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.”

Ontario Skills Gold medalist and Fleming Valedictorian Mark Melong strives for greatness

Mark Melong is ending his studies at Fleming College with two major wins: a Gold medal in Metal Fabrication at the Skills Canada – Ontario competition and the School of Trades and Technology G.E. Outstanding Achievement Award.

But the Welding and Fabrication Technician graduate worked hard for this, both inside and outside of the classroom, and is proud to serve as Valedictorian at the School of Trades and Technology convocation ceremony.

“The message that I will give to my classmates is to not settle for anything less than you feel you deserve,” said Mark. “Strive for greatness and push your boundaries to keep bettering yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your career in order to get to where you want to be. Above all, find what you love to do, because we spend almost half our lives working, so it might as well be somewhere you want to be every day.”

Mark was introduced to welding in high school and enjoyed it, so he completed his first-year apprenticeship during grade 12 through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). He wanted to learn more and build his resume, so Mark chose to earn his Welding and Fabrication Technician diploma at Fleming College.

“I had a ball of a time at Fleming,” said Mark. “Getting to know my classmates and professors was the best part about it all. By the last semester there was only about 16 students in the class and we were a very tight-knit group. We went through a lot in the past two years, so it made us become the best of friends.”

During his first year at Fleming College, Mark lived in Residence and loved the experience of meeting amazing people from different Fleming programs. Mark’s Residence Advisor (RA) inspired him to become an RA for his second year of studies at Fleming, and Mark said it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

“I gained so many skills that I never knew I needed,” said Mark. “The team I worked with was full of amazing and inspiring people. This made my second year one of the best years of my life and being able to go to the Skills competition at the end was the cherry on top.”

Mark attended Skills Canada – Ontario, Canada’s largest skilled trade and technology competition, during his second-year at Fleming. It was his third time in the competition, having earned 3rd Place in grade 12 and 7th Place during his first-year at Fleming. This time, Mark walked away with a Bronze medal in Welding and a Gold medal in Metal Fabrication.

“I absolutely loved going to the competition. The vibe of the whole event is that of prestige and pride in the trades. Being in a room with the best welders in college and going head-to-head with all of them is exhilarating,” said Mark. “Also, being able to hang out with your professors for three days is fun too.”

For the Welding competition, Mark had six hours to follow a blueprint to fit and weld metal pieces (that were cut to shape) using a welding machine. In the fabrication competition, Mark had an I-beam, metal pieces (not cut to shape) and equipment to fit and weld everything to the specifications of the provided blueprint. Both are challenging and competitive, so Mark is honoured to win Gold in Metal Fabrication and Bronze in Welding against competitors from other Ontario colleges.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful feeling,” said Mark. “It was so nerve-racking waiting for the awards. When I heard my name called and I looked over and saw [program coordinator Darryl Madussi] with the biggest smile on my face, it made me feel so accomplished. After three years of competing, it was nice to win Gold.”

Mark said Fleming does a good job exposing students to the variety of techniques and accompanying theory for welding.

“The final welding project we did allowed us to touch upon many different aspects of the trade to see what we enjoyed the most,” said Mark on the fourth-semester Industry Showcase, where students display their pressure vessel project. “From that, many of my classmates decided where they wanted to apply for jobs and many of them got hired from it.”

Mark labels the Industry Showcase as his favourite Fleming College memory.

“We got all dressed up and showed off our pressure vessel project that took us 15 weeks to complete. We were all so proud of what we had built and all the skills we had learned,” said Mark. “To see the few classmates that I started with in Week 1, and how far we had come, made me proud to be working with such amazing people.”

Now that Mark has finished his classes at Fleming College, he is working at Chematics Inc. in Pickering, Ont. The shop builds custom pressure vessels for the mining and gas industries, as well as nuclear operations and other industrial applications.

The Class of 2019 graduate plans to gain more skills at Chematics and doesn’t want to set any long-term career plans in stone, as he’d like to keep an open mind and consider all the different routes available to him. But what Mark does know for sure is that he will strive for greatness, push his boundaries, keep bettering himself, and not be afraid to take career risks. 

