Media, Trades and Technology graduates steal the spotlight on third day of Virtual Convocation
“Find your passion follow it.”
As Niagara College celebrated its Day Three of its Virtual Convocation ceremonies on June 17, president Sean Kennedy encouraged the Class of 2020 to find something they love to do, and strive to do it better each day.
“Your life will be fuller, richer and more meaningful if you immerse yourself in activities that spark your creativity, give you energy, keep you active, and bring you joy,” he said.
Some of the graduating students were already well on their way to heeding that advice.
Three new Dean’s Award winners were announced as the College celebrated 540 new graduates from the schools of Technology, Trades, and Academic and Liberal Studies in the morning ceremony; and 322 from its schools of Media, Academic and Liberal Studies, and English Language Studies in the afternoon.
Building a future
A passion for the trades drew Olivia VanDenBelt, who lives in the Delaware area near London, Ont., to the Carpentry & Renovation Technician program straight after high school, where she first began to explore her interest in a Grade 10 class. At the afternoon ceremony, she capped off her two years of study at NC as the Dean’s Award winner for the School of Trades, with a 95 percent grade-point average.
“I’ve always loved building things and working with my hands. It’s amazing to see your capabilities and what you’re able to build,” she said. “I enjoy starting with simple materials and creating something beautiful. I also like solving the design challenges that come up along the way.”
VanDenBelt valued learning the tricks of the trade firsthand from the expertise of program faculty. She also had an opportunity to work as a student technician in the on-campus construction shop, where she prepared materials and supplies for labs, kept the shop and tools clean, and built items to be used by other programs.
“I was fortunate that my job and studies were so complementary to each other. Working in the shop had very flexible hours, so I was always able to balance my school work and job,” she said. “I learned a lot of things while working in the shop that helped with my school work.”
During her time at NC, VanDenBelt also enjoyed participating in events such as open houses to promote women in trades.
“I was able to share my experiences being a female in my program and working in the trades, as well as suggestions regarding how to support and promote women in the School of Trades at Niagara College,” she said.
VanDenBelt further enhanced her toolkit of skills through a summer co-op position with a renovations company, which builds custom cabinetry, in London. She hammered away at learning to build nearly every part of the cabinets – from drawer boxes, and basis to doors, shelves, kicks and end gables. Since completing the program, she also nailed down a job opportunity at the company as an on-site carpenter apprentice.
“For me, graduating means starting a new chapter in my life,” she said, noting that she aims to register as a general carpenter apprentice and gain her Red Seal. “I’m looking forward to building my career and seeing where it takes me.”
Powered up for success
The afternoon ceremony also announced Renewable Energies Technician graduate Nico San Pedro as the Dean’s Award recipient from the School of Technology. The 25-year-old from the Philippines, who currently lives in Welland, enrolled at NC with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and as a former draftsman in his home country.
“I wanted to get involved with the people who provide the world economy various sustainable energy options and ways to utilize energy in a more efficient manner,” said San Pedro, who graduated with a GPA of 95 percent at the afternoon ceremony. “I gained an in-depth knowledge on energy transformation, conservation and generation. I’ve also learned various skills in researching, report writing and project management, which are essential in my chosen career field.”
During his time at NC, San Pedro was active in various co-curricular programs as a peer mentor, peer tutor and a volunteer at several college events – all while juggling a part-time job during his two-year college journey.
“I felt a sense of fulfilment that is beyond my expectations. All I did is to stay on track with my goal, which is to learn things in the renewable energies field,” he said. “What inspires me to study well is the continuous support of my dear family, friends and peers who believed and trusted in my capabilities.”
While he noted that it is unfortunate to graduate without being able to thank and say goodbye to his classmates and professors, he valued the experience of virtual convocation, which he planned to watch with his friends and family.
“Graduation is graduation. It is a hard-earned privilege to celebrate the countless efforts, challenging struggles, established friendships along the way in pursuing one’s lifelong dream,” he said. “Besides, the College’s sincere and well-thought alternatives have made the graduation of batch 2020 more meaningful and an unforgettable experience through virtual convocation ceremony.”
The afternoon ceremony announced Journalism graduate Lindsay Smith as the School of Media’s Dean’s Award winner. The St. Catharines resident achieved 97.65% in the program.
“When I decided to study Journalism at Niagara College, I was hoping to receive a practical education that would give me options for future career paths, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Smith. “I had the chance to learn from supportive, experienced professors who truly wanted their students to succeed, and they inspired and motivated me to my best work.”
For Smith, it was a full and busy two years while she balanced classes and schoolwork with parenting.
“But it was absolutely worth it. Receiving the Dean’s Award feels like a recognition of the time and effort I invested,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I know this program has prepared me for lots of possibilities, and I’m excited to take these skills into my next chapter.”
First class honours
The afternoon ceremony on June 17 also marked the first graduating cohorts from Bachelor of Arts Honours – Game Design and Bachelor of Science Honours – Game Programming. The dual credential programs enable students to complete a four-year degree from Brock University as well a three-year advanced diploma in Game Development from NC in a total of four years.
Virtual Convocation at NC
More than 5,000 students will graduate from Niagara College during its Virtual Spring Convocation Ceremonies, which began on June 15 and will continue twice a day – at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – up to and including June 19.
The ceremonies feature guest speaker Clara Hughes, six-time Olympic medalist and mental health advocate, who addresses the Class of 2020 via video message. Hughes has also been awarded an Honorary Diploma in Health Studies.
Numerous video well wishes from faculty, staff, administrators and alumni are played during the ceremonies, as well as greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano, and Niagara regional chair Jim Bradley.
The 10 interactive live ceremonies offer graduates a chance to connect with their classmates via Zoom parties held alongside the formal ceremonies, as well as an opportunity to smile and cheer on-screen during the live broadcast after graduate names are called out from their program areas.
The virtual ceremonies have been drawing thousands of viewers from around the world – with 17,515 viewers from 63 countries on July 15, and 11,732 viewers from 44 countries on July 16.
The ceremonies are proving to be applied learning in action for current students from the School of Media’s Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program. A group of 10 students have been working on the live broadcasts on-site at the Welland Campus, with program faculty and College staff.
Visit the College’s Virtual Convocation site to view the schedule or to access the livestream ceremonies at niagaracollege.ca/virtualconvocation/.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.