Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kwesi Johnson Keeps Going and Going

Kwesi Johnson
Growing up in a tough Toronto neighborhood, Kwesi Johnson's sense of community responsibility was seeded when he was 12 years old. That's when he met a youth worker who would often shoot hoops with the kids on the playground, all the while talking about respect and avoiding the lure of joining a gang.

Before Kwesi knew it, he was volunteering to teach basketball skills to six- and seven-year-olds at the Malvern Family Resource Centre in Scarborough. Soon he was helping to plan community walks, discussion forums, tournaments and trips for the children. Whether he was working as a camp counselor, helping with their homework or just talking to them, Kwesi's own message was constant: Respect yourself, respect others.

Kwesi saw a rewarding career in his work and came to Centennial College to enroll in the child and youth worker program. His teachers were impressed with this energetic young man. Outside of class, Kwesi volunteered for a long list of agencies, including the Alliance of Guyanese Canadian Organization, the Anglican Church of the Nativity, and the Black Communities and Police Consultative Committee.

Kwesi is adamant, his Centennial professors and the opportunities they provided helped shape his path and instill in him a passion for education. He recalls one teacher who led a class discussion about a local tragedy in which a young man had killed his little brother. When the discussion was over, Kwesi still had an agonizing question for his teacher: What could drive someone to stab his brother to death?

"He said, 'You know what? I'm not sure. Why don't you find out and come back?' The way he looked at me, I knew he wanted me to continue learning - and I will," Kwesi recounts.

He worked hard, both, in and outside of classroom to learn how to reach troubled youth. It was hard not to notice his efforts; nobody can forget Kwesi once they've met him. So it came as no surprise to anyone that his work got recognized.

Kwesi was one of three young Ontarians awarded the 2007 Lincoln Alexander Award for Leadership in Eliminating Racial Discrimination. In 2008, he was given the Alumnus of Distinction Award from Centennial's Department of Community Services. Kwesi also earned a national scholarship from the Black Business and Professional Association the same year.

With his Centennial diploma complete, Kwesi felt he needed a degree to cap off his formal education. He applied to Ryerson University, where his college diploma allowed him to enter the third year of the four-year Child and Youth Care program.

It wasn't long before he made his mark on the downtown campus, volunteering for a number of initiatives while never taking his eye off his goal of changing young lives. He invited community groups to come and present to students, and became a co-ordinator of the program's mentors.

"Focus on the task, on your craft," he counsels others who are contemplating a career-oriented education.

His two years at Ryerson passed quickly. Last June, Kwesi was called to the Convocation stage not only to receive his degree, but also to collect the Ryerson Gold Medal for his outstanding grade point average and his demonstrated commitment to community involvement. The graduating class erupted with applause.

"My love for learning solidified when I came to Ryerson. I kept going and going," he grins. And, despite his dyslexia, Kwesi is taking his education to the next level. He started a Master's program in sociology and education at the University of Toronto this fall, with an eye to attaining a PhD.

All the while, Kwesi continues to work at East Metro Youth Services, close to the people and the neighborhoods he has long had a vested interest in helping.

"It's what I'm all about: connecting with child and youth worker and allowing them to have experiences they would like to have. They're the next generation. They're so impressionable, but they will teach you too - a lot about yourself and a lot about them."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Centennial professor from the Automotive and Motorcycle programs honored by the Klaus Woerner Hall of Fame by Skills Canada

Dave Samalea, Professor/Coordinator of the Automotive and Motorcycle programs in the School of Transportation, is being honoured as one of the 2010 inductees into the Klaus Woerner Hall of Fame by Skills Canada – Ontario. Dave is one of nine recipients this year, all of whom made significant contributions to the advancement of skilled trades and technologies in Ontario.

Dave has toiled relentlessly to ensure both college and high-school students gain the necessary education to excel in competition and in their future trade. He has been a regular volunteer in the Skills Canada – Ontario contests in Kitchener every year, and remains a sterling ambassador for the automotive trades.

Dave has led a team of SoT faculty and students to put together the TADA Skills Competition at the Canadian International AutoShow for the past 11 years, with the goal of fostering interest in the motive-power skilled trades by a new generation. Dave will be accompanying the Canadian student contingent to New York City next month to take on the Americans in a similar competition there.

Dave possesses 20 years of rich teaching experience complemented by 15 years of automotive trade experience garnered at a major GM dealership and several aftermarket service outlets. He has extensive experience in developing and initiating many technical skills programs, as well as assessing college curriculum. Dave is a founding member of the CITI Motive Power Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Steering Committee.

The induction ceremony for Dave Samalea, along with the other eight honourees, will take place at the Skills Canada – Ontario "Building Futures, One Dream at a Time" fundraising gala this evening (March 5) at Bingeman's in Kitchener. Congratulations to Dave for his wonderful award and for his outstanding contributions to the skilled-trades training he champions both here at Centennial and outside in the community.

We're all very proud of your accomplishments!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Centennial College School of Community and Health Studies

When Graham Mitchell graduated from Centennial College's Paramedic program in 1992 the job market was in the doldrums of recession. So like many freshly minted college and university graduates, he found part-time work where he could.

It was during a contract with an air medevac service in Northern Ontario that Mitchell realized the extensive role private companies play in the public health-care system. He joined two partners who together purchased Parkview EMS, a small Toronto-based firm that had formed to provide medical emergency services at local horseracing tracks.

"Public services like Toronto EMS are mandated to respond to 911 calls, which means they may leave a stadium unattended," says Mitchell, explaining the rise of private EMS services that are now fixtures at major sports events and concerts.

They grew the business to the point where today Parkview provides emergency medical services at events hosted by the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, Molson Amphitheatre, BMO Field and other facilities.

More recently, Orangeville-based Parkview found a new market in "aeromedical repatriation," providing travel insurance companies with physicians, nurses and paramedics to escort patients worldwide, typically bringing them home for treatment in Canada, the U.S. or England after a medical episode or accident.

Mitchell credits his excellent training at Centennial College for his successful career as a paramedic – and as an entrepreneur.

Centennial's School of Community and Health Studies is recognized for its innovation, high academic standards and faculty-led applied research in the area of healthcare and educational technology.

Since 1973, when the Ontario government transferred responsibility for nursing education from the province's hospitals to its nursing program college, Centennial has earned an enduring reputation for its health sciences programs.

The college teaches a full range of nursing programs, including a BScN Collaborative program with Ryerson University, Practical Nursing and RPN Bridging to University Nursing with flex options, and a Practical Nursing Certificate to Diploma program. The latter allow students to meet practice requirements in Ontario or upgrade their English communication skills while preparing for advanced training.

Programs are offered at the state-of-the-art Centennial Science and Technology Centre, which opened in 2004 on Morningside Avenue just south of Hwy 401. Students hone their skills in advanced lab and clinical simulation facilities – including a fully outfitted ambulance body installed in a classroom!

Students gain valuable experience through the college's extensive network of clinical placement opportunities at hospitals and other community facilities, while enjoying a personalized school experience.

In addition to nursing and paramedic programs, Centennial offers a range of certificate and diploma programs including Pharmacy Technician, Food and Nutrition Management, Esthetics, Workplace Wellness, Massage Therapy and related disciplines.

Working professionals can also choose from a wide variety of part-time continuing education courses delivered in the classroom or remotely.

Centennial College will afford you every opportunity to transform your interest into a satisfying career where you can make a difference – just like Graham Mitchell did. At every point along the way you have access to the knowledge, expertise and personalized attention that will allow you to become a true helping professional.