Valedictorian Lyndin Belleau finds home away from home at Fleming College

Lyndin Belleau was nervous to leave his home in Garden River First Nation, east of Sault Ste. Marie. In high school, Lyndin was told students are just numbers at colleges and universities, and that wasn’t something he was used to—and luckily, it isn’t something he ever has to.

“My experience at Fleming was nothing that I imagined. Fleming gave me so many opportunities that I don’t think any other college would have been able to provide me,” said Lyndin. “All my professors knew my name. It was nothing like they tell you in high school where you’re only known as a number.”

Lyndin took the Business Administration – Human Resources Management program because he wanted to work with people. He describes the Sutherland Campus in Peterborough, Ont., as amazing, with the beauty of the countryside and the convenience of city life.

To complement his studies, Lyndin worked as a Career Services Assistant with Fleming Career Services from September 2016 to April 2019. “Working with Career Services provided me with opportunities that the classroom couldn’t,” said Lyndin, who credits Job Fair planning as one of the skill-building experiences he gained on the job.

“But also learning a completely different side of business,” he explained. “In HR, we learn what is best for the business, whereas in Career Services we tailor services to the student/client to get them into the job. It was a great experience learning a completely different side from [Career Educators] Joanne Duffy and Lou Anne Hanes.”

Lyndin also volunteered his time on campus, sharing information with prospective students at Fleming’s Open House events, welcoming new students at Fleming Knights Orientation, recruiting new team members to Enactus Fleming during its inaugural year, and more. But its his involvement with Indigenous Student Services that Lyndin considers very special.

“I consider Indigenous Student Services one of my saviors during my time at Fleming,” said Lyndin, who participated in Tipi Tuesdays and Medicine Walks. “During my time at Fleming, I gained more then just a support system from Indigenous Student Services; I gained relationships from both the staff and students who accessed the lounge. The staff in Indigenous Student Services (Ashley Safar and Kylie Fox-Peltier) have a way of making the lounge feel like it’s a home away from home. They make everyone feel welcomed and are always willing to help when they can.”

Lyndin said he never expected to become so involved at Fleming College, but is glad he did.

“Getting involved on campus made my entire college experience that much better,” said Lyndin. “My time at Fleming had so many great experiences, in both the classroom and out of the classroom.”

One of his favourite experiences at Fleming was the Travel-Based Learning course, where Lyndin and his classmates travelled to Jamaica with two faculty members for one week. “This course allowed me to travel internationally for the first time, to experience different cultures, explore the tourism industry and how it works, and as well as having fun,” he said.

Lyndin said the Business Administration – Human Resources Management program prepared him for his career and he is already putting his knowledge into action as a Human Resources Assistant at Garden River First Nation, where he is working for a third summer. In September, Lyndin plans to continue his studies at Laurentian University, where he will study Sports Administration. Lyndin hopes to one day work in Human Resources at a sports organization.

But before that, Lyndin will serve as Valedictorian at the School of Business convocation ceremony this week.

“Being selected as Valedictorian was like a mix of emotions. I felt excited, scared, nervous, honoured and shocked all at the same time,” he said. “The message that I am trying to give to graduates is to never give up on continuing your journey in life, whether it is educational, workplace, or just life in general. You’ll always have a place at Fleming.”

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.”

2019 is a big and busy year for Valedictorian Alicia Alvarez

2019 is a big year for Alicia Alvarez.

In June, she is graduating from Fleming College. In September, she is writing the national exam to become registered to practice as a Registered Practical Nurse in Ontario. And in October, she is getting married.

But the Practical Nursing graduate enjoys being busy. While studying at Fleming College, Alicia also worked as a Personal Support Worker at Fairhaven LTC and volunteered on Sundays at Pathway Church.

“I love people and I wanted a career that was challenging and rewarding, while at the same time allowing me to make a difference every day,” said the Class of 2019 graduate. “I have always wanted to be a nurse.”

She is currently busy completing her 10-week nursing consolidation experience, applying the knowledge and skills she gained from the Practical Nursing program in a real healthcare setting.

“Even though I feel like I have so much to learn, the content learned in the Practical Nursing program has already proved useful in the real world,” said Alicia about her consolidation experience.

