Celebrating NC alumnus Larissa Mazzarella for National Nursing Week

May 6 – 12 marks National Nursing Week, with this year’s theme being “Changing Lives. Shaping Tomorrow.” This theme acknowledges the significant impact nurses have on individuals, communities, and the future of healthcare.

In support of Canada’s nurses this year, we are honouring one of our remarkable Niagara College Nursing alumni, Larissa Mazzarella, who graduated from the Practical Nursing program in 2021. We caught up with Larissa to learn about her current role as a Clinical Coach and her journey from a neuroscience background to nursing, and the influences that guided her along the way.

Current role and career path

Currently, I am a Clinical Coach for Behavioural Supports Ontario. I act as a consultant who aims to support Long Term Care Homes by mentoring staff and modelling of interventions and strategies for residents who express responsive beahviours. I get to know who the resident is – past, and present, and find creative ways to provide person-centered care based on best practices. All behaviour has meaning, and I work as a detective to figure out what support the resident requires through their expressions and understanding what contributing factors are at play. I do this by utilizing my specialized training, observation, completing evidence-based assessments, and working with the resident’s care partners to gather as much information as possible. I love my current role as I am able to collaborate so thoroughly with the resident, their care partners, and other healthcare professionals and I am able to always provide person-centred care and empower and educate others to do the same.

My professional history as a nurse includes working in a retirement setting, and at the Hamilton General Hospital on the Acute Stroke unit. Supporting vulnerable populations with neurological compromise has always been an interest and passion of mine. Prior to becoming a nurse I studied Neuroscience, volunteered in a Neuroscience Cognition Research Lab, and worked with clients who had Traumatic Brain Injury in a community-based rehabilitation program.

Influences and inspiration

I believe that indirectly my mother inspired me to follow a caring career. She was always so perceptive of the needs and feelings of her loved ones, and always extolled kindness, caring, and support and respect for all life as important virtues. Through her modelling and feeling the benefits of her support and unconditional love, I’ve had the space and ability to develop my own passion for caring for others, which is what drew me to becoming a nurse. I knew that health care was the area I wanted to grow my career in, but nursing was most attractive to me due to the holistic, hands-on focus of providing person-centered care. Through the support of my parents, I was able to pursue my academic interests and grow my knowledge base, making my path unique and deliberate to who I am individually.

Standout NC experience

Niagara College provided me with an extremely strong foundation to build from as a nurse. The emphasis was always on best practices, ethics, respect, and care for patients. NC’s nursing program was challenging because there were high expectations. I believe every nurse should hold themselves accountable to an extremely high standard, so these expectations were not only helpful in promoting learning but absolutely foundational in building a respect for the profession and an understanding of the level of responsibility we take on as health care professionals.

I had the pleasure of participating in an International Field Study Program at Niagara College program called “Be World Ready.” I went to India where I had the opportunity to learn about and explore their health care system and provide some support and outreach to communities in need. This was a truly unique experience and one that shaped my perspective on nursing and health care not only at home in Canada but internationally. While there were many wonderful people at NC, there were professors who influenced my NC experience very positively – not only in the content they taught, but the mentorship they provided and professionalism they exhibited: Cindy Ko, Mark Grabner, and Andrea Bodner.

Words of wisdom

My major piece of advice for anyone considering a career in nursing is that it is not easy to care for people with the energy and attention they deserve- emotionally, physically, and mentally – but it is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling paths before you. Remember to respect yourself as much as you respect your patients and to find balance in your life. NC’s Practical Nursing program has an emphasis on hands-on experience, which will provide you with the knowledge and confidence to feel prepared as a new grad.

Celebrating NC alumnus Susan Makanda for National Nursing Week

May 6 – 12 marks National Nursing Week, with this year’s theme being “Changing Lives. Shaping Tomorrow.” This theme acknowledges the significant impact nurses have on individuals, communities, and the future of healthcare.

