Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doing what they love: Douglas College valedictorians

Graduation. It’s not an ending, but a beginning. At Douglas, we’re proud to be a part of so many amazing beginnings, like those we celebrated this week at our Summer 2013 Graduation ceremonies.

We know that every student has a great story, so we’d like share those of some of our valedictorians as they head off to do what they love.



Shayna Dolan
Bachelor of Therapeutic Recreation

After trying her hand at various disciplines, taking post-secondary courses and volunteering at community-based organizations, Shayna Dolan found her calling. “I quickly realized I was passionate about working with people at the community level,” she says.

Shayna found her way to the Therapeutic Recreation program at Douglas and quickly distinguished herself as a model student and citizen. In addition to the work she put in for her degree, she took part in the 2012 Uganda Project, completing a 10-week practicum in Masaka. “Seeing the empowering relationships Douglas College has helped to facilitate reinforced the importance of responsible and sustainable community development,” she says.  

After finishing her degree in Therapeutic Recreation, Shayna decided to continue her studies at the University of Northern British Columbia, where she will pursue a master’s degree in Community Health Sciences. She plans to focus on health policy, education and research in rural, remote and First Nations communities. “It’s a dream come true," Shayna says.

Maria Gigliotti
Diploma in Hospitality Management

She finishes her diploma in Hospitality Management this week and also holds a full-time job as a manager at a Burnaby restaurant. But valedictorian Maria Gigliotti has plenty of big dreams. “I hope to one day become the general manager of a location,” she says. “And possibly a regional manager once I gain the experience.”

Maria’s hard work, leadership skills and friendly attitude endeared her to her classmates and instructors. “Maria actively sought out leadership roles in many HOSP events, which she executed admirably,” says Hospitality Management Program Chair Mark Elliott. “Her energy level and professional demeanour were always appreciated by her peers and the faculty.”

Maria chose the Hospitality Management program because it was her passion, and she leaves it today as valedictorian. “I knew that Douglas College could help me by providing the education I needed to succeed in my future career,” she says. “My last two years at Douglas were one great big memory.”

Mea Jyn
Diploma in Sport Science - specialization in Kinesiology

When Mea Jyn first came to Douglas, she didn’t believe in herself one hundred percent. Now she is living proof of Douglas’s motto: “Do what you love. Be good at it.” "I wasn't confident in my ability to succeed in math and science courses," she says. "But every step of the way I met a teacher who inspired me to challenge my own preconceptions and perceived limitations."

Mea isn't leaving Douglas just yet. She's been accepted into the third year of the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching program. Her goal is to teach, inspire, learn, grow and support others in their journey to do the same. "The best way I can do that is through living by example," she says, "If I can be true to myself, I can help others be true to themselves."

"Shocked" at being chosen as valedictorian, Mea says she is grateful for each and every moment that has brought her to this point. "I am a firm believer that you are the creator of your own destiny and that your thoughts and beliefs shape your relationship with yourself and others," she says. "If you stay present and are truly grateful for the rewards and the obstacles that cross your path, you will find value and opportunity to grow in every experience."

Sanjin Ramovic
Degree in Psychiatric Nursing

Sanjin Ramovic was a second-year Psychology student at Douglas when he was accepted into the honours programs at UBC and SFU. But he chose to stay at Douglas to finish his Bachelor of Psychology degree. “I realized Douglas was where I wanted to be,” San says. “I loved the instructors and the program. They were awesome.”

After graduating, he decided to go on to get a degree in Psychiatric Nursing. Choosing the institution was a no-brainer. “Douglas was my only choice,” San says. “It was the only place I applied to, and it was the only program I wanted to take. As I understand it, Douglas has the best psychiatric nursing program in Western Canada. So really there was no other choice.”

Now an intake nurse at Surrey Mental Health, San’s found his place: working in the community. “It’s my passion,” he says. “It’s where I feel I fit in the best and can do the most.”

Lisa Sarginson spent more than two decades working as an insurance agent and a flight attendant, but found she wanted a new career that would allow her to spend more time at home while helping others. So at 41, she went to college for the first time, as a student in the Medical Office Assistant program. “I quickly noticed faculty and students were friendly and positive with everyone,” she says. “It makes for a great learning environment.”

Lisa worked hard and achieved an impressive 4.10 GPA. Her excellent grades combined with her sunny disposition made her the valedictorian for her class this year. “I was very privileged to have Lisa in my classes, she was a delight to work with,” says one of her instructors. “She took pride in her work and always went above what was required.”

Shortly after finishing her classes, Lisa found full-time work in her field, completing her certificate and making a quick transition to a career with a future. “Douglas and the MOA program have prepared me for my new career,” she says. “Since this is my first time attending college, I have a new sense of confidence and have proven to myself that I could really do it.”


Jeff Solis
Diploma in Performing Arts - Music

It’s been a long climb for Jeff Solis, a self-taught musician who began his studies at Douglas in Basic Musicianship before moving into the Music program. But it’s all been worth it. “It was always my passion to study music,” he says. “Even though I was self-taught for many years, the Basic Musicianship program gave me the option to begin a formal study in music.” 

Jeff originally chose Douglas because it was local and he’s a long-time resident of New Westminster but stayed because he knew he’d found his calling. “I always knew my life would involve music, somehow,” he says. “It wasn’t until my rebellious teenage years when I began to write my own songs.” 

Jeff is now planning to move to another institution to complete his degree, with the ultimate goal of becoming a music teacher. “Douglas College’s Music department’s faculty and staff were a major part of taking what was once a hobby and turning it into a lifelong career,” he says. 

Rachel Tomson
Bachelor of Arts - Child and Youth Care

If Rachel Tomson had to narrow down her most memorable experiences at Douglas, they would be participating in the 2009 Uganda Project, where she did a 10-week practicum in Uganda, and being selected as valedictorian. "Both opportunities have completely blown me away," she says. "Before beginning my educational career at Douglas, I never thought I was worthy of the type of success which would present me with these types of opportunities."

Rachel says studying at Douglas and being part of its "supportive academic community" has taught her to believe in herself and always strive for new levels of greatness. "The small class sizes, wise and experienced instructors, and unique opportunities to experience learning in a real and practical way has helped me to succeed," she says.

Now that she's graduated, Rachel is looking forward to working in social services and getting a masters of counselling psychology degree. Her goal is to work in the area of child and youth mental health. "I absolutely believe in and embrace Douglas's motto, 'Do what you love, be good at it,' she says. "I think this motto inspires people to follow their dreams and believe in themselves - at least it did for me!"


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