In Fleming’s five semester Practical Nursing diploma program, students learn concepts and skills related to health and nursing, as well as nursing practices and interventions in specific health situations, and more.

Alicia enjoyed Physiology taught by Kim Patterson and Anatomy taught by Kathryn Jarvis most. She explains, “They were always fun and interactive with great everyday life examples that facilitated our learning.”

She describes her time at Fleming as great, adding, “I loved the outdoor spaces of the Sutherland Campus and made friendships that will last a lifetime. I also had some amazing teachers that inspired me and taught me things you can’t find in a textbook.”

Now that Alicia is finished classes at Fleming, she is busy preparing her Valedictorian speech for the School of Health and Wellness and School of General Arts and Science ceremony.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said Alicia on being selected to serve as Valedictorian. “It took a few days for the news to sink in and then I felt very humbled and honoured.”

In her speech on Tuesday, June 11 (2 p.m.), Alicia plans to remind graduates to never give up, don’t be afraid of failure, and to always fight for your dreams.

After convocation, Alicia plans to work for three to five years and then return to school to continue her education and further develop her skills.

“The healthcare field is constantly evolving, and I believe that continuous learning is essential in order to deliver the best care to patients and families,” said Alicia.

Dharav Pandya credits Campus Health Workshop Series with helping him “fight back and win” to become Valedictorian

Dharav Pandya’s ideal day on campus is arriving for his 8 a.m. lecture, treating himself to a delicious lunch made by Fleming Culinary students, and spending quality time with friends around the fireplace in the cafeteria.

Outside of Fleming’s Sutherland Campus, the international student enjoys paddle-boarding in Little Lake, cycling through the Trans-Canada Trail, and strolling through Millennium Park, among other outdoor activities.

“Peterborough is a beautiful city in all seasons,” said Dharav. “I had so much fun staying in Peterborough.”

Dharav moved to Canada for Fleming’s Health Information Management (HIM) program, after earning his degree in Biomedical Engineering and working as an associate in medical records review and abstraction. He wanted to study health records and chose Fleming’s HIM program because it covers a wide range of subjects, features work placements, prepares students for the National Certification Examination, and is recognized by the Canadian Health Information Management Association.

“My experience at Fleming College was incredible. The quality of my program is excellent,” said Dharav. “Most of our faculty are working professionals who provide us with real world scenarios and a tried-and-tested current way of working, which has given me a good reference for when I will start working in this profession.”

Dharav enjoyed studying at the Sutherland Campus, describing it as easy to navigate with facilities that make the student learning experience very comfortable, including: water refill stations, silent study areas and group study rooms, a learning centre equipped with computers, a Library and Bookstore, comfortable seating throughout the campus with charging outlets, and more. There are also lots of fun activities and events organized by the Student Administrative Council, which Dharav enjoyed participating in.

But his favourite experience at Fleming was during his third-semester, when he found himself feeling homesick, stressed and sick.

“It was a little too much for me to handle. I was stressed,” Dharav shared. “I am so grateful that I had services available to me right here on the campus. I consulted the Health Services and attended the Campus Health Workshop Series conducted by Counselling Services. At the end, my performance in that semester turned out to be the best one amongst all four semesters. This was remarkable!”

He added, “To have the College support me through different services, and using that support to be able to fight back and win is a great feeling. This experience is very motivating for me and probably the best memory I have!”

Dharav is now graduating as Valedictorian for the School of Health and Wellness. He said he feels honoured to be chosen and is proud to be the first person in his family to serve as Valedictorian.

In his Valedictorian speech, Dharav will stress the importance of education and how knowledge empowers us to do good things in the world and make a positive impact.

“I want to remind us that, through education, we get an opportunity to serve as well, and we shouldn’t miss out on that! Even at our jobs where we get paid, if we work with the intentions of serving the community, or merely helping people around us, that will make our next phase of life rewarding and sweet,” said Dharav.

After graduation, Dharav plans to take the National Certification Examination of the Canadian College of Health Information Management. He would like to work in a healthcare setting and eventually work in clinical documentation, data quality and data analysis.

Valedictorian Hengda Liu makes nature his office

Dream big, take on challenges, and don’t quit.