In support of Canada’s nurses this year, we are honouring one of our remarkable Niagara College Nursing alumni, Susan Makanda, who graduated from the Practical Nursing program in 2019. We caught up with Sue to learn about her journey from banking to nursing, reflecting on the influence of her personal motivations and experiences, and how her time at Niagara College shaped her approach to nursing in an underserved community like Yukon.

Current role and career path

I have been working as a Practical Nurse at Whistle Bend Place run by the Government of Yukon since 2019 and it has been great. I am in their newest LTC facility called WBP. Upon hire, I was in a complex care unit and have been in dementia care as well – I can work in any unit, but my home unit is currently Hospice and Palliative Care. Here, we offer service to adults with a clearly defined life-limiting illness in its advanced stages; adults with a prognosis of 3 months or less; and adults with a prognosis of less than 12 months who require a brief respite care stay and adults with a prognosis of longer than 3 months who can be considered on a case-by-case basis. I work alongside Palliative Care physicians, RNs, NHAs, SW and other members of the multidisciplinary team i.e., dietician, pharmacy, OT/PT, recreational therapy, to provide holistic care. This job is very satisfying as I have the honour of taking care of someone during their last months, days, hours or minutes of life. It teaches me to reflect on my life everyday, look at my relationships and value what matters, be kind to people because they are going through stuff that you might never know. I am very humbled by the stories I hear, and one thing that stands out to date from the life stories of my patients is this: as you work, do not forget to live because tomorrow might never come!

Influences and inspiration

Myself. I always wanted to be a nurse but there was no clarity and support. It wasn’t a profession that highflyers would do after A level. In the end, I found myself working in a bank with a BBA in Marketing. After moving to Canada, I just felt it was time I pursue this dream I always had, so it wasn’t that difficult to make a career switch. After graduation, I moved up north to join my husband. The motivation to work up north was influenced by 2 things. First, most people in my country have no access to healthcare because it is expensive and due to geographical locations, that are sometimes too remote and inaccessible. The same reasons that push healthcare workers from remote communities here are the same reasons that push them in Africa. Moving to an underserved community like the Yukon is me saying this is me playing my part to strive for better health for all. Second, after my two years of nursing school, I just wanted to breathe and wind down. You can not find that kind of life in a busy city like Hamilton that is densely populated. I wanted to escape the traffic, the noise, the icy roads, and anything that could give me unnecessary pressure.

Being here in the Yukon is being in the right place at the right time. I have a very good job with a very good employer that offers great job opportunities and support. I consider myself a very determined hard worker. My career goals are set and clear and that’s what I am working to achieve.

Standout NC experience

I always tell people that Nursing school is hard but doable. Did I do it alone? I do not believe so. I had God at the center of it all because I acknowledged I needed his help every second, the same way I do today. The practical nursing program was very fast paced and demanding, equipping me with the skills required to be a successful nurse in the field. This taught me to be a very organized person and the importance of a network of social supports such as my family, qualified and experienced nurses that I leaned on for emotional support, and my fellow students. Above all this my commute to work was 85km one way so I had friends that I carpooled with. My educational experience taught me to survive here in the Yukon. It also taught be to be very organized and the power of teamwork. When Covid-19 happened, I still showed up, just the way I showed up everyday for my early morning placements and after a one hour drive on an icy road from Hamilton to the Niagara Falls hospital.

Besides being a new immigrant, I was doing school full time, working part time, being a mother with a daughter in high school and a husband in another part of the country, so that on its own made my plate full. I had very good professors who were motivated to see us pass and some of the lessons they taught us still play in my head. Special mention to Dr. Cindy Ko and Dr. Andrea Bodnar for taking us through professional growth courses. Sometimes when I get into a situation, I hear them talking in my head guiding me through the best course of action. What stands out most to me is the people I graduated the Practical Nursing program alongside. I know the road we walked wasn’t easy, and I salute everyone for making it to the end.

