Valedictorian Crystal Dudgeon encourages mature learners that you are “never too old to learn”

crystal-dudgeon-blogCrystal Dudgeon was living in the Netherlands and looking for a new direction in life when her daughter, Customs Border Services student Emily, recommended Fleming College. Crystal enrolled in the Community and Justice Services program, and Emily was happy to give Crystal a campus tour and introduce her to faculty when she returned to Canada.

“Don’t ever question your age, you’re never too old to learn,” Crystal tells mature learners considering going back to school. “Your life experience is hundreds of times more valuable than anything that is written in a book—and be willing to share those experiences with your fellow students. Most importantly, never be afraid that your classmates won’t accept you because there’s room at Fleming College for everyone to belong.”

Crystal describes the Fleming community as diverse and open, and that faculty create an inclusive environment and encourage students to participate in the college community through volunteer opportunities and group work. “It was very easy for me to find a place and I felt welcomed from the first day,” she said

Crystal loved the Fleming community so much, in fact, that it wasn’t long until her youngest daughter Jamie also decided to enrol. Jamie is taking the Police Foundations program.

“Attending College with my daughters has been a dream come true for me, we get to experience the same challenges and excitements together as a family. Exam weeks can be a tense time in the Dudgeon household, but at the end of the week we also get to unwind and appreciate the support we’ve received from one another,” Crystal shared in a previous interview when she won the ASIS Friends and Family Scholarship.

She decided to switch into the Protection, Security and Investigation program after hearing faculty member Norm Killian present on the topic in the Strategies for Success class.

“When I realized that it was far more comprehensive and was aimed much higher than frontline security, I knew it was the right choice for me,” she said. “My main concern was that I might be too old, so I had a chat with a rather bemused Norm who assured me that I was not and I switched programs the next day.”

Through the Protection, Security and Investigation program, Crystal said she developed her critical thinking skills and embraced her leadership and public speaking abilities.

“I saw many of my classmates develop and grow so much over the two years that I spent with them and that was, in part, due to the obvious interest that our professors took in all of us. I’m very glad they were adept enough to recognise each of our personal strengths and subtly encouraged us to expand on them,” Crystal explained. “I feel that my experience was so remarkable because my classmates and professors were such a large part of the process and, being as fantastic as they were, it was easy to love every day that I spent in class.”

On Wednesday, June 6, Crystal will serve as Valedictorian for the School of Justice and Community Development – Justice Programs convocation ceremony. Crystal shared that her speech focuses on personal journeys and the people who walk them with us.

“I hope that it will prompt everyone to pause and reflect upon their journey through the last two years and lets them fully appreciate the efforts that they put into themselves,” she said. “I know the value of having supportive, unfailing companions to support me; I’d like to accentuate the importance of believing and trusting in those who are willing to hold us up when we need the courage to keep going and put that one more foot forward.”

Two of Crystal’s supporters are her daughters Emily and Jamie. “Emily, who is graduating with me, said that she ‘just sort of knew the whole time’ that it would be me speaking at convocation. I had to laugh at that, the poor kid just can’t get away from my constant chatter!” laughed Crystal, on what her daughters think of her being named Valedictorian. “My youngest daughter, Jamie, is very excited and proud that I am the Valedictorian.”

After graduating from Fleming College, Crystal plans to enrol in the Bachelor of Professional Arts in Criminal Justice program at Athabasca University, with the goal of working with youth and women.

“I feel that continuing with my education while I’m still in the groove is the best course of action for me,” she said.

Fleming is a family experience for PSI student Crystal Dudgeon

Fleming faculty member and ASIS Toronto Education Committee member Brine Hamilton (left) presents Crystal Dudgeon with the ASIS Friends and Family Scholarship
Fleming faculty member and ASIS Toronto Education Committee member Brine Hamilton (left) presents Crystal Dudgeon with the ASIS Friends and Family Scholarship.

Congratulations to Protection, Security and Investigation student Crystal Dudgeon, who won the ASIS Friends and Family Scholarship! ASIS International, a leading organization for security professionals, awarded Crystal with the scholarship based on a letter she wrote about her career aspirations, an essay related to security, a faculty recommendation and her transcript.

The name of the award, ASIS Friends and Family Scholarship, is fitting for Crystal. Unlike many college students, Crystal’s return to school meant spending more time with her family.