Hengda Liu says this is his credo in life and he wants to share it with fellow graduates of the School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences at convocation, where the Forestry Technician graduate will serve as Valedictorian this Friday.

Hengda came to Fleming College’s Frost Campus as an international student from China, wanting to learn everything about nature.

“Just like many other Forestry Technician students, instead of working behind a desk we want nature to be our office,” he said. “I want to be one of those forestry professionals to seek the harmony zone between our economic needs and ecological sustainability. This is why I chose the Forestry Technician program: its outdoors, meaningful, hands-on – get my hands and boots dirty – and I get to stay in the environment where I’m supposed to be in.”

He credits the College for its efforts on making Frost Campus sustainable, and appreciates the warm and welcoming campus community.

“The faculty, staff and students here at Fleming are incredibly friendly and warm. They have never treated me differently because I am from another country or because of my language barrier,” said Hengda. “I have always felt like a part of the Fleming family, and I am really proud and grateful for that.”

Hengda said the Forestry Technician program combines theory with hands-on experience to prepare students for their careers, including fundamental skills courses like communications and applied mathematics, as well as forestry skills courses like forest inventory and forest management using GIS, among others. He describes the faculty as very supportive, helpful and “lightning fast” to respond to emails.

“I’ve truly learned a lot during my time here at Fleming and I want to pat my own back to thank myself for choosing Fleming. Great job, Hengda!” he laughs, patting his back.

The programs two field camps were Hengda’s favourite experience at Fleming. At The Canadian Ecology Centre and Haliburton Forest, students learned how to safely operate a chainsaw, canoed to an island to do a stream assessment, participated in tree planting, took forest inventory, and more.

“We basically combined the knowledge we learned in school and applied it to the real world during these two camps, with the help and supervision of forestry professionals who are working in the industry,” said Hengda, who also enjoyed networking with experienced technicians and forest managers at the field camps.

Outside of class, Hengda worked part-time at a local Chinese restaurant, Friendly Restaurant, which improved his English speaking skills and cooking skills.

“I am an okay chef now,” he said. “I love to cook some Chinese food for my friends sometimes and the smiles on their faces while they are eating my dishes is such a priceless reward.”

Moments such as this are treasured memories to Hengda, who enjoys documenting life and has a passion for video editing. He created a YouTube channel to share his Fleming experiences with others, including this beautiful tribute video for the teachers, technicians and staff of Fleming’s Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Video by Hengda Liu as a tribute to Fleming’s teachers, technicians and staff from the 2019 Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Now that Hengda has completed classes at Frost Campus, he is working full-time as a Forestry Technician at Spectrum Resource Group, a forestry consulting company in Prince George, British Columbia.

“Last shift, we went to a logging camp in a place called Ospika, BC, where you can’t even find it on the map! It’s a mountainous area and we were constantly climbing a 75% slope with tons of blowdowns and devil’s clubs,” he explained. “It’s tough but I loved every single piece of it. It’s a dream come true for me.”

He plans to continue growing his career in this field, and hopes to one day lead others in sustainable forest management and to enhance communication between Canada and China in terms of forestry.

“What I love about the Forestry Technician career path is that it is outdoors,” he said. “As a Forestry Technician, we are literally getting paid to walk in the forest. The forest is my office, birds and wild animals are my sidekicks. Nature is where I came from and I want to be there for the rest of my life.”

An adventurous career in the arts brings exciting possibilities to Valedictorian Taylor Ray Luecke

Before coming to the Haliburton School of Art + Design, Taylor Ray Luecke was unsure whether she wanted to commit to school. Now she is Valedictorian at Fleming’s Haliburton Campus convocation, where she is graduating from the Integrated Design diploma program and Digital Image Design certificate program.

“I never thought I would get this far in my education, never mind be the Valedictorian!” said Taylor. “I am so honoured and proud to speak at convocation. I believe in what our school does and I believe in the students here. We are going to change the world with art and design, I guarantee it.”

Taylor applied to Fleming College’s Integrated Design program years after graduating from high school, having spent the time in between travelling and immersing herself in art. Taylor worked on commissions and branding projects, designed menu boards and displays at the Pastry Peddler Café (where she worked); and in 2016 she designed clothing, created zines and jewellery, and helped with window displays for the art collective Lizard Gang Records.