Words of wisdom

Transitioning from a thriving career in banking, where I accumulated over 13 years of experience, to nursing was a significant shift for me. It’s important to ensure that you are going into nursing for the right reasons because if not, you will not last. I always tell people that it is a calling. Hard work can take you through nursing school but a lot more attributes are required to be the nurse that patients want to look after them. The job can be stressful so always remember you are the most important person; take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else. While the advice to “leave work at work” is easier said than done, it’s vital for maintaining your well-being. Nursing is also a lifelong journey of learning, especially as technology evolves, and patients have greater access to medical information online. Remaining knowledgeable is essential, as patients may inquire about various health topics. You do not want to be nurse wo is not knowledgeable when a patient asks questions. Furthermore, it is important to have an open mind to embrace other perspectives in the now very multicultural society. Self awareness is therefore key, so know your biases and do not let them determine how you deliver your nursing care!

Its an interesting career with endless opportunities so come join us!

Celebrating NC alumnus Cynthia Harb for National Nursing Week

May 6 – 12 marks National Nursing Week, with this year’s theme being “Changing Lives. Shaping Tomorrow.” This theme acknowledges the significant impact nurses have on individuals, communities, and the future of healthcare.

In support of Canada’s nurses this year, we are honouring one of our remarkable Niagara College Nursing alumni, Cynthia Harb, who graduated from the Practical Nursing program in 2015. We caught up with Cynthia to hear about her remarkable journey in nursing and beyond. Her story is not only a testament to her dedication and hard work but also to the transformative power of education and the willingness to embrace new opportunities.

Current role and career path

My current role is a Registered Nurse, where I work on a children’s health unit and an emergency department as a regular nursing staff. I also started my own foot care business which I do part time and recently joined with Niagara College and participated in the foot care assessment clinic to assess and care for the homeless in the Niagara region.

I originally started working as a medical secretary while doing a biology degree at Brock University. Once I had completed that degree, I realized that it wasn’t for me. I then completed the RPN program at Niagara College and worked as an RPN for seven years. I started off on a medical unit for about three years, then tried a long-term care unit for a short period of time and realized this was not my passion. I then applied to an emergency department (ED) and have been there for almost four years now and still work there casually today. During that time period, I knew I wanted to go back to school, and I continued my education through Nipissing University. After five years of part-time education and working full time, last June I completed the bridge program from RPN to RN. Since then, I have begun working on a pediatric unit and continue to work in the ED as well. I truly love what I do.

My career in foot care was not something I intentionally chose to purse but ended up being a career I enjoy. After completing the RPN program, the doctor’s office where I worked as a medical secretary took me on as a nurse, and at the time, their foot care nurse was going on maternity leave and they asked if I would be interested in filling in for the position. I was initially hesitant because I had no previous training but told myself to give it a shot. I was trained by the office’s foot care nurse, completed additional courses through Mohawk College and worked there for about a year and a half. Once my contract ended, I realized I truly enjoyed doing foot care and decided to go off on my own. I am thankful for having taken that leap of faith because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career.

Influences and inspiration

The person who influenced me to embark on a career in nursing was my father and an old acquaintance. I think I made it my own by pushing myself further with my education and being open to try new things.

Standout NC experience

During my time at Niagara College, I remember how tough the RPN program was and what it took to get through it. I believe it helped build my confidence and helped me to mature as a person. It also helped me build new friendships which I still very much cherish because I could not have made it through the program without them. It also made me realize how dedicated nurses are and how tough the job can be. What I liked about the program was that it was very hands on, which I think helped me better understand the skills required to be a nurse. A book can only teach you so much in this line of work, I learned the most by seeing how to action the skills and apply knowledge in the real world.

