Achieving Dreams campaign raises over $11 million to support student success


Niagara College has 11 million reasons to thank those who have generously supported students through the recently completed Achieving Dreams fundraising campaign.

At a special event on March 26 thanking those who have made significant contributions to the campaign, it was announced that Achieving Dreams far surpassed its goal of $7 million, raising a total of $11,450,791.

The Achieving Dreams campaign was launched in April 2015, with a goal of supporting student success through campus redevelopment projects; equipment and learning resources; and scholarships, bursaries, study-work abroad and student leadership development opportunities.

Thanks to donors’ generous support, 788 new student scholarships and bursaries were created, and $1.6 million of new instructional equipment was purchased to help provide students with the up-to-date equipment and support they need to excel in their studies.

Donations have also helped fund 203,000 square feet of new and renovated learning spaces, providing new and expanded facilities to enhance the student experience and expand the College’s research and innovation capabilities, such as a 49,000 square foot Innovation Complex to support Niagara’s agricultural-business sector, and the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, where teams of students and faculty work with local manufacturing companies on applied research projects to help these companies enhance and grow their businesses.

“Niagara College is extremely grateful to the many individuals and organizations who have so generously supported our students through the Achieving Dreams campaign,” said Niagara College President Dan Patterson. “Whether it’s learning equipment, innovative learning environments or financial aid that helps students pursue their dreams, your contributions have made, and will continue to make, a lasting impact on the life and success of our students.”

At the celebration on March 26, donors to the campaign saw the effect their contributions have had first-hand, as three Niagara College alumni shared their own personal stories of success.

Daniela Cortes Aristizabal graduated in 2015 from the College’s Business–Sales & Marketing program, and will graduate for a second time in 2019 from NC’s Mechanical Engineering program, joining her father and her sister, who are both graduates of the same program. Aristizabal benefitted from the state-of-the-art equipment and innovative learning opportunities provided through the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The Centre was funded in part by a generous gift from Walker Industries and the Walker Family.

“Thanks to this on-campus, state-of-the-art facility, students like me have a place to apply the skills we learn in the classroom at a real job, with a variety of industry clients,” said Aristizabal. “It’s rewarding to know that I’m helping contribute to Niagara’s economy by helping businesses innovate.”

Gurjeet Dhaliwal grew up in India and immigrated to Canada at the age of 20 in search of a better life. Arriving in Canada without any support or income, Dhaliwal had a master’s degree in Math and Economics but could only make a living by working a series of odd jobs. She entered Niagara College’s Dental Hygienist program and is now a proud graduate. Thanks to donors, she was able to learn on the latest high-tech equipment that allowed her to seamlessly transition into the workplace.

“At Niagara College’s dental clinic I trained on leading-edge equipment.  From computer software programs, to digital x-rays, to instruments like the ultrasonic cleaner – the equipment we learned to use as students prepared us well for the realities of working in clinical environments,” said Dhaliwal. “Now that I am in the workforce, the skills I acquired at Niagara College are ones I use every day.”

Connor McCulloch is also a proud Niagara College graduate and is living his dream as an advanced care paramedic. Receiving a scholarship helped to alleviate some of the financial pressures that came with being a student, and allowed him to focus on his studies.

“All the time I spent focusing on my studies paid off. I graduated with a professionalism award from my program, which reassured me that I was on the right track with my career choice,” said McCulloch. “Perhaps most importantly, being able to fully immerse myself in the program changed the way I thought about being paramedic. By the time I graduated, it was a true passion for me.”


NC grad returns: Letterkenny producer Mark Montefiore offers students inspiration, advice

Students and faculty from BRTF and Acting programs gather to hear from Mark Montefiore on March 16.

Time flies when you’re making dreams come true.

Standing before an audience of Broadcasting and Acting students at the Welland Campus on March 16, multiple-award-winning film and television producer Mark Montefiore could hardly believe it had been more than 15 years since he was in their place as a student at Niagara College.

Since he graduated from NC’s Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program in 2003 as an aspiring producer ready to take on the world,  the former St. Catharines resident has kept busy since then doing just that – and it’s paid off. Named The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Generation Under 36 (2015), and Playback’s Top 10 to Watch (2012), Montefiore’s name draws crowds as the executive producer of Craft TV / Comedy Network multiple-award-winning series Letterkenny whose ‘skids, hicks and hockey player” characters ‘pitter pattered’ their way into becoming a cultural phenomenon.

As president of New Metric Media, Montefiore also produces What Would Sal Do on the Superchannel and drama Bad Blood. He has also produced his way into several film credits. His feature film Cas & Dylan – starring Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslanywon a Circuit Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival; and he produced award-winning films Easting Buccaneers and The Armoire.