“After being out of high school for some time, I applied to some college programs still unsure if I wanted to commit to school or not,” said Taylor. “I went to the Open House and got whisked away by the students there. They took me into their world and gave me an Open House unlike any other.”

Taylor attended the Spring Open House event at the Haliburton School of Art + Design and was captivated by the stunning campus.

“Once I entered those doors, I knew I was somewhere special. I met the most wonderful people in my visit and got to talk to some students about what they do, and I knew I didn’t have to look any further,” said Taylor. “Integrated Design helped me channel my skills and interests into something unique, something with potential. The experience gave me so many great opportunities with incredible teachers, inspiring students and an endless opportunity to just be myself and create from the soul.”

In the Integrated Design program, Taylor discovered her interest in relational aesthetics and installation work, enjoyed thinking of concepts and the wildest ways to communicate them, and chose the Digital Image Design certificate within her program to explore new ways of making.

During her third semester, Taylor worked on campus as a Studio Assistant, helping with community projects such as embroidering sashes for Rotary Club, making decals and signs for the school, and making posters for the Youth Hub. She also committed herself to the Student Association events, including yoga nights, bowling nights, life drawing, and Halloween in April.

“The atmosphere of the school was always supportive for me, a place where all ideas and walks of life are welcome. I could dance through the halls and people would dance with me,” said Taylor. “I got to live with my friends and enjoy Friday night pool at the Legion and living room dance parties. My favourite part is the people I have met and the friends that I’ve made. My experience wouldn’t be the same without all of the positive influences around me. Though the time together is short, I have made lifelong friends here.”

In her valedictorian speech, Taylor plans to recognize the journey of the artist and the brave direction that being an artist is. “I want to let all the graduates know how powerful they are with their work,” she said. “Our school is something different and the speech should reflect that.”

After convocation, Taylor will spend the summer working at Algonquin Park and plans to move to Australia in the late fall, taking on freelance projects and continuing to learn. She would like to do artist residencies to push her knowledge, as well as apply for design competitions and exhibitions.

“My path is not direct, but it brings me excitement in thinking of its possibilities.”

From taking a multi-millionaire out to dinner to creating a business, Fleming College is a wild ride for Dylan Trepanier

dylan-t-blogWhen Dylan Trepanier reflects on his most memorable experience at Fleming College, he recalls the time he took a multi-millionaire to dinner in his 2006 Chevrolet Equinox.

He had been tasked with driving Nicole Verkindt – a young, successful entrepreneur who founded OMX (Offset Market Exchange) and serves as a Dragon on CBC’s “Next Gen Den” – from the Innovation Cluster to St. Veronus restaurant. Nicole was in Peterborough to speak at a FastStart Fleming event and Dylan had won the opportunity to have dinner with her afterward.

“I’ll never forget her racing me to my car and getting in the passenger seat, and all I could think about was the bits of dried paint on the seat and the fact I was about to drive around a Dragon,” said Dylan, who graduated from the Business Administration – Marketing program this year.

“But the moment I remember the most that night is when all the stress melted away, when she asked to listen to my story.”

He shared his business idea with Nicole, a driven and passionate “rock star” business person named Canada’s 2017 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by StartUp Canada. Nicole enthusiastically asked Dylan questions and gave valuable feedback.

“I’ll never forget the feeling when she told me that she believed in me and my idea. It felt incredible to be acknowledged by someone who understands what it’s like to put everything on the line to follow their dreams,” he said.

Dylan’s business idea is Alexander Optical, a team of on-demand health care service professionals that organize pop-up eye exam clinics. Their teams visit places like schools, long-term care residences, and companies to offer eye health care services, including glasses.

Dylan (right) with the Alexander Optical team
Dylan (right) with the Alexander Optical team

He developed this idea in 2013 and came to Fleming College in September 2015 because of it, working with nearly every professor to tailor assignments, projects and case studies to help understand his business plan. In his last semester, Dylan officially launched Alexander Optical as his Applied Project for the Business Administration – Marketing program and presented it at the Innovation Showcase event, where he earned the Most Innovative Business Award and the Best Presenter Award.