I was involved in a nursing and dental trip to Honduras through Be World Ready after having graduated from Niagara College. I helped do nursing assessments for the less fortunate and helped translate in Spanish. I also helped teach nursing assessments to nursing students on the trip, and together we helped set up clinics in different cities to aid the less fortunate and provide healthcare teaching and wound care if needed. The person that stood out for me during my time at Niagara College was my instructor Mark Grabner. Mark played a pivotal role in spearheading the nursing trip with Be World Ready, an unprecedented opportunity at the time. He was always there for the students and was a very good teacher because he made learning fun. I’ll never forget on graduation day when I was getting ready to walk towards the stage and he said, “Hey, you’re a nurse now so make sure you walk like one,” to which I replied asking how does a nurse walk? His response: “With purpose!”

Words of wisdom

The advice I would give a prospective student entering the nursing program is to be prepared to work hard. This isn’t an easy job, and it requires a lot of patience and perseverance. It also requires empathy, good bedside manners and strong time management and critical thinking skills. However, despite all of the hard work required, it is very rewarding. Trying something new is always scary but if it is what you want, then my advice would be to stick with it because new things in life can be a great thing. Don’t be afraid of change and keep moving forward with purpose.

Celebrating NC alumnus Gilson Junior for National Nursing Week

May 6 – 12 marks National Nursing Week, with this year’s theme being “Changing Lives. Shaping Tomorrow.” This theme acknowledges the significant impact nurses have on individuals, communities, and the future of healthcare.

In support of Canada’s nurses this year, we are honouring one of our remarkable Niagara College Nursing alumni, Gilson Junior, who graduated from the Practical Nursing program in 2019. We caught up with Gilson to delve into his passionate pursuit of a nursing career, spanning from his journey from Niagara College to his current role as an Emergency Room (ER) Registered Nurse (RN).

Current role and career path

In my current role as an ER RN at Scarborough Health Network, I play a pivotal role in providing immediate care to critically ill patients. Working in the ER, I am faced with a fast-paced environment where every second counts. I am responsible for assessing patients, administering treatments, and coordinating with interdisciplinary teams to ensure the best possible outcomes for those in need. The ER is where I thrive under pressure, utilizing my skills and expertise to stabilize patients in critical condition and provide them with the care they urgently require.

My journey into nursing began at Niagara College in 2017, where I embarked on a rigorous program that laid the foundation for my career. Upon graduating from Niagara College in 2019, I transitioned to Toronto, where I joined Scarborough Health Network as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN). During this time, I gained invaluable experience working across various departments, including medicine, telemetry, and eventually the ER. While working as an RPN, I continued my education at Centennial College and later at Toronto Metropolitan University. It was at Toronto Metropolitan University where I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2023 and officially became an RN.

This educational journey equipped me with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in my role as an ER RN, allowing me to confidently provide high-quality care to those in need.

Influences and inspiration

My decision to pursue a career in nursing was influenced by a combination of factors, including my inherent compassion for human life and the desire to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. Additionally, the supportive environment and guidance from mentors throughout my educational journey played a significant role in shaping my path. As I progressed in my career, I made nursing my own by continually striving to deliver compassionate and holistic care to my patients. I have also embraced opportunities for professional growth and development, allowing me to further hone my skills and expertise in the field.

My time at Niagara College laid a solid foundation for my nursing career, providing me with intensive hands-on experience, excellent professors, and state-of-the-art facilities. The emphasis on practical skills in the nursing program, particularly through mandatory lab training, allowed me to build strong technical proficiency and forge meaningful connections with my peers. Niagara College’s commitment to student education and its focus on both practical and theoretical aspects of nursing were instrumental in shaping the beginning of my career.

Standout NC experience

During my time at Niagara College, the standout experiences were the mandatory training hours in patient labs. These experiences not only honed my technical nursing skills but also fostered a sense of camaraderie among my classmates. Additionally, the support and guidance of my professors were invaluable, helping me navigate the challenges of the program and inspiring me to excel in my studies.

Words of wisdom

To prospective students considering a career in nursing, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue it. Nursing is a diverse and rewarding profession with ample opportunities for growth and impact across various healthcare settings. My advice would be to approach your education with dedication, embrace experiential learning opportunities, and never stop advocating for your patients and yourself. Niagara College’s nursing program prepared me to face industry challenges by instilling in me a strong foundation of both practical skills and theoretical knowledge, empowering me to confidently embark on my nursing journey.

