town, Rankin Inlet, and had about 200 people working there. He describes the camp as well-developed, including a wastewater treatment facility, clean washrooms, and professional chefs who cooked for everyone.

“While working in Nunavut in the summer, I was subject to 24/7 daylight, which took a while to get used to; although I was always so tired by the end of my workdays, I did not need darkness to fall asleep,” he said. “Also, the lack of trees on the tundra made it easy to spot all sorts of wildlife, such as caribou and wolves.”

He returned to GroundTruth Exploration the following summer and was assigned a project in Labrador, where he was one of a five-member crew.

“I found life in Labrador a little more rough,” Michael said, explaining that his crew assembled their kitchen/office tent, dry tent, and personal tents to sleep in. “The scenery of Labrador is gorgeous, although the bugs I had to deal with daily were horrendous. To make my workdays bearable, I needed to wear bug nets and apply bug spray on my skin every 20 minutes or so.’

‘Although, the helicopter rides and the interesting rocks I spotted up there made up for it!” he added.

This summer, Michael will be working in Dawson City, Yukon, as a Geologist, sampling soil and rock using a GeoProbe. He will then utilize X-Ray Fluorescence to determine whether the samples have high concentrations of arsenic and/or iron, which can indicate gold.

Co-op placement and applied learning gives Michael Tamosauskas a competitive advantage in geology field

Michael has always found Earth dynamics extremely interesting, so when he began exploring post-secondary options, his heart was set on geology. But with mainly college-level high school credits, Michael ran into issues trying to get into a university geology program.

He met with his guidance counsellor to research college geology programs and discovered that Fleming College’s Earth Resources Technician program features a paid, six month co-op, which he believes is incredibly valuable. Michael enrolled in the program and describes his two years at Frost Campus as an excellent experience.

“For my ERT Co-op term, I was a Geotechnical Field Technician for Golder Associates. This summer experience was an excellent foundation for my career, as I had no prior relevant work experience,” he said. “That experience on my resume has drawn interest from every job interviewer I have had so far.”

After graduating from Fleming in 2017, Michael used Fleming’s education pathway to Acadia University to earn his Bachelor of Science in Geology.

“Before I went to Fleming, I believed I was not fit to go to university. But I realized my potential throughout my two years there,” said Michael. “I give ERT faculty a lot of credit because they did a great job teaching the complex subject of geology within a two-year span and prepared me well for studying geology in university.”

Michael recommends the ERT program to others because of its applied learning opportunities, including field trips, projects within the Drilling and Blasting facility, and mandatory co-op placement.

“I found that this experience gave me quite the advantage compared to my fellow university students, since the university approach is mainly theoretical rather than practical,” he said.

Michael plans to gain more experience as a mineral exploration geologist and is interested in focusing on the business side of mining in the future. He is currently enrolled to complete his Honours project with an Acadia University professor and, once he graduates from his degree program, Michael would like to pursue graduate studies and conduct research with an economic geology professor.

Involvement leads to opportunity, says Construction Engineering Technician grad Tyler Fenton

The construction industry is a consumer of resources and raw materials and a contributor to solid waste, but Fleming Construction Engineering Technician graduate Tyler Fenton is hoping to improve the environmental impact of construction with sustainability.

“Sustainability is not the silver bullet, but it’s a powerful tool to drive change for the better,” said Tyler. “Through pursuing higher levels of sustainability, we can lower the waste produced by construction activities, make the buildings we build healthier for occupants, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the energy required to run these buildings and create more affordable living for people moving into urban areas.”

As a Sustainable Buildings Solutions Coordinator, LEED Green Associate at EllisDon Corporation, Tyler is responsible for ensuring that projects achieve different levels of sustainability certification: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, Toronto Green Standard certification, or both. Tyler’s department services EllisDon projects across Canada, including hospitals, commercial towers, schools, train stations and institutional buildings.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of such a wide variety of projects that serve many different functions in their communities, but that are all striving for excellence in design, construction and operation,” said Tyler.

Fleming education and network leads Tyler to success

Tyler worked on-campus at the Office of Sustainability while attending Fleming College and one of his responsibilities was to book guest speakers to talk to Trades students about sustainability in the construction industry.

One of his speaking events featured the Director and Program Manager from the Sustainable Building Solutions department at EllisDon and, through this experience, Tyler started growing a network at his dream place of employment.

