Monday, May 30, 2011

Douglas College Valedictorian sets the stage

Jessie Paynter, Stagecraft & Event Technology,
Class of 2011 and Valedictorian
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

As a kid, Jessie Paynter was into everything artsy: music, acting, sewing, writing, dance and painting – this last activity sometimes done on the walls of her home. (“My mother was not impressed,” she reports.)

It wasn’t until Grade 8 that Jessie discovered stagecraft. The first time she worked backstage on a show, she knew she’d found her calling. “I left the theatre afterwards, but my heart stayed behind.”

This week Jessie graduates as Valedictorian. And to think, the Stagecraft & Event Technology student almost never made it to college.

In April 2009 she fell sick and was put through tests for everything from bone infections, to autoimmune diseases, to cancer. After two months of crippling illness, she was put on a medication that “miraculously worked,” and was diagnosed with arthritis. “I had no idea if I could still tackle the sort of work I was used to, but I came to Douglas anyway.”

Two years later her arthritis is almost gone, and any exhaustion she feels is from being busy all the time. “Keeping up with class work wasn't a problem – the challenge was to keep up with myself.”

Jessie credits her instructors and family members for teaching her to believe in herself. “My mom would always tell my sister and me, ‘we are not quitters,’ and it became so. My lighting design instructor this semester taught me to write down every mistake I make, and at the end of the day the list of ‘Mistakes’ becomes ‘Things I learned today.’ It's so true, and I'm going to hold onto that little piece of wisdom forever.”