OACYC provincial conference inspires Child and Youth Care student Denise Borg

Program coordinator Heather Sago (left) with Denise Borg

Child and Youth Care student Denise Borg loves to learn, which is why she signed up to attend the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care (OACYC) provincial conference.

“I felt like this would be a huge learning opportunity,” said the third-semester student. “I’d be able to introduce myself to people in the field and hear their stories, and learn a lot more about what career I’ve put myself into.”

Denise is one of 230 participants who attended the sold-out conference this June, which welcomed local, provincial, national and international speakers to Peterborough. Entitled “Weaving Perspectives: Challenging Ourselves and Others Through Storytelling and Narratives,” the three-day conference featured keynote speakers, panel presentations and interactive workshops that explored ways to enhance relational care practice, methods and models, and encouraged attendees to continue working towards excellence.

“One workshop moved me that I began to think of ways that me, as a student, could begin to make a change,” said Denise on the Working with young people experiencing death, loss or bereavement workshop. In that workshop, the group discussed that while there is a program for helping youth deal with the grief of losing a loved one, there is no program in place for new foster children dealing with the grief of losing the life they had been living before being placed in foster care. “The next workshop I attended was about influencing change in your organization [Influencing organized culture], and those two workshops together had the wheels turning in my head.”

Denise explains that when children are taken to a foster home, there is a “tiptoe period” where they try to behave, be good, and always do everything right so they can stay and not be moved. It is a huge life change, with new rules, a new home, and new people.

“I want to help foster kids deal with that form of grief,” she said. “Having someone to be there to work with that young person, to ask them if there’s anything you can do to make them more comfortable in this situation or happier, or any extracurriculars they want to do, or if they’re missing something from their culture that they want… just having someone there to support you with this, that is huge.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Denise lived in foster care in her home province of Nova Scotia, bouncing from foster home to foster home before running away to move back with her mom.

“There was no one I could trust or talk to about being in care,” said Denise. “You’re taken away from your family and put in a stranger’s house. You don’t feel safe surrounded by strangers.”

When Denise read the description of Fleming’s CYC program, she felt inspired. “I thought, this is the person I needed in care. I wanted that, and I want to be that person,” she said. “I lived with addictions for four years of my life. When I saw I could work with young people who live with addictions, I thought ‘If I could work with foster kids who live with addictions or out of care with addictions that would be essential.’ If I had someone that I could have gone to and discussed my issues with, I don’t think I would’ve fallen down the path that I did.”

Denise said she reflected a lot about her past at the OACYC provincial conference and her experiences in foster care. One powerful moment Denise experienced during the conference was listening to Ziigwanbinesii Charles sing at the sunrise ceremony, opening ceremony and closing ceremony.

“My heart filled with so much love that I cried. It was so beautiful to hear her sing,” said Denise. “When I was in Nova Scotia, I was in a Mi’kmaq studies course and Ziig sang one of the songs my teacher sang to me when I was in school. It touched a part of my soul.”

She said the conference experience has also been beneficial in discovering more ways she can help others.

“I don’t think that I would have made the connections I did or that I would’ve thought about the grief that foster kids go through when they’re apprehended– and that there’s nothing in place for that,” she said. “It’s been beneficial, and I’ll take everything I learned and put towards my practise and next two years of school.”

Denise said she is enjoying her time in the CYC program at Fleming College and attributes it for her personal growth over the past year. She said the program’s inclusion of self reflection has helped her to move forward.

“I’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart moments with some of my professors and that makes the program that much more enticing,” said Denise. “You can tell Heather, Aurora, Cherylanne and Patricia really care, they are willing to meet you where you’re at– all of the teachers, really. My legislation teacher is the woman I inspire to be; Lisa Fenn inspires, has so much passion, she is my role model.”

Denise is excited to continue learning and developing skills for her career path. She said the OACYC conference confirmed that this is the right fit for her.

“Hearing other people’s outlooks and experiences put me in a spot where I need to do this. This is who I am meant to be,” she explained. “I feel it in my heart that I’m in the right place.”

A childhood in foster care inspires Andrew Chartren to make a difference through Child and Youth Care

Andrew Chartren did not have an idyllic childhood.

He remembers being placed in the foster care system, spending time with his father under supervised visits, feeling incredibly angry and acting out in school, and being grateful he and his brother were able to stay together.

“One time, my dad lost it. He yelled at the worker, ‘I don’t need you here, babysitting me with my kids!’” said Andrew, recalling an interaction between his dad – who had supervised visits for a period of time (and later unsupervised) – and a Child and Youth Care Worker. “It’s an invasion of privacy in a sense.”

Because of Andrew’s personal journey, he chose to become a Child and Youth Care Practitioner to support other families through this experience.