Alumna Jennifer Wilhelm returns to NC to celebrate women in wine at new book launch

Niagara College alumna Jennifer Wilhelm (Hotel and Restaurant Management, 1999), returned to her NC roots on April 17 to launch her new book, Sharing a Glass.

Sharing a Glass showcases the women who shaped the foundation of Ontario’s grape and wine industry through a compilation of memoirs, tributes, and untold behind-the-scenes stories of these influential women and their contributions. It shines a light on the exceptional women, often unsung heroes, with an aim to keep them alive in our archives, and our hearts, for their distinctive contributions.

With over 70 attendees, the event took place at NC’s Wine Visitor + Education Centre at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus. Among the crowd were book contributors, family, friends, members of the press, and the Niagara College community, including six of the nine trailblazing women featured in the book: Dr. Linda Bramble, Donna Lailey, Nicolette Novak, Debi Pratt, Ann Sperling, and Debbie Zimmerman.

“The caliber of our alumni is exemplified in this incredibly special collection of memoirs that Jennifer put together through ‘Sharing a Glass,'” said Jana Boniferro, Director, Alumni Relations. “She is trailblazing her way through the Ontario Grape and Wine industry by underscoring the important role women have played and continue to play. We are honoured that she came back to her alma mater for the launch of her book as this is the very place that shaped her journey.”

Sharing a Glass is the first book in Canada to gather and chronicle the significant contributions of women in the Ontario wine scene from its early days. It is more than just a historical record; it pulls readers into the personal and professional challenges these women faced and overcame. The book not only celebrates these women and their legacies, but ensures their valuable insights and wisdom continue to inspire generations of people searching for strong, ethical, role models.

Wilhelm captured the spirit of the community during the launch, noting, “‘Sharing a Glass’ is more than just the title of this book; sharing a glass is what we do as an industry and a community,” she said. “The support and enthusiasm for this project, as evidenced in this room today, would be exceptional in any other industry. In this wine community, you can count on it. It is what we do.”

The book is now available for purchase at local wineries, online book retailers, and directly from the publisher. It is a key resource and a source of inspiration not only for those in the wine industry but also for anyone interested in the powerful stories of pioneering women.

Additionally, the book’s sales will support the future of the industry, with proceeds going towards a bursary for Niagara College students through an endowment from Galey-Pride. This initiative aligns with the author’s and editor’s commitment to nurturing and supporting the next wave of industry leaders.

Alumna Jennifer Wilhelm returns to NC to celebrate women in wine at new book launch

Niagara College alumna Jennifer Wilhelm (Hotel and Restaurant Management, 1999), returned to her NC roots on April 17 to launch her new book, Sharing a Glass.

Sharing a Glass showcases the women who shaped the foundation of Ontario’s grape and wine industry through a compilation of memoirs, tributes, and untold behind-the-scenes stories of these influential women and their contributions. It shines a light on the exceptional women, often unsung heroes, with an aim to keep them alive in our archives, and our hearts, for their distinctive contributions.

With over 70 attendees, the event took place at NC’s Wine Visitor + Education Centre at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus. Among the crowd were book contributors, family, friends, members of the press, and the Niagara College community, including six of the nine trailblazing women featured in the book: Dr. Linda Bramble, Donna Lailey, Nicolette Novak, Debi Pratt, Ann Sperling, and Debbie Zimmerman.

“The caliber of our alumni is exemplified in this incredibly special collection of memoirs that Jennifer put together through ‘Sharing a Glass,'” said Jana Boniferro, Director, Alumni Relations. “She is trailblazing her way through the Ontario Grape and Wine industry by underscoring the important role women have played and continue to play. We are honoured that she came back to her alma mater for the launch of her book as this is the very place that shaped her journey.”