When he graduated, Tyler emailed the CEO of EllisDon seeking a job opportunity (scroll to “Proud Fleming College graduate” for how they met). Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as Tyler had hoped…

“Because I did not have industry experience, they couldn’t justify hiring me at the time,” he said. “They told me to go get some experience and re-apply in the future.”

So, he did.

Tyler worked as a Construction Coordinator at Dufferin Construction for one year to get the experience he needed. And when he re-applied to EllisDon, he got the dream job this time.

Confidence in the KUBE is why Tyler chose Fleming

Tyler didn’t always dream of working in construction. With a resume ranging from wildland firefighter to tree planter, bartender to labourer, and even a gig in the jewelry industry, Tyler took his time finding the right career fit.

When he decided on construction and engineering, Tyler chose Fleming because the program introduces students to various trades to give them an understanding of the different disciplines they’ll encounter on job sites.

“I was very impressed with the D-Wing in particular,” he said. “In no other educational facility I’d visited had I seen anything like the KUBE. This made me confident that I would be in a good learning environment.”

Adding, “I would absolutely recommend that prospective students go and visit the campus, go to the Open House, because it will give you a perspective on where you’ll be learning and if it’s what you’re looking for.”

Proud Fleming College graduate

“I’m very happy with my Fleming experience and I’m proud to tell people that’s where I went to college,” he said. “Overall, you’ve got a beautiful, newly renovated, top-of-the-line building to learn in, instructors who are passionate and have real world experience, and as many opportunities to learn or get involved as you can handle.”

Now that Tyler has graduated from Fleming, his advice to students is to get involved.

“The more you get involved, the more opportunity you’re going to have when you graduate,” said the Class of 2018 graduate.

While at Fleming, Tyler volunteered with Enactus Fleming, worked at the Office of Sustainability, and collaborated with his program coordinator to research and test permeable pavement.

The permeable pavement project led Tyler to representing Fleming College, the Office of Sustainability and FastStart at the 2017 OCE Discovery event, where he met EllisDon CEO Geoff Smith (who Tyler emailed for an interview when he graduated).

“In my experience, the connections I made through my student worker position in the Office of Sustainability opened the door to my dream job,” he said. “And the skills and knowledge I gained from the program and from the instructors I got to know allowed me to land the job. It wouldn’t have happened that way if I hadn’t gotten involved in the things that I did.”

From dairy farm to paralegal practice, it’s all about community for Janet Heeringa

Janet Heeringa at her home office

Raised on a dairy farm, Agriculture degree in hand, and a share in Karlina Farms Ltd., it’s hard to believe Janet Heeringa owns a paralegal practice. But after renovating the front of her barn for an office space, Janet Heeringa Paralegal Service is open for business!

“My hubby and I completely renovated the office space,” said Janet. “This also is convenient for my brother because, if he requires help, I am here to help him… small jobs, of course.”

Janet chose to open her own practice to continue the flexible work hours and freedom to set her own work pace that she enjoyed for 15 years at Karlina Farms Ltd., where Janet was her own boss.

“I love agriculture, as it is a family business and lifestyle,” said Janet, who earned her Agriculture degree in 2003 from Kemptville College (University of Guelph) and, alongside her brother Richard, took over daily operations of Karlina Farms Ltd. in exchange for a share.

But in 2016, Janet and her family made the difficult decision to sell their milking herd. The need for updated, expensive equipment and their uncertainty of the Canadian quota system drove them to this decision.

And the dream to one day help the agriculture community as a paralegal is what drove Janet back to school.

“I have always wanted to help and educate people. I have found that, through agriculture, I have been able to educate people on our Canadian dairy industry and why we are lucky to have a closed system here in Canada,” said Janet. “With Law and Justice, I can now help people with their problems and also educate them on various issues.”

Janet took the Law Clerk and Paralegal programs at Fleming College. Since these programs share three semesters, Janet was able to earn a second diploma with one additional semester of study.

“Honestly, I was very nervous coming into Fleming as a mature student. I felt I would be the oldest student in the class!” said Janet, who is a wife and mother of three daughters. “On the very first day, my fears were eased seeing the range of students in my program. I made a friend, Emily, right away in the parking lot. We stuck together for three semesters and are still friends today!”

There are advantages to attending college as a mature student, as well. Janet explains that she was more dedicated to her studies, had better time management and workload management at Fleming College compared to her first post-secondary school experience.  

“I also found, having done college at 19 and again in my mid-30s, that I could concentrate better—even with children as a distraction,” she said. “If I had the time, I would do most assignments at school during my free time and avoid doing these things at home with the family distractions.”

