100 Years For Hungarian Self Culture Society

The Hungarian Self Culture Society of Welland, founded in 1921, is marking its 100th anniversary and is feeling the community’s love. On Saturday, the Main Street Bridge was illuminated in Hungary’s colours, red, green and white as a tribute to the major milestone. And one of Welland’s decorative floral beds has a gorgeous display in honor of the anniversary. The bed, at the intersection of Prince Charles Drive and First Avenue, has a floral replica of the Hungarian Hall on Hellems Avenue, the Society’s headquarters, as one of its features, shown top right. Pandemic protocols muted activities this year – no banquet with guest speakers and course after course of superb Hungarian cuisine, for example – but anniversary celebrations may be held in the next. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

Sarah Blackwood Offers Inspiring Wakeup Call To NC’s Class of 2021

Guest speaker Sarah Blackwood (musician, Walk Off the Earth) holds up her Honorary Diploma in Media Studies from Niagara College. (Supplied photos)

After a year like no other, graduating students from Niagara College’s Class of 2021 are poised begin the next phase of their lives in a world forever changed from the impacts of a global pandemic –but, this week, they celebrate.

The College kicked off its five-day Virtual Convocation week on June 21, by shining the spotlight on 800 new graduates from its schools of Business and Management, and Hospitality, Tourism and Sport. Two highly interactive virtual ceremonies were broadcast live from NC’s Welland Campus – each celebrating different academic areas of study – thanks to a crew of students and staff from the College’s Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program working behind the scenes to bring the livestream into the homes of viewers around the world. The first day’s virtual events received more than 4,115 live views.

Special guest speaker Sarah Blackwood – Canadian singer/songwriter/musician from Juno-award-winning band Walk Off the Earth – addressed graduates with an inspiring speech, including a powerful wake-up call that the road of life is constantly changing.

“Welcome to the rest of life. It doesn’t matter when or where you are, your journey will always be unpredictable,” said Blackwood, who was honoured with an honorary diploma in Media Studies. “There’s no big light at the end of the tunnel … it’s ever-changing. And the first thing I suggest for all of you is to get comfortable with uncertainty and get excited about not knowing exactly where you go from here. Get comfy living with a giant question mark over your head at all times.”

Blackwood encouraged them to “say yes to everything,” to focus on positivity and their own evolution.

“Life is not about one big defining moment. It’s about all the small things that you experience and live through so you can allow your soul to grow and guide you.”

Following her speech, Blackwood treated the graduates to a melodic solo performance, singing to them as she played her acoustic guitar. NC’s Class of 2021 will also receive a special gift: an exclusive video of Walk Off the Earth performing Farther We Go which will be emailed to them on Friday after the final ceremony concludes.

College president Sean Kennedy – who will be presiding over all 10 ceremonies from the Welland Campus during convocation week, along with vic- president, Academic, Fiona Allan – also shared words of wisdom with the Class of 2021, encouraging them to embrace challenges ahead with enthusiasm and positivity.

“Always remember that the bigger the challenge, the more your skills, creativity and determination will be tested,” said Kennedy. “These challenges may leave you exhausted and uncertain. All of them will be opportunities for growth and the seeds of good memories and stories down the road.”

Student success in the spotlight

Two Niagara residents were announced as the recipients of dean’s awards during Monday’s afternoon ceremony for achieving the highest GPA in their academic school.

St. Catharines resident Stephanie Peters, 40, who graduated from Office Administration – Executive (Co-op) program, received the Dean’s award from the School of Business and Management. Peters was a university graduate working in retail position she no longer enjoyed before she made the difficult decision to return to school as a mature student and make a positive change in her life. Now, she not only graduates at the top of her class but with a full-time position, which arose out of her program’s co-op placement.

“As a single mom, I wanted to work hard and demonstrate that, at no matter what your age, if you are determined and hardworking, you are able to accomplish great things,” she said. “Going back to school, and now graduating, has refreshed my love of learning. It also means that all of the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices have been worth it.”

Welland resident Connor Joliffe, 21, graduated from the Sport Management program with a Dean’s Award from the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Sport.

“I always give 110% effort into all the tasks and, being a major sports fan, coming to Niagara, I was just very excited and motivated to learn about the sport industry from a business perspective,” said Joliffe, who also played varsity men’s basketball for NC. “One of the main reasons I chose Niagara College was because I knew I would be able to complete a full term field placement, as well as get a more personal and integrated learning experience.”

Joliffe has received a full academic transfer scholarship to pursue a Sport Management degree at Niagara University this fall.

Virtual Convocation Week

Through its interactive virtual ceremonies, the College aims to celebrate the graduating class in a memorable way before they embark on the next chapter in their lives, while bringing the college community ‘NC together.’

As they watched their livestream ceremony take place in real time – which included many traditional elements such as speeches and the reading of each graduate’s name aloud – graduates connected with their classmates through pre-organized Zoom program parties. They also had an opportunity to make a virtual appearance onscreen during the ceremony broadcast as clips of graduates cheering and waving from their Zoom parties were incorporated into the livestream. 