“I go up to the parent and I let them know ‘I’m here to support you. I’m not here to look over your shoulder, I am just here to keep you safe.’ I talk to them, I crack jokes, I make them comfortable,” said Andrew. “I’m more involved as a Child and Youth Care Worker than most of the service providers I had when I was in care. There is no awkward silence and I make it very relational, because the parents might think I’m judging them and I am not.”

Andrew, who was born premature with Cerebral palsy and spent months in care at Mount Sinai Hospital, was placed into foster care when he was eight years old. Andrew and his brother were able to stay together through foster care, which Andrew explains is uncommon and something he feels incredibly grateful for.

Although Andrew was obedient to his foster care family and behaved well at home in Warsaw, he felt a sizzling anger inside. “At home, I was good and listened, but at school I was bad. I had anger problems,” he explained. “I used to get made fun of, so I’d retaliate in anger; and sometimes I would just smack people around because I wanted to. People would ask my brother why I was so angry.”

As a speaker in the Children’s Aid Societies’ PRIDE program, Andrew says he tells new foster parents to expect their limits to be tested. He encourages foster parents to sit down with the child and reassure them, “I’m here for you. I know things are hard.”

Andrew does this because he strongly believes that a great support system can make a huge impact.

“Your support team will determine your progress,” he said. “If you have a great support team who want the best for you, you will do better.”

When Andrew left foster care at 18 years old, he went through a rebellious stage, but his support team got him through it. He credits his youth group at church for never giving up on him, and always speaking highly of him and saying kind words.

“Those were words of healing to me,” he shared. “Because of that, I was able to bounce back. I was able to look at myself and say, ‘Andrew, wake up man!’”

He signed up for Academic Upgrading to earn the English and math credits needed for post-secondary school and completed them when he was 23 years old. With a goal to work in the foster care system one day, Andrew enrolled in Fleming’s Child and Youth Care (CYC) program because the curriculum covers this field.

“I really like that the teachers came in with their own experience in the field. That was really encouraging to me,” he said. “These aren’t teachers who just read and talk about it and don’t actually have the work experience; these are teachers with real work experience in it. Everything my teachers said was accurate and I know it because I went through it.”

One learning experience that reminded Andrew of his past was preparing for supervised visits as a Child and Youth Care Practitioner. “I had to go through that and this class made me see that this program is real,” he said. “It is emotional, spiritual, intellectual… it is real to a person.”

Andrew recommends the CYC program to others, especially the Therapeutic Interventions courses that prepare students to help young persons work through real life issues, facilitating opportunities for change (“those three courses were a highlight. I’d recommend CYC just for that”).

Through the program, Andrew has developed notetaking and communication skills, learned theories from the field, and gained knowledge.

“I came in at an advantage with a lot of knowledge of the system already, but I feel like this program really added to my tool belt and is super beneficial. They did a good job,” he said.

Andrew graduated from Fleming College this June and is already employed full-time as a Child and Youth Care Practitioner working in the care system. His career goal is to work in family interventions to help reunite families, instead of placing children in care.

Andrew is still very close with his brother, visits his mom regularly, and said that his father passed away six years ago (but they were in contact before that). Andrew is happily married, a certified minister who leads a youth group, and his goal in life is to free others from their hurt.

“This career is important. We need CYCs in the foster system because children and youth need help and support,” said Andrew. “I want more people in this field. It’s super rewarding; it’s about caring for the lives of others and being selfless. It’s not about a pay cheque, it’s about making a difference.”

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.”

A curiosity about learning and development leads Sharon Jose to Early Childhood Education

Sharon Jose was teaching at a college in Kerala, India when she realized that each student has their own unique learning style. Wanting to understand how people begin to learn and develop, Sharon started researching online and discovered Early Childhood Education.

“Children are like sponges, they grasp everything,” said Sharon. “I wanted to learn more about child development and so I enrolled myself at Fleming College.”

Sharon, who is graduating this week, describes her time at Fleming College as “truly spectacular and memorable.” She arrived at the Sutherland Campus not knowing anyone and was greeted by friendly student volunteers at the International Student Orientation who guided her through the school and instantly made Sharon feel welcomed, included, and part of the Fleming family.

Her favourite experience was celebrating Canada Day and attending the Cultural Showcase event, which Sharon describes as great opportunities to learn from each other.

“As an International student, I was thrilled to learn about the cultures, traditions, and lifestyles of students from various parts of the world,” said Sharon. “It was on celebratory days like these that made me realize how unique and special each of us are. Each student was proud to share their knowledge of their culture to all those seeking to learn. The singing competition, dance competition, Holi celebration, rangoli, pin the tail on the beaver, and face painting are some of the best experiences and memories I’ll never forget.”

Sharon also made lasting memories in her ECE program and won’t soon forget the amazing support she felt from her Fleming faculty.

“My professors were very supportive and great motivators, especially Tanya Pye. She has always been there for me, at all times,” said Sharon. “Tanya has inspired me in many ways and is one of my role models. Any student could count on her and we knew we had a professor to share our happiness and troubles. Our voice was heard and what we said did matter.”