Sharing a Glass is the first book in Canada to gather and chronicle the significant contributions of women in the Ontario wine scene from its early days. It is more than just a historical record; it pulls readers into the personal and professional challenges these women faced and overcame. The book not only celebrates these women and their legacies, but ensures their valuable insights and wisdom continue to inspire generations of people searching for strong, ethical, role models.

Wilhelm captured the spirit of the community during the launch, noting, “‘Sharing a Glass’ is more than just the title of this book; sharing a glass is what we do as an industry and a community,” she said. “The support and enthusiasm for this project, as evidenced in this room today, would be exceptional in any other industry. In this wine community, you can count on it. It is what we do.”

The book is now available for purchase at local wineries, online book retailers, and directly from the publisher. It is a key resource and a source of inspiration not only for those in the wine industry but also for anyone interested in the powerful stories of pioneering women.

Additionally, the book’s sales will support the future of the industry, with proceeds going towards a bursary for Niagara College students through an endowment from Galey-Pride. This initiative aligns with the author’s and editor’s commitment to nurturing and supporting the next wave of industry leaders.

Niagara College alumni, employees shine on 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards list

Two outstanding members of the NC community, Ana McKnight, Development Communications Specialist, and Becky Sciliberto, Manager of Global Compliance & Reporting, along with seven outstanding NC alumni, have been recognized among the distinguished recipients of Business Link Media Group’s 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards.

Since 2003, the 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards recognize business people under the age of 40 who have demonstrated an extraordinary level of success in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, and who make significant positive contributions to the local economy, community, and business ecosystem.

McKnight, currently on the path to becoming an NC alumna after completing the Teaching English as a Second Language (Online) program, played a key role in supporting the recent launch of the College’s largest fundraising campaign, the Together campaign. Reflecting on her achievement, she shared, “I am honoured to be a 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Award winner among so many talented peers. I look forward to sharing this recognition with my mentors, colleagues, classmates, and team members who supported me along the way.”

Sciliberto, an alumna of the Business Administration – Accounting (Co-op) program, sees this award not as a finish line, but a new beginning and opportunity to broaden her impact and foster mentorship and positive change within her community.

“Winning this award has made me realize the power of influence and responsibility I hold,” she said. “Moving forward, my goal is to channel this energy not just into my own endeavors but into empowering those around me. I see myself stepping into a role where I can mentor and inspire the next wave of leaders, helping them to unlock their potential and forge their paths. In our community, I’m more motivated than ever to contribute meaningfully, particularly in areas that drive social change and support for those who need it most.

The awards ceremony, hosted annually by the Business Link Media Group, will take place on May 29 in Niagara Falls, offering attendees valuable networking opportunities to boost their profiles and expand their professional circles. To date, Business Link Media Group has honored more than 800 business leaders across the Niagara region.

In addition to McKnight and Sciliberto, we congratulate all distinguished Niagara College alumni who will be honoured at this year’s 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards.

Below is the full list of all NC alumni who will receive this year’s 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards:

  • Diana Aquino – Geographic Information Systems – Geospatial Management program, 2011
  • Erin Hagar – Business Administration – Human Resources (Co-op) program, 2016
  • Andrew Korchok – Public Relations program, 2012 and past NC Corporate Communications employee, 2017-2020
  • Matthew Leask – International Business Management 2012
  • Megan McRae – Public Relations program, 2014
  • Becky Sciliberto – Business Administration – Accounting (Co-op) program, 2007
  • Kiara Theodosopoulos – Business Administration – Human Resources (Co-op) program, 2015

To learn more about the 40 Under Forty Niagara Business Achievement Awards and to view the full list of 2024 winners, visit the website here or view the image below.

Message from President Kennedy: NC launches Together, our largest-ever fundraising campaign

President Sean Kennedy

I’m pleased to share that at our successful Renaissance Gala on April 6, Niagara College announced the largest fundraising campaign in our history to a sold-out crowd of more than 700 business and community leaders and supporters.