Janet graduated from the Paralegal program in May 2018 and the Law Clerk program in August 2018.

“My experience at Fleming was wonderful. I made lifelong friends, expanded my network of professionals and absolutely loved the teaching staff,” said Janet, crediting faculty members Diana Collis, Barb Moyle and Amy Maycock for their help throughout her studies and for setting Janet up to be a strong, independent and successful paralegal.

“I would highly recommend the Paralegal and Law Clerk programs,” she said. “These programs engage your mind and teach you to look at situations from a neutral and objective view. It teaches you to be a better person, and how to become involved in your community and help the people of your community you want to work in.”

Recreation and Leisure Services placement is ‘gold’ to Keary Dean, who went to Whistler Olympic Park

keary-deanKeary Dean believes you get out of life what you put into it, which is why the Fleming College graduate chose a program that speaks to his values and could help him begin a career and education journey that’s meaningful to him.

“It seemed like a great place to start when you were, like me, unsure of what exactly to do career-wise. Because the job opportunities are so varied, it gave me room to be flexible and figure things out along the way,” said Keary of Fleming’s Recreation and Leisure Services program. “This program valued the elements of good-natured fun, leadership development and healthy living—this stuff really appealed to me. Lastly, I was sold on the potential of having an adventurous placement experience.”

In the Recreation and Leisure Services program, students learn:

  • how to manage and develop recreation programs
  • marketing and human resources
  • event management and facilities operations
  • inclusive recreation
  • research
  • leisure and lifestyle enhancement, and more.

In this program, students also develop leadership skills and gain new skills through field trips such as rock climbing, high/low rope, canoeing, kayaking, theatre, golf, swimming, caving and hiking. At the end of the program, students apply their skills in a four-month placement.

“My experience at Fleming is best described as a period of exponential personal growth, facilitated by my teachers, the courses and especially my fellow classmates,” said Keary, who graduated in 2018. “There were so many opportunities presented while at Fleming and I really made it my goal to try as many new things as I could—the old adage you get out of life what you put into it comes to mind.”

One of those opportunities was the program placement, and Keary knew just the place he wanted to spend four months…

“Because I had visited B.C. the summer prior to my final semester – and the trip made such a positive impact on me – I knew I had to go back,” he said. “If you want to have meaningful experiences, you first need to be in touch with what is meaningful to you.”

Keary said he worked hard preparing for the move and planned out all the little details before heading to B.C.

“If you have family or friends that live outside of your hometown, or you have travelled in the past, use those connections. Use your networking skills to your advantage and don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone and everyone,” said Keary on what advice he would offer current students. “Investing in travel is worthwhile and enriches your life in many ways!”

runwhistlerKeary spent his placement at Whistler Olympic Park and was later hired as Guest Service Representative, where he fit guests with cross-country and snowshoeing gear, provided equipment orientation and trail recommendations, and covered the entry booth to the Park.

“The coolest experience on the job was learning how to cross-country ski and then actually racing in a 15km event called the ‘Payak Loppet.’ I grew up snowboarding, but never skiing, and I found it thrilling learning a new sport,” he said. “Generally speaking, being way out in the wilderness, surrounded by mountains, is both awe-inspiring and humbling. It is a different lifestyle out here, people really love where they live. There is a level of enthusiasm that is undeniable.”

Keary credits Fleming College with developing his time management skills, accountability and professionalism, which are all skills he used on the job.

“Having deadlines for course work, having a weekly structure, being accountable to your classmates… these are practical skills to hone and are crucial for success in the working world,” he said.

After the summer work season ended, Keary headed to Vancouver to study nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. He plans to utilize his Fleming education and nutrition knowledge in a career as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a specialization in sports nutrition.

His advice to all students is to make self-care the number one priority. “Eat well, exercise and find creative outlets,” he said. “Take time to feel good about your daily accomplishments.”

Glassblowing graduate Paul van den Bijgaart enjoys the yin and yang of his artistic process in China

Paul van den Bijgaart
Paul van den Bijgaart

It went straight to his core – that feeling of finding his calling – and it happened at a weekend glassblowing class in Red Deer, Alberta.

“As soon as I put the pipe in the furnace, I just knew: this is my passion,” said Paul van den Bijgaart, who was working as a cabinet maker and lighting repairman at the time (2007). “It’s a very rare feeling. There are very few times in my life where I’ve felt that passionately and absolute about something.”

A friend of Paul’s mother had encouraged him to sign up for the beginner glassblowing class at Red Deer College, believing it would benefit his work on lighting fixtures. Paul loved it and used the money he earned at his full-time job to continue practicing glassblowing at a studio in Edmonton.

