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.”

Customs Border Services student Mkons Stone-Debassige makes Aboriginal Team Ontario’s U19 Men’s Basketball team

mkons1-2Congratulations to Customs Border Services student Mkons Stone-Debassige! Mkons, who is Anishinaabe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, has been accepted to play for Aboriginal Team Ontario’s U19 Men’s Basketball team for the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG)!

“My teammates come from all over Ontario and my competitors from as far away as Texas. Although we are all competing for the gold medals, what we come away with is new friendships, proud to be Indigenous, and experiences of a lifetime,” said Mkons, who is on Aboriginal Team Ontario, which has 400 athletes, 80 coaches and 20 mission staff. The Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO) is the Provincial Territorial Aboriginal Sport Body overseeing the team.

The NAIG is the largest continental sporting and cultural gathering of Indigenous people. It is a multi-sport, multi-disciplinary event for Indigenous youth across North America between 13 and 19 years of age. There are 14 sport competitions, and a showcase of Indigenous cultural artists and performers. Mkons is one of 5, 000 athletes who will attend the event this July in Toronto.

This is not Mkons’ first time attending the NAIG, as he played on the U16 team three years ago. “It was an awesome experience, for so many Indigenous youth to be gathered from all over North American for the Indigenous Games is just amazing. We all marched into the Roughriders Stadium in our territorial gear and I felt so proud to be Indigenous and to be a part of such a huge event,” said Mkons.

The Fleming College student was involved in a variety of sports growing up but started watching Fleming Knights home games and practices in grade 10, and decided to focus solely on basketball during his senior year at Kenner Collegiate Vocational Institute. His knowledge of the Fleming Knights and friendships with people in the Fleming community made his decision to attend post-secondary school at Fleming College easy.

mkons-2“Everyone was friendly and encouraged me to be a better player from the beginning,” said Mkons, who played on the Fleming Knights Basketball team this past school year. “I am far younger than all the other players and know that any spot on any varsity team is not to be taken for granted, so I try my best in classes and on the court and am thankful for all that I am blessed to be a part of.”

One of the friendships Mkons made before attending Fleming College was with Kylie Fox, Fleming’s Aboriginal Student Services Coordinator. Kylie said she is excited for the upcoming NAIG and will be cheering for Mkons.

“The theme this year is ‘Past, Present, Future. All One,’ as the North American Indigenous Games unites us through sport to celebrate our past, present and future,” she said. “I am so proud of Mkons, I can’t wait to cheer him on!”