Messages from Letterkenny to NC

Montefiore kicked off his presentation with video clips of personal messages to NC students from the cast of Letterkenny — including the famous Jared Kesso (creator, lead actor), Nick Bales, and Trevor Wilson.

“Hey students, if you’re writing for YouTube, make it short – two minutes tops,” said Kesso. “And if it’s not getting immediate reaction, like 1,000 views in a month, then take it down. Try something new.”

“You’re in a … great program,” said Bales. “Talent is great but hard work wins every time. Work at it.”

Making the NC connection

Montefiore told the students that Niagara College will prepare them well to enter the industry.

“Other schools don’t have what you have here and I certainly used that to my advantage,” he said. “You have your hands in everything, you’re forced to wear multiple hats … it’s a small team.”

He recounted how when he came to NC, he wanted to be an actor or a personality, but as a student this quickly changed. He didn’t know what producing was but first became interested in it after volunteering to produce for a TV class project. It was 5:30 p.m. and he was eager to leave campus for a date. As they went around the room to assign roles, it was a job that none of the other students wanted to do.

“I’m sitting here looking at my watch going, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ It was like, ‘who’s going to do sound,’ a couple of hands go up. ‘Who wants to direct,’ – everybody’s hands go up. ‘Who wants to do camera,’ – a couple of hands go up. ‘Who wants to produce,’ – nobody,” he said.

“I look at my watch and I’m like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to go. I’ll do it,’ … and then I did it, and I discovered that I loved it,” he recalled.

As for his date, “I don’t remember who she was anymore,” he said with a chuckle.

He told the students how as a NC grad, he was able to succeed in the Toronto film and television industry as he worked his way up from being a volunteer with Craft Services – doing anything needed to assisting to finding lost cats – to taking on larger jobs and moving into different areas, into the administrative side, the set, the offices, coordinating production management, until larger opportunities came his way.

Recounting how it was his friend from NC, writer Dane Clark, was who first sent him a link to the web series Letterkenny Problems, which inspired him to pursue the idea of producing it as a television show. He encouraged the students to get to know one another and keep in touch.

“You’re in a great spot right here, there’s a lot of talented people in this room. They’re going to off and do great things,” he said.

Advice to students

In addition to responding to questions from students and faculty, Montefiore offered top tips for entering and succeeding in the industry.

“Sell yourself, because it’s really about you. It’s not about your project,” he said. “People will want to work with you when you’re the engaging charming self you are – work on that and you will find people who will want to work with you.”

He stressed the importance of socializing and meeting people at industry events, to be thankful and gracious – “no one owes you anything” – and to surround themselves with great people “so you are the least experienced and dumbest one in the room.”

He encouraged students to stand out from the crowd. “Be remarkable or no one will remember you or your project,” he said. “Do something a little different.”

He told students about the rejection they will encounter in the industry and how to have a solutions-based mindset.

While he said there’s no “right” or “wrong way” to get into the business, he encouraged them to find a way to get their foot in the door. “Once you’re in, move around, and then you will start to find your way.”

An inside look

He told students what it’s like to be a producer.

“Literally every single hour, within that hour it’s SO tremendously different. I could have maybe 10 or 12 calls in an hour between co-producers for Bad Blood, casting directors, bankers, financiers, broadcasters, publicists, all for a million different reasons – not even the same project,” he said.   I get bored very easily, and I love producing because when I get bored of working at the office I go to sets. When I get bored of sets I go to the office. When I get bored of that I go figure something else out.”

What’s it like to be on the set of Letterkenny?

“It’s a lot of laughs. Letterkenny is a unique experience because it’s so different than a lot of shows that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “There’s so many takes we just can’t use because the camera is shaking, because the camera operator is laughing his head off … it’s a good problem to have.”

What faculty, students are saying

BRTF faculy Alysha Henderson who organized the event, recalled how, as a student, Montefiore displayed that he had what it takes to succeed in the industry.

“His eagerness made him stand out as a student, he was always very engaged, very creative and interested in so many different things,” she said.

She noted that becoming a producer can be difficult because there is to direct path to the profession.

“To achieve what he has achieved is so significant, especially since he’s just started and he’s not even 40 yet,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in the next 15 years.”

Students who attended the presentation were thankful for the opportunity to hear from Montefiore.

“I thought it was awesome. It was nice to hear from a grad from NC who has had so much success,” said Acting student Brevin Graziania. “I’m from Welland and sometimes you think you might have a hard time if you are not from Toronto. He was very inspiring.”

For first year BRTF student Sawyer Edworthy the presentation was not only inspirational, it gave him an opportunity to gain experience. It was his first time in the film studio as he volunteered to set up the lights and backdrop for the event, working with second years in the program.

“He was very inspiring and is what I strive to be. I hope to do something similar,” said Edworthy. “Maybe, I’ll be up there in 15 years.”