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
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