Virtual convocation also taps into the power of social media, incorporating posts and tweets using the hashtag #NCGrad2021 into the ceremonies.

The live ceremonies also incorporate video well-wishes from the college community and beyond. Videos from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, regional chair Jim Bradley, NC Board of Governors chair Del Rollo, a roster of distinguished alumni, and several members of College faculty, staff and administrators have been woven into this week’s ceremonies.

Almost 4,000 students will graduate from Niagara College during its June Virtual Convocation ceremonies, which will continue twice a day – at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – up to and including June 25.

This convocation week will also mark a highly anticipated historic milepost for the College: its 100,000th graduating student, whose identity will be revealed at the moment the College hits the mark during one of its 10 ceremonies when the graduate’s name is about to be read aloud. The Class of 2021 will bring NC’s global alumni community to more than 100,000 strong.

Visit the College’s Virtual Convocation site to view the schedule or to access the livestream ceremonies niagaracollege.ca/virtualconvocation/.

(Source: Niagara College news release)

Heritage Lives: Showcasing Welland

By Terry Hughes

It’s 1982 and Billy Joel who had recorded many hits sees one of his songs hit number 17 in popularity called Allentown. The lyrics tell the story of how this place in Pennsylvania was in a state of economic decline because their steel factories and related industries were closing, leaving many families who had generations of people working there now finding themselves unemployed.

Ironically, the same thing was happening across the eastern United States and here in Ontario and specifically in Welland. Almost all of our industries were extensions of these firms and were closing, the last being John Deere. The forecast of better things to come with the Welland Canal Bypass opening did not happen and the mood here in the city was becoming negative. Earlier on with the opening of the Seaway Mall, downtown Welland reflected that mood.

A group of responsible citizens having concerns about the status of the community set about looking for ways to create a more positive image and feeling within the city.

From the year 2001 a number of steps were initiated but with little success. After some careful thought, the idea of bundling a number of positive events and holding them in key locations including downtown were initiated. Along with city hall who brought fire and police vehicles to Cross Street and closing East Main Street for local merchants to put out their wares, Welland Museum hosted cultural activities for children. The opening of the Court House and Jail with tours proved to very popular with community. Live entertainment was held in the Market Square until the late hours. The accompanying poster lists the many events of that Saturday. 

Whether this event marked the beginning of change here could be argued but what lay ahead was the initiating of a program that would bring to Welland  concerts on the canal and international activities that would harness our recreational waterway with many aquatic events.

Next column: Some Untold Stories About The Forkes Road Bridge in Dain City.

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

Gadabout Gardener: Reds And White

Reds and white in the rose garden. Photos were taken before the rain. Pictures keep them at their best, forever. (Photos by Joe Barkovich)

(Gadabout Gardener is a recurring feature on the blog. The focus is on randomly selected or recommended garden spaces in the city. Do any sights or sites come to mind as photo suggestions? Contact Gadabout Gardener at fromareportersnotebook@gmail.com.)

Success A Team Effort For Niagara College’s Top Grad

Niagara College President Sean Kennedy (left) and Vice-President Academic Fiona Allan (right) present Police Foundations graduate James Casselman with the Governor General’s Academic Medal for achieving a graduating grade point average of 98 per cent. (Supplied photo)

James Casselman will receive the Governor General’s Academic Medal 

James Casselman headed into every exam he wrote during his studies at Niagara College with more than a head full of information to demonstrate his proficiency in whatever subject he was being tested.

Casselman, who will graduate from Police Foundations next week, took his seat at his computer with a heart full of love, thanks to the hugs, kisses and wishes of good luck from his two young sons, Kohen, 5, and Weston, 3.

And in those moments between being a dad and being a student, he was full of resolve to become a police officer — for himself, but mostly for his boys and their mother, Jacqueline, who he said was instrumental to his success.

“The destination means so much for my children. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of coming up short after the sacrifices we made,” said Casselman, who lives in St. Catharines. “But the need to be my best for my children lights my way.”

Casselman, 32, didn’t come up short. He is the Governor General’s Academic Medal recipient for achieving a 98% graduating grade point average, the highest at the College this year.

The Governor General’s Academic Medal recognizes the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Kim Campbell, Robert Bourassa, Robert Stanfield and Gabrielle Roy are just some of the more than 50,000 people who have received the award, marking the beginning of their lives of accomplishment.

“It’s shocking, to say the least,” Casselman said about his achievement. “I’ve been thinking about what it means to me and to me it means the book is never closed. We can all reach our dreams with enough ambition, love and support. I thought the book was closed for me, but my family challenged me to open it again and start writing new pages.”

Those pages include stories of sacrifice and soul-searching when Jacqueline was pregnant with Weston.

Casselman had spent a decade earning a good living working construction. But becoming a police officer had been a dream since he was a nine-year-old boy filled with a desire to help others. He decided to return to school in January 2020 to lay the foundation for such a career, which included selling the family home to move forward with his plan.

“I’ve always desired pursuing it, but I never had the conviction to do it just for myself,” Casselman said. “It wasn’t until our second child was on the way. My wife Jacqueline and I wanted to be the best version of ourselves for our children. At that point, for them, it wasn’t just an option — it became our destination.”