When the studio closed two years later, Paul decided it was time to fully immerse himself in his craft. He moved to Haliburton, Ont., to take the Glassblowing certificate at the Haliburton School of Art + Design.

“Haliburton was really a changing ground of an intensive few months to see if I really wanted this. It really was a make or break,” said Paul, who describes the experience as life changing.

Every morning he walked across the frozen lake to the Haliburton Campus, where he poured his energy into glassblowing all day. He only left the campus when he was either exhausted or had plans with his friends.

“It’s a magical place to pick up a serious amount of skill in a short amount of time,” said Paul, who credits the school with developing his confidence. “The teachers would push you outside of your comfort zone. When I first got to Haliburton, I asked an instructor how to do something and they said to me, ‘Try, go do it– don’t be scared to fail!’ That continues to contribute to my artistic endeavors to this day.”

After graduating from Fleming College, Paul continued his studies at Sheridan College. During his first year in the Craft + Design program, he met Amy Yang, a talented artist from China with a sleek aesthetic and background in design. The couple became a designer/maker team and traveled together after graduating.

dragonThe original plan was to move to China to get married and then return to Canada, but that plan changed when Paul got the opportunity to teach a workshop in Shanghai.

The couple now works with institutions in China, including the China Academy of Art, and continually returns to Canada to teach workshops.

One difference between glassblowing in Canada compared to China is that hot glass has only just begun growing in popularity as an artistic material in China, said Paul.

“Historically, the Chinese have used glass to mimic other materials, like jade and stone. They typically perceive those naturally formed materials as more valuable,” he explained.

In addition to the perception of glass, the other challenge Paul faces is the language barrier.

“I always thought glassblowing was the most difficult skill I’d acquire in my life, but learning to read, speak and understand Chinese has definitely challenged that,” he said. “My New Year’s resolution was to lead workshops in Chinese and this year in September I was the main translator at an arts event.”

Living in China has helped Paul grow as a person and as an artist. “It’s interesting to rewire your brain. The way they experience and view a lot of everyday objects is very pictographic. For instance in English we say ‘tornado’ and we can picture what that means, but in Chinese it’s ‘long juan feng,’ which literally translates to ‘dragon rolling wind,’” said Paul. “It’s like learning to view the world in a different way.”

Paul returns to Canada to teach intensive classes, but continues to grow roots in China. He is currently creating his own glassblowing studio in Beijing and plans to open a studio in Edmonton one day.

paul_v_02-004“I enjoy everyday objects people can use; a glass of wine at the end of the day, a handmade carafe at the side of your bed,” he said. “It’s important for people to engage with the maker community and for them to understand the work that goes into handmade objects.”

As Paul grows his business, he continues to enjoy the glassblowing process.

“It makes me feel almost every emotion I can imagine: it’s frustrating, calming and relaxing, I can drift away sometimes because it’s repetitive, other times it’s very intense, assessing multiple components simultaneously, it’s a mixture and a  balance,” he said. “Not to bring it back to Chinese philosophy, but there’s a yin and yang to it; you have to get frustrated to know to calm down. I’ve learned philosophy through the material, and found that it can take you to magical places if you’re willing to forget what you know.”

Conservation graduate Maia Balint takes Fleming College skills to Oxford

maia-at-oxford-blogThe skills Maia Balint gained at Fleming College are not only useful in Canada, they are useful around the world!

The Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program provides opportunities for students to take their studies to other countries, where they can gain internship experience in interesting locales. Maia completed her full-time Fleming internship at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, Devon, UK, and made connections that led to her current employment at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

“I learned about this opportunity due to the connections I made during my Fleming internship,” said Maia, who works as an Osney Power Station (OPS) Move Project Assistant. “The experiences that I gained while studying at Fleming were directly relevant to the job description and prepared me for the interview.”

In her contract role at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, Maia works with artefacts every day. “A lot of the artefacts are really amazing and beautiful,” said the Class of 2018 graduate. “My favourites include pocket microscopes and homeopathic medicine kits full of tiny jars substances— many of which are poisons!”

Maia is responsible for assessing and packing artifacts, and said Fleming prepared her well for the role, including how to complete documentation for object assessment and general handling techniques. Maia also references the information she gained from the two-day packing workshop led by Paul Marcon from the Canadian Conservation Institute.

maiabalintatworkMaia wanted to move to Oxford because her partner is doing his PhD there. She describes Oxford as very pretty and adds that being affiliated with the university makes a big difference because the most beautiful parts are only accessible to university staff and students.