The Together campaign will raise funds to support new and expanded facilities outlined in our Master Plan, student access, diverse and inclusive learning environments, global competencies and perspectives, and productivity and innovation. The multi-year campaign, which aims to raise $50 million, is built on six pillars: solving the skilled trades crisis, solving the healthcare crisis, empowering students to achieve their dreams, advancing a more equitable and diverse college, graduating tomorrow’s global citizens, and closing Canada’s productivity gap.

The Together campaign recognizes our unique position to lead economic, social and cultural development and innovation in our community. Niagara College educates highly skilled and knowledgeable graduates and the campaign also seeks to engage more of our 120,000-plus alumni, who are making a difference in Niagara and around the globe.

We know that we can’t do this work alone. The Together campaign calls on our community to join us in embracing this historic opportunity to build a successful Niagara.

The Together campaign was launched at the successful Renaissance Gala on April 6. The annual gala, Niagara College’s premier fundraising event, has raised more than $3.5 million in support of student success over its 32 year history.

Already, the campaign has generated significant support, including three transformational gifts announced at the Gala:

  • The Joyce Family Foundation has provided an exceptional gift of $1.5 million to create the Joyce Family Foundation Healthcare and Skilled Trades Bursary program at Niagara College. The program will provide tuition and ancillary costs for several skilled trades, nursing and healthcare students through a bursary that is renewable for each year of the recipient’s program of study. This transformational bursary fund will exist in perpetuity, and directly support the urgent need for more frontline healthcare workers and skilled tradespeople.
  • The McCall MacBain Foundation has provided a generous gift to launch the ConfideNCe program, a student-focused and trailblazing initiative that will address anxiety and stress for students in applied health programs, while also providing new resources to help these students’ success after graduation. This gift will help to graduate more nurses, personal support workers and paramedics.
  • The Embark Student Foundation has provided a generous gift of $500,000 to help launch the Indigenous Student Success Pathways project, which aims to embolden Indigenous students and support their education and career aspirations before, during and after their postsecondary studies. Embark selected Niagara College as one of only seven inaugural postsecondary recipients across Canada, and its gift represents the College’s largest single philanthropic gift in support of Indigenous education. The gift will contribute directly to developing opportunities for Indigenous students and forwarding calls to action related to Truth and Reconciliation at Niagara College.

You can learn more about the Together campaign or contribute here. I encourage you to explore the projects and initiatives that this campaign will support as we look forward, together.

Carpentry students craft custom display for Niagara College Gala

“I’m happy to work on this so that other students have the same opportunities as me.”

Those were the words of Manuel Perez, one of the final term students in the Carpentry and Renovation Technician Co-op program who lent their time and talents to handcraft a new visual marquee display that will be unveiled on April 6 at the 32nd Annual Niagara College Gala, the College’s signature fundraising event.

Manuel Perez working in the Carpentry lab.

Perez, an international student from Chile, received top marks in the School of Trades, earning him an Academic Award valued at $500 for the Winter 2024 term. In 2023, Perez also received the Keith Segal Guard.Me International Scholarship for academic performance valued at $1,000.

“It has helped me out to pay my tuition and it was a great relief, so I’m happy that other students will have the same opportunities as me,” said Perez.

The three-foot-tall display features four free-standing letters and NC button crafted from birch plywood and poplar veneers, spray-painted NC-blue, and lit by Edison bulbs – 56 in total.

Manuel Perez and professor Alexander Lukacs.

“Our team is excited and proud to be highlighting the talents of our incomparable skilled trades students and faculty at this year’s RenaissaNCe Gala, taking place on April 6,” said Shannon Boeckner, Senior Director, Development and Donor Stewardship. “We are grateful for their exceptional work and dedication to showcasing their skills — all in support of NC’s largest annual student fundraiser event.”