Crystal’s daughter Emily is a Customs Border Services student who recommended Fleming’s Law and Justice programs to her mother, who was living in the Netherlands and looking for a new direction in life. Crystal enrolled in the Community and Justice Services program and Emily was happy to give her mother a campus tour and introduce her to some faculty members when Crystal returned to Canada.

“When my mom said that she was coming to the college to take a Law and Justice program, I was really happy,” said Emily. “I think my mom is very smart, she had a lot of knowledge to share. Plus she’s a fun person, having her at the college is great!”

In addition to her daughter’s support, Crystal said she felt very welcomed by the Fleming community. “The students and faculty, particularly in the Law and Justice programs, are vibrant, fun and an engaging part of my experience,” she said. “I have learned a great deal from my fellow students and they have been very accepting of me.”

She decided to switch to the Protection, Security and Investigation program after faculty member Norm Killian presented on the topic in the Strategies for Success class.

“I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” she said. “I have a background in frontline security and the presentation really invoked my interest to return to the roots of my career.”

One of her favourite – albeit most nerve-wracking – program experiences is doing live surveillance exercises, where she follows former CSIS agents downtown Peterborough pretending she is not following them.

Not long after Crystal started Fleming College, her youngest daughter Jamie also decided to enrol.

Crystal (centre) with her daughters Emily (left) and Jamie (right).
Crystal (centre) with her daughters Emily (left) and Jamie (right).

“I was really proud and inspired when my mom was accepted into Fleming. It made me want to move forward with my own education and see us all be successful together as a family,” said Jamie, who is now in her second semester of the Police Foundations program. “She’s going to graduate with honours, which is something I am trying to do as well. She always told us that education is really important and now she is showing us how it’s done.”

Crystal shared that in the beginning she was concerned about navigating her daughters’ boundaries, wondering whether she could sit with them when they were with friends, talk about them to her peers, or tell faculty that she was their mother.

“It turns out that I was over-thinking the entire situation,” said Crystal. “Attending college with my daughters has been a dream come true for me. We get to experience the same challenges and excitements together as a family. Exam weeks can be a tense time in the Dudgeon household but at the end of the week, we also get to unwind and appreciate the support we’ve received from one another. Perhaps the best part, as a parent, I am always on hand for them– now academically as well as emotionally. And hey, what college kid doesn’t want to have mom’s cooking every night?”

Crystal, who is now in her fourth semester, plans to continue her studies at Fleming and earn her Emergency Management graduate certificate, hoping to find a career that allows her to interact with the public in a positive way. Her long-term career goal is to study and possibly teach the history of espionage and spy networks during historical conflicts.

Being a mature student ‘wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it’ for Valedictorian Samantha Delahaye

samanthaSamantha Delahaye felt nervous when she entered Fleming College as a mature student, but is graduating as Valedictorian with peers and professors she calls friends.

“I worked extremely hard to achieve what I did while at Fleming College. Coming back to school as a ‘mature student’ certainly wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it,” said Samantha, who is graduating from the Protection, Security and Investigation program.

Samantha will deliver her Valedictorian speech at the Justice Programs convocation on Wednesday, June 7 at 10 a.m.

“I know that within the School of Law and Justice, there were a lot of contenders; and for me to be singled out and chosen from such a vast variety of students, it feels incredible,” she said. “My hope is that I am able, at the very least, to keep their attention. It would be nice if they could pick up from my speech that I really want the best in the future for all the fellow graduates. And I hope to deliver some laughs as well.”

Reflecting on her most memorable experiences in the School of Justice and Community Development, Samantha said she spontaneously waltzed with a professor to prove a theory, fell in a creek during surveillance, and had many memorable conversations with faculty.

“Fleming is an incredibly welcoming place to attend school, it holds an accepting and diverse community,” she said. “I came here two years ago as a mature student and worried that, because of the age gap, I wouldn’t mesh well. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

One of Samantha’s favourite memories at Fleming College was her hour-long chats with faculty member Alana Hermiston, who sadly passed away last year. “She left an ever-lasting impression on hundreds of students during her time at Fleming College and she is missed tremendously,” said Samantha.

Through the Protection, Security and Investigation program, Samantha developed teamwork skills, especially in regards to communication. She also learned surveillance/intelligence, interviewing/questioning techniques, and crime scene investigation. “It made me much more aware of the environment around me, I feel as though I pay more attention to detail now,” she said.

Samantha recommends this program to others because the courses are intriguing and hands-on, the professors are wonderful, and the skills are transferable to many different opportunities.