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

(Source: Niagara College news release)

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