Dylan was also awarded the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada Award for Outstanding Business Achievements, The Duane Parnham Business Development Award, the Sustainable Peterborough Award, the Student Administrative Council’s President’s Award, and the Valedictorian Award.

“The Fleming College community is generous and supportive. My success here never would have been possible without the relationships built over the last three years. It’s this community that’s helped me to become confident in myself and my career choice,” said Dylan. “I loved my time here in this program, and having the co-curricular hands-on opportunities available to practice what I was learning in class made my time way more valuable.”

Through the Business Administration – Marketing program, Dylan developed communication skills, problem solving, accountability, and more.

“I 11/10 would recommend this diploma to a friend, have recommended it to friends, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of the program because I graduated feeling ready for the industry,” said Dylan. “I know my graduating class is going to do incredible things with the knowledge we’ve learned here.”

Dylan served as Valedictorian at the School of Business convocation ceremony this month and hopes his fellow graduates remember to seize the moment, prioritize their mental and physical health, get out of their comfort zone, learn where to focus their efforts, and remember they have the power to control how others treat them.

“And most importantly, put your heart into it,” he added.

Dylan thanks Student Life Coordinator Leona Folz, and faculty members Raymond Yip Choy and Wendy Morgan for being role models, and the Class of 2018 for helping make amazing memories.

“This class is going down in the history books, you watch,” he said.

Now that Dylan has graduated from Fleming College, he is working on Alexander Optical full-time. Dylan was selected as one of seven youth entrepreneurs for the Innovation Cluster Slingshot Program, which provides him with workspace and access to workshops, resources, specialists and tools throughout the summer culminating in a pitch competition to become a full-time client of the Cluster and win $1000.

“With the skills I’ve learned in class, I’ve been able to create a lean and profitable business model that satisfies the three pillars of sustainability, creates incredible impact, and is continuing to gain momentum with the support of the Innovation Cluster,” said Dylan.

Valedictorian David Hale says college is more than good grades and graduating

david-haleWhen David Hale enrolled in the Ecosystem Management Technician program, he entered Fleming College’s Frost Campus with the mindset of earning good grades and graduating as quickly as possible. But after making connections with people and learning more about the natural world, his point of view changed on what he wanted from his college experience.

“The Frost Campus community was awesome, from the front desk workers to the cafeteria staff, the teachers and the students. I found it incredibly unique and I think this is mostly because we all have a common interest: to work in the outdoors and preserve the natural environment,” David explained. “The community is very tight knit and you get to know students from a number of different disciplines as well as your own.”

David decided to take Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program after realizing he could turn his passion for the environment into a career.

“When I exited high school I thought my passion for the outdoors was only a hobby, but after taking an unrelated program in university I decided to try and turn it into a career,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about what I was passionate about.”

Over the past two years, David learned plant identification, ecosystem classification, soil and water sampling techniques, and how to design research studies. He also developed personal skills, such as leadership and teamwork.

David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated
David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated

“My most memorable experience from my time at Fleming was, without a doubt, being able to spend my final semester abroad at Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in South Africa,” said David. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We saw the most incredible things on a daily basis and we got to meet the most amazing people. While there, we also got to further develop all of the practical skills we learned in Lindsay.”

David graduated from Fleming College this month and served as Valedictorian for the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences on Friday, June 1 at convocation.

“I hope that people feel a sense of pride after my valedictorian speech,” he said. “Fleming College is very well recognized and being a graduate is a great accomplishment.”

The Class of 2018 graduate said he would recommend the Ecosystem Management program to anyone wanting to gain practical knowledge and skills in the environmental field. He credits the program with placing a huge emphasis on preparing students for their job search, including resume building and interview techniques, as well as covering academic topics and research skills.

“Personally, I found that the best part of the program was the faculty; as long as you work hard, the teachers will do anything to make sure you get everything you wanted out of the program and then some,” said David. “The fact that you can compete to spend a semester in South Africa is just one more thing that makes Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program unlike any other!”

Next year, David plans to attend Trent University for Conservation Biology. His ultimate career goal is to work abroad in conservation.

“Frost Campus is a special place and I know I’ll be carrying it with me as I move on in the future,” he added.