Sharon currently works as an Early Childhood Educator at Nursery Two Child Care, and strongly believes this program prepares graduates for the field. She especially appreciates the program’s work placements, where students put their theoretical education to work in a child care environment.

“I personally found the placements to play a huge role in my understanding of theoretical knowledge, as I was able to see for myself and gain the first-hand experience of what I was learning in class,” said Sharon. “This was a bonus in not just my assignments but also in terms of being employed. I currently work at the site I had done my placement during my period of study.”

When she wasn’t in class, studying or working on a project, Sharon kept busy on campus. She worked part-time as an International Student Ambassador, was an Executive Member of the Fleming College Catholic Club, raised awareness of drinking responsibly as a DrinkSmart Student Ambassador, helped others on campus as a Peer Mentor, and volunteered with Student Life, Enactus Fleming, the Student Administrative Council Street Team, and more.

Because of Sharon’s numerous contributions on campus, she was awarded the Renie Steele Award from the Student Administrative Council. And now, Sharon is being recognized as Valedictorian for the School of Justice and Community Development – Community Development Programs convocation.

“I am truly humbled and honoured to have been selected as the Valedictorian and grateful to God,” said Sharon, who won the School of Justice & Community Development Academic Achievement Award.

“My message to all my fellow graduates is to be true to themselves and not be quitters,” said the Class of 2019 graduate. “All of us are winners and deserve to be proud of ourselves for the effort, hard work, and determination. All of us have stories to share, memories to keep forever, and experiences that became our best teachers.”

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.”

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!”

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.

Self-discovery and being silly is what makes the Child and Youth Care program special for Valedictorian Brittany Parsons

brittany-parsons-blogBrittany Parsons’ favourite thing about the Child and Youth Care program is that she gets to be silly while learning.

“I’ve had many spectacular moments in the program over the three years. Our program is a lot of games and activities,” said Brittany, who opted for a silly pose for her Fleming College graduation photo. “I decided to pick a silly one to embrace how silly Child and Youth Care practitioners can be when working with young people. Can’t be serious all of the time.”

Brittany has known she wanted to spend her career working with young people since 2011, when she began working at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul overnight summer camp.

“It was there I discovered my love for working with young people. Not only did I love working with young people, I loved being in the present moment with them,” she explained. “Also, I reflect back to my years as a young person and I remember how amazing my CYC practitioner was in my school; she was always there and with a positive attitude—things I aspired to be. The CYC program was a natural fit for me.”

Brittany moved from Toronto to Peterborough to take the Child and Youth Care program at Fleming College, which prepares individuals to provide care and treatment for children or adolescents experiencing a range of social, emotional, behavioral, or learning challenges.

“Coming from Toronto, it was an adjustment to live in a smaller town. The Fleming College community welcomed me with open arms from the moment I went to the Open House as a prospective student. I felt such amazing vibes and truly felt like I belonged,” she said. “One of my favourite things was hanging out within the College because of the powerful energy amongst the halls from staff and students. I also say as I drive up to Fleming, it’s like another world surrounded by trees.”

Through the Child and Youth Care program, Brittany said she developed counselling skills and professionalism, learned how to share space, advocate for herself and others, and more. She completed her program placement at the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care, and was the first placement student they ever had.

“This experience allowed me to focus on my passion for legislation and writing,” said Brittany about her placement. “In my final semester, I published two articles and that moment was an emotional one because it was a dream come true, but also the beginning of something wonderful.”

Brittany “100%” recommends this program to others because it offers faculty who are currently in the field, networking opportunities, great course content, and the opportunity for students to learn more about themselves as individuals.

“My experience was one of self-discovery, which I never imagined happening. I uncovered my purpose, values and beliefs,” she said. “There were moments where I felt like I couldn’t do it, especially when I lost my grandmother in my final year, but my peers and I became so close (like a family) that they became my support system early on and really encouraged me. My faculty were more than professors, they were mentors. Having such a small group of students, we were able to make real connections; that was something I knew I couldn’t get in the city, I wanted to be more than a student number.”

On Wednesday, June 6, Brittany will join her peers and faculty at the School of Justice & Community Development convocation ceremony, and will serve as Valedictorian. “My desire is that my fellow graduates, even supporters in the room, leave wanting to find ways to learn more; to never forget the connection and roots they have at Fleming; finally, to go with the motion of life as this is the first step to the most rewarding careers.”

After graduation, Brittany will work as a Child and Youth Care practitioner for York Region District School Board. She is also part of a conference committee through the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care to create the Provincial Conference being held at Fleming College’s Sutherland Campus next year. Her future goal is to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care through professional development opportunities to continue growing as a professional.

“My designation is not a title to me, it is who I am,” she said.

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.”