But this isn’t Maia’s first time living in the UK. After graduating from the University of Toronto, where she studied history, Maia took bookbinding courses in the UK and did an internship at the Design Museum in London. Her interest in bookbinding, which also includes courses at the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild and an internship at the Robertson Davies Library in Toronto, is what led her to pursue a career in conservation.

“Most practicing bookbinders also do conservation work,” Maia explained. “I wanted to learn more about the various materials that are used in bookbinding and I was attracted to Fleming’s emphasis on hands-on skills.”

The Fleming College graduate said she would recommend her program to others. “I think the Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management program provides a great introduction into the conservation of a wide range of materials,” she said. “It gives students a wide variety of practical experience, which reflects the type of work that goes on in museums.”

Police Foundations grad Montana Fazi takes Fleming education pathway to UOIT

35251086_2064016697170090_7086100957796237312_nWhen Montana Fazi crossed the convocation stage to receive her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), she felt grateful for Fleming College Police Foundations faculty for helping her reach this milestone.
“I am truly beyond thankful for all of the Police Foundations faculty,” said Montana. “They played a huge role in my education decisions and successes. It was because of their encouragement and guidance that I continued learning to pursue my education and career goals. When I struggled through university, I pushed through those struggles because I wanted to make them proud and succeed.”

Montana graduated from Fleming’s Police Foundations program in 2015, describing her two years at Sutherland Campus as her best years yet.

“Fleming College provided a lot of fun ways to get involved in the campus community. I took advantage of this and made the best of my college experience,” said Montana, who was involved in the Street Team, First Aid Support Team, International Student Club, and International Peer Mentoring. “These experiences allowed me to grow as an individual, meet new people, and gain transferable skills.”

Montana also credits the Police Foundations program with helping her gain transferable knowledge and skills, which she used for a Fleming education pathway to UOIT the following May (2016).

“There are a few differences between college and university that I have noticed,” said Montana, who graduated from UOIT with her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Justice this year.

She explained that Fleming has group work and scenario learning exercises to apply course material, and has small class sizes.

“I feel that Fleming did prepare me for university,” said Montana. “I was able to identify theories and concepts that I learned in college courses that came up again in university courses. Being prepared and already having knowledge of the material made transitioning into university courses smoother.”

Montana enjoyed her time at UOIT and credits the Student Learning Centre staff and professors with making access to disability services a great experience. She said they accommodated her needs, pushed her to succeed, and were there for her.

She recommends Fleming’s education pathways to other students who want to expand their skills and get both the college and university experience.

“I was able to gain the hands-on experience through college, while also gaining experience in independent learning through university. Both of which are valuable experiences that I can bring with me into my field of work,” she said.

CYC graduate and Valedictorian Brittany Parsons hopes to empower others with learning disabilities

brittany-parsonsWhen Brittany Parsons was told she has mild dyslexia and short term memory in grade 5, it was labelled as a “hurdle” and a “roadblock.” She grew up being pulled out of classes and made to feel different from her friends.

“It was really hard growing up,” said Brittany. “I tried to compensate and seem like I didn’t have one. I worked so hard to want to be like everyone else. But in high school it was challenging, because my friends were all in academic and I knew I had to do applied.”

In 2011, Brittany began working at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul overnight summer camp and realized her interest in working with young people as a career. After feeling inspired by an amazing Child and Youth Care practitioner at her school, Brittany decided this career was a natural fit for her.

She attended Fleming College’s Open House event and spoke with Child and Youth Care (CYC) graduate Rachel Charles about the CYC program, which prepares individuals to provide care and treatment for children or adolescents experiencing a range of social, emotional, behavioral, or learning challenges. 30 minutes into their conversation, Brittany decided Fleming College was the right college for her and later moved from Toronto to Peterborough for her post-secondary education.

“With a learning disability in your younger years you are pulled out of classes and they make you feel different. Here at Fleming, you aren’t meant to feel different, they just give you the tools to help you,” said Brittany. “Even the word ‘accommodations’ doesn’t sound bad, as opposed to when I was younger in school and it was called a ‘hurdle’ or a ‘roadblock.’ It’s a nice way of doing things here.”

Brittany used academic accommodations and counselling services during her three years at Fleming.

“Having a career in a helping profession, I feel like it’s unrealistic for me to be perfect,” said Brittany. “I used it knowing I was almost at rock bottom, but you can feel great and still go to counselling. It’s a type of mentorship that is a healthy relationship, where you can share with no judgement.”

