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, 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.”