While in school, Casselman worked security in local hospitals. He also took on a night security shift two days a week in a federally regulated facility, adjusting his sleep schedule while never sacrificing academics, family life or losing sight of a career in law enforcement. In addition, he volunteered with Victim Services Niagara as a crisis responder.

He is quick to note that, in addition to his family, his achievements were accomplished with the unyielding support of NC faculty, who were always readily available by email or phone.

“The investment they’ve shown in me is out of this world and Niagara College deserves a hand for everything they’ve given us,” Casselman said. “There are not many things we accomplish that are noteworthy that we do alone. I really look at this as a team effort between myself, my family and Niagara College.”

Today, Casselman continues to volunteer with Victim Services and work as a hospital security officer at all Niagara Health sites where he has gleaned greater understanding of the human condition.

Most recently, he was hired by the Town of Fort Erie to serve for the summer as a bylaw enforcement officer and use the skills and knowledge he learned while at NC. Casselman plans to use the time with the municipality to further hone his abilities before applying to regional police services in the fall and continuing on his path to making his family proud.

“Being a police officer is being the best version of myself,” Casselman said. “Whether it’s here or somewhere else, for me, for my family, we’re going to get there.”

Casselman will graduate during the afternoon ceremony, which starts at 2 p.m., on Tuesday, June 22. More than 3,800 students will graduate during spring convocation ceremonies, which run June 21-25 and will feature Sarah Blackwood of the Canadian band Walk Off the Earth as the keynote speaker.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine science, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. Visit niagaracollege.ca

Related news releases:

Join us Monday, June 21 – Friday, June 25 for our Spring 2021 Virtual Convocation Ceremonies


Sarah Blackwood To Address Niagara College’s Class of 2021

Blackwood’s “extraordinary voice of inspiration will surely strike a chord with our graduates and their families” : Kennedy

Niagara College’s Class of 2021 will celebrate the culmination of their studies on a high note – with help from Canadian singer/songwriter/musician Sarah Blackwood. The leading member of Juno-award-winning band Walk Off the Earth will bring her voice of inspiration to 3,872 of Niagara’s graduating students at the College’s upcoming Spring Virtual Convocation ceremonies. Blackwood will be the special guest speaker and an honorary diploma recipient during the ceremonies, which will take place over five days with 10 virtual events broadcast live from the Welland Campus.

“I am so happy to announce that I will be your spring 2021 convocation speaker,” said Blackwood in a video message addressing the Class of 2021 graduates. “Make sure to join in the virtual celebrations June 21st to the 25th as we honour your hard work and all your accomplishments.”

NC president Sean Kennedy noted that the College seeks to offer graduates an exceptional convocation experience after what has been an academic year like no other; many students completed a portion of their programs remotely, while some have not been to campus at all.

“We are thrilled to welcome Sarah Blackwood as our guest speaker, knowing that her extraordinary voice of inspiration will surely strike a chord with our graduates and their families,” said Kennedy. “While we are unable to gather in person, we believe it is vital to continue the tradition of honouring our graduates before they embark on the next chapter of their lives, and we look forward to hosting what will truly be an event to remember.”

College to reach 100,000th grad milestone

As the College gears up for spring convocation, it also prepares to reach a highly-anticipated historic milepost: its 100,000th graduate. The identity of the 100,000th unique graduate – those with multiple NC credentials have only been counted once – will be revealed at the moment the College hits the mark during one of 10 ceremonies, when the graduate’s name is about to be read aloud.

“We look forward to celebrating our 100,000th graduate along with our growing global alumni community at our upcoming spring convocation ceremonies,” said Marc Nantel, vice-president, Research and External Relations. “This meaningful milestone is a testament to the strength and international reach of our College, which few people would have imagined when we first opened our doors over 50 years ago.”

Virtual ceremonies

Plans for spring convocation follow the resounding success of NC’s trailblazing virtual convocation ceremonies in June and October 2020, as the College continues to comply with ongoing gathering restrictions and safety measures during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The live, interactive virtual ceremonies will contain many treasured elements of NC’s traditional in-person convocation events – including inspiring speeches and the call-outs of each graduate’s name – while leveraging the use of technology and the College’s broadcasting expertise to connect graduates remotely.

President Kennedy and vice president, Academic, Fiona Allan will preside over each ceremony from the Welland Campus, as a team of students from the Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program work behind the scenes, alongside staff and faculty, to bring the ceremony broadcast into the homes of viewers around the world.

As they watch the ceremony in real time, graduates are also invited to connect with their classmates through pre-organized Zoom program parties and make a virtual appearance during the ceremony broadcast.

Convocation will incorporate video well-wishes from faculty, staff, alumni and more. The College has also created a custom social media experience for graduates and guests to post and view live reactions, photos, and messages shared with the hashtag #NCGrad2021 during the ceremonies.

Visit the College’s Spring Virtual Convocation site to view the ceremony schedule or to access the livestream at niagaracollege.ca/virtualconvocation/.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine science, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. Visit niagaracollege.ca

(Source: Niagara College news release)