Brittany describes her time at Fleming as one of “self-discovery,” where she realized her purpose, values and beliefs. She enjoyed her experience and said her peers felt like family and her faculty felt like great mentors.

Through the program, Brittany said she “learned to learn my learning disability,” explaining that she learned how to advocate for herself and discover what she needs to be “unstoppable.”

“Once you learn what you need, what people once saw as a disadvantage becomes your biggest asset,” she said.

Brittany graduated this month and won the top school award, the School of Justice & Community Development Academic Achievement Award. This award is presented to a graduate for academic achievement and significant contribution to the college community. As such, Brittany was selected to deliver the Valedictorian address at convocation.

When she stood at the podium on June 6 at the School of Justice & Community Development ceremony, Brittany introduced herself by saying, “My name is Brittany Parsons. I am a first generation student, an individual who’s proud to say lives with a learning disability, and today I will graduate from the Child and Youth Care program.”

Three years ago Brittany said she would not have felt comfortable sharing her learning disability with a crowd of people, but since coming to Fleming she feels empowered to share her story.

“Some say having a learning disability is embarrassing. When you openly say it, it becomes empowering and no longer a roadblock,” she explained. “There’s always someone in your life that’ll say you can’t do something and with a learning disability you hear that 10 times more often. Once you are accepting and ready to love yourself with your learning disability, you will learn your purpose and can do whatever it is.”

Brittany is now working for York Region District School Board as a Child and Youth Care practitioner. She plans on completing a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care and eventually earn her PhD.

“This dream would not have been possible three years ago. I have been blessed with amazing faculty,” she said. “The thought of university is scary, but I learned that if I start early and advocate for myself, it will be possible. I’m applying this fall and will do it part-time online while I continue to work in my field, Later, once it can be a smooth transition, I will transition to full-time studies because I know I can do it!”

10 years after high school, Jessica Polley took the “huge, scary step” to attend college

jessica-polleyJessica Polley was very nervous to attend college as a mature student. Among concerns like tuition, being older than her peers and whether she chose the right program for her, Jessica was concerned about her ability to learn something new 10 years after graduating high school.

“Choosing to attend college 10 years after graduating high school was a huge, scary step. It is a big risk to take when you have a family at home to worry about,” said Jessica. “At the time it was terrifying, but now looking back it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Jessica chose Fleming College because of the dual diploma option. She decided to take the Paralegal and Law Clerk programs at the same time.

“The amazing faculty made learning something new a lot less scary. They truly want to see you succeed and are happy to help when you have questions,” said Jessica, who finished her courses in 2017. She graduated from the Paralegal program in 2017 and officially graduates from the Law Clerk program this year.

Before graduating from Fleming College, Jessica was hired at MacDonald, Charette & Associates in Cobourg, Ont. They worked around her school schedule so that she was able to finish classes and in September 2017 hired her full-time as Paralegal and Legal Assistant.

“I was able to find and obtain a position in my chosen field of study before I had completed both of my programs and I would not have been able to do that without the education I received,” said  Jessica, who now has her Paralegal License and credits her dual diplomas for having a wider range of employment opportunity.

“The field placement preparation course really helps you know how to handle difficult questions in interviews. During my interview I was asked ‘why would you apply for a position that required three to five years’ experience?’ I learned in class to answer this in a positive way, by saying that I considered my in-class learning some of my experience, my field placement gave me further experience, and that I would like to gain the remainder of my experience at this firm.”

Jessica’s responsibilities at the firm include interacting with clients and opposing legal representation, conducting client intake meetings, drafting pleadings and other materials, draft correspondence, and attending to court filings, among other tasks. She currently works as a legal assistant to the family law and litigation lawyer, and assists the firm’s small claims court clients as a paralegal working under the direction of two lawyers.

Jessica said that the skills she developed at Fleming are applicable to her job. “We drafted the majority of the documents and materials that I draft on a daily basis. We also would have to file our completed documents with the ‘Court Clerk’ as part of our assignments,” she explained.

Her advice to prospective mature students is to be social and speak with your peers and faculty.

“When I started school, I had a negative attitude about meeting new people. I felt I was not there to meet friends and that I had no time to have new friends. I was there to learn, not to have fun,” she shared. “I very quickly learned that meeting new friends was a great part of school and I honestly don’t know if I could have made it through the stresses of school without their encouragement and support! If you find the right people, you can still learn while having fun.”