Perez was joined by fellow students Cole Ciceron of St. Catharines, Daniel Diaz Garcia of Colombia, Shan Ye of China, Yonelissa Encarnacion Lagares of the Dominican Republic, Tony Chan of Buffalo, NY, Waldeck Demetrius of Haiti, and Rishi Avinash Loorkhoor of Trinidad and Tobago. The team worked over in the carpentry lab throughout the Winter to get the project done in time for the Gala.

The team of NC woodworking wizards spent over 200 hours on the display using the skills they acquired in instructor Alexander Lukacs’s Architectural Millwright course. The project was a chance to learn new techniques like making thousands of meticulous saw cuts to create the curves of the “G” and NC button, and detailed spray-painting work.

“Projects like these allow our students to hone the skills they’ve learned or are currently learning here at Niagara College in a controlled environment,” said Lukacs. “It also gives them an opportunity to see and experience the pressures of delivering a project to a customer for a set deadline while working alongside their instructors. For us as faculty, it’s a chance to connect with our student body on a more personal level and experience the college through their eyes.”

The student team was led by expert faculty, including professors Alex Lukacs and James McQueen, and technologist Marco Giorgi. The project was a collaborative effort with electrical professor Tim Bunz who installed the wiring for the lights, Civil Engineering program coordinator, Tony Ogilvie, who designed the lighting schematic, and Peter Voynovich from the School of Media who created the design.

Thirty-seven-year-old Perez studied Carpentry at a university in his native Chile before deciding to pursue his studies – and a new life with his wife – in Niagara. He completed his co-op with Empire Communities, a local housing development company, taking on the role of Project Manager where he learned the ins and outs of the inspection process.

“This region is going to grow a lot because of the housing crisis so we can expect growth and that population needs the trades.”

“The work of carpentry is beautiful. When you do it, you fall in love with it,” said Perez. “For me, it is a perfect match between creativity and building the ideas that you have in your mind and turning it into something physical.”

The letters display will be featured at the Gala annually as a visual reminder of the talents of NC students and the impact of the generosity of donors who have raised more than $3.3 million in support of equipment, learning resources, scholarships, and bursaries during the Gala’s 30-plus year history.

About the 32nd Annual Niagara College Gala

NC’s 2024 RenaissaNCe Gala will be an elegant celebration of student success featuring decadent dining, live music, entertainment, special announcements, and live and silent auctions that raise funds in support of equipment, learning resources, scholarships, and bursaries.

Learn more and purchase tickets here: niagaracollege.ca/gala.

Alumni employees sip, savour and connect

Warmth went beyond the coffee served at two recent Employee Alumni Coffee Hour events hosted by Alumni Relations.

The events – held at the DJP Campus on February 26 and the Welland Campus February 29, gave NC alumni who are also employees an opportunity to connect with their peers and alumni colleagues on campus while enjoying complimentary beverages and treats.

“Engaging with our employee alumni is always so rewarding as their passion for Niagara College can be felt in the room,” said Jana Boniferro, Director, Alumni Relations. “We look forward to continued opportunities to come together and build on the momentum that’s gathering within our alumni community.”

In addition to almost 100 employees who are also alumni, guests included NC President Sean Kenney (Welland and DJP campuse) and Vice-President Advancement Gord Arbeau (Welland Campus).

“One of the best compliments we received from attendees is that it was such a warm atmosphere and the alum felt such pride being a part of it,” said Jana Boniferro, Director, Alumni Relations. “We elevated the décor and invested in some good swag, so our alumni felt taken care of and appreciated.”

Following the success of the College’s inaugural coffee hour events last year, NC’s alumni employees can look forward to more upcoming events – including an outdoor, on-campus event to kick off the summer. Alumni Relations is already planning to host a Summer Celebration Event on Tuesday, June 25th from 3-5.p.m at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre.

The Welland Campus Event was held Feb. 29

Stay connected

All NC alumni employees are encouraged to update their contact information with Alumni Relations to stay connected and to receive the latest updates about upcoming events.