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.