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.”

Make a difference through Community and Justice Services

Community and Justice Services is one of six programs Law and Justice students may enter after Common First Semester, but while the other five programs – Customs Border Services, Law Clerk, Paralegal, Police Foundations, and Protection, Security and Investigation – bring a certain uniform or job duty to mind, Community and Justice Services (CJS) may seem more vague.

cjs-studentsWhat is CJS?

“The CJS program prepares graduates to work in the community and institutional settings with individuals who are involved – or at risk of becoming involved – with the criminal justice system,” said program coordinator Cindy Gervais. “This career path is extremely rewarding and challenging, because graduates are helping individuals to address risk and promote resiliency.”

Applied learning

One component of this Law and Justice program is the 15-week field placement, where students earn 520 hours in the field networking and gaining real world experience.

Jennifer Guerin, Correctional Manager at Warkworth Institution and member of the CJS Program Advisory Committee, welcomes CJS students on placement to Warkworth Institution, where they observe operations and interventions. She credits the CJS program with preparing students for the field.

“The program teaches the student what is important to bring into a federal institution, such as the stresses on dynamic security and the art of communication. The five week on-site interaction with a group and inmate interviews gives them a hands-on experience prior to placement,” said Jennifer, referencing the Field Observation course students take in their second semester. “All of the students are well-versed on professional boundaries and dynamic security practices.”

Graduate success

Nicole Soanes
Nicole Soanes, Youth Justice Committee Coordinator at John Howard Society of Peterborough

Nicole Soanes took Fleming’s CJS program because she wanted a career that would make a positive impact on the community. After graduating in 2017, Nicole hit the ground running at the John Howard Society of Peterborough as Youth Justice Committee Coordinator.

“I graduated feeling extremely competent and prepared to enter the workforce, and continue to learn and grow. Fleming College and the CJS program made it possible for me to find my passion and find myself,” said Nicole.

As Youth Justice Committee Coordinator, Nicole works with youth ages 12 to 17 who have come in contact with the justice system. She conducts intakes with youth, and coordinates restorative justice conferences between her clients and those they have harmed. Nicole also coordinates volunteers who are trained to facilitate restorative justice conferences.

Her most memorable career experience thus far is attending the National Restorative Justice Symposium in Ottawa as a field professional. “I was able to learn more about Indigenous traditions and Sacred Circles and one of the origins of restorative justice, which are the Maori tribes from New Zealand. When I first started to research and learn about restorative practices, I thought it was a small niche, and I have since learned of the massive – and growing – impact that restorative work is having around the world.”

Nicole’s passion for restorative justice was ignited after taking an Aboriginal Justice course during her first semester at Fleming College. Following the course, Nicole launched an initiative in her hometown to implement restorative justice practices for youth before they enter into the justice system, and during her final semester at Fleming College she applied for her current job.

Her advice to current students is to try to grow and improve each day, go outside of your comfort zone, talk to your peers and reach out for help when needed. “Most of all, find your passion. I can tell you that it is amazing to completely love what you do every day.”

SSW student Rebekah Rego raises awareness through Strengthening Indigenous Allies Club

Rebekah
Rebekah Rego smiles for a photo by the Tipi at Sutherland Campus.

Rebekah Rego, co-president of the Strengthening Indigenous Allies Club, is currently busy hanging red dresses around Sutherland Campus. From March 19 to 23, red dresses will be on display to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, encouraging the Fleming community to remember the women lost.

“If they don’t know about it, I hope they look into it; hopefully it makes them curious and question why this injustice is happening to our communities and to our women. If they do know about it, then I hope they feel supported,” said Rebekah on what she hopes people take away from the display. “Because of the posters, it’s already starting conversations and getting people thinking. It’s great.”

The Social Service Worker (SSW) student credits Métis multi-disciplinary artist Jaime Black for inspiring her display. The Winnipeg-based artist created The REDress Project, an installation art project that uses red dresses as a visual reminder of the crimes against Aboriginal women.

On Tuesday, March 20, Rebekah is organizing a march and candlelight vigil from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Sutherland Campus main lobby. “I thought it would be great to have a night to remember and honour our women,” said Rebekah.

Rebekah reactivated Fleming’s Strengthening Indigenous Allies club with the support of her BISHKAA mentor, Tish, who previously led the group and is now co-president with Rebekah. But taking a leadership role is nothing new for Rebekah, who has been a passionate social activist since childhood, travelling with her mother (SSW program coordinator Cristine Rego) since she was 10 years old to attend conferences and movements on Indigenous issues.

In grade 10, Rebekah worked with Indigenous mentors to secure funding for a focus group to develop an Indigenous approach to respond to bullying in the Sudbury Catholic School Board. In grade 11, Rebekah participated in the Mkwa Ride-along Program with Sudbury Regional Police. And in grade 12, Rebekah was one of 20 Indigenous students chosen to attend Osgoode Hall Law School for one week to study Indigenous justice and be introduced to law school. She also co-published an article with her mother entitled Ensuring a Culturally Safe Practice in Working with Aboriginal Women.

“I’m a huge activist within the community,” said Rebekah, who said her social activist goals are awareness and reconciliation.

Since her goals are to make a difference, Rebekah said that Fleming’s SSW program seemed like the perfect fit for her. “My mom is a social worker, so I grew up and realized this is something I wanted to do—be a helping hand in the community,” she said.

Once she graduates from Fleming, Rebekah’s goal is to join the RCMP and work in northern communities.

She describes her Fleming experience as wonderful and appreciates the welcoming, positive environment. “I love the multicultural atmosphere here. It is a very inclusive environment where we’re free to do what we want,” she said. “I’ve really been supported here by my professors and peers, by Aboriginal Student Services, as well as by the Student Administrative Council.”