Alumni Profiles

Child and Youth Care grad makes lasting impact through decades of commitment to community

May 22, 2017 • Written by

Jackie Anderson, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre

Jackie Anderson found her calling while she was still in college.

A graduate of Red River College’s Child and Youth Care program, Anderson completed her practicum at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in 1996. Fast forward two decades, and Anderson is still committed to the North End non-profit family resource centre.

“When I came into the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, I did my placement in the youth program. I was assigned mentorship, one-on-one with youth in the community who were struggling with different challenges and barriers in their lives,” says Anderson, who also completed RRC’s Criminology program.

“When I completed my practicum hours, I asked the organization if I could stay on as a volunteer because of the relationships I established and built with the youth. I didn’t want to just walk out of their lives.”

In 1997, Anderson was hired on at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in the full-time position of youth mentor. In 2000, she started working in program development for Isobel’s Place, Ma Mawi’s residential learning facility for Indigenous teen mothers. In 2003, Anderson developed Honouring the Spirits of our Little Sisters, Ma Mawi’s safe transition home for sexually exploited youth. After managing the home for seven years, Anderson worked in program development for HOME (Hands of Our Mother Earth), Ma Mawi’s rural healing lodge for sexually exploited youth.

In 2012, Anderson left Ma Mawi to take a position as the provincial government’s sexual exploitation specialist. However by 2015, she was back at Ma Mawi in the position of children in care coordinator.

“That was really good learning,” says Anderson of her foray into provincial politics. “I learned from that part of the system and I’m a stronger advocate now. However, that’s not where my heart lied. My heart lies with the community, grassroots.” Read More →

Carpentry grad finds tools for success while following in father’s footsteps

May 15, 2017 • Written by

Miguel Arpin, Lou-Mig Custom Woodwork

Miguel Arpin is cut from the same cloth as his father — and you can bet that cloth was measured twice.

Arpin is the owner of Lou-Mig Custom Woodwork, a finishing carpentry company his dad (the Lou in Lou-Mig) started in 1993. With his father now semi-retired, Arpin has been taking over the reins of the family business.

“Ever since I was a little boy we always worked in the workshop and I helped build our cabin at a young age,” Arpin says. “It was always ‘swinging a hammer,’ as they say, always wearing a tool belt to help dad out. I always loved it. And the way I was taught was, ‘If it’s not perfect, redo it.’”

Arpin finished Red River College’s Carpentry program in 2003 as a Level 4 apprentice carpenter. Coming into college, Arpin already had carpentry capabilities from following in his dad’s work boots, but he says the program helped to refine and enhance his skills.

“The course is amazing because it’s all the theory behind the knowledge,” Arpin says. “You can know how to do things, but what’s the theory behind it? Why is it done that way?

“The teachers were great. They have prior experience before teaching and I think that makes the difference. They’ve seen the real world. They didn’t just finish school and then go into a school to teach.

“I think you only learn that from being in the trade and doing the work. It’s that type of experience you get from Red River: a little bit of schooling, then go work, then more schooling, then back to work. That to me is the best way to learn, and it should be a part of all higher education.” Read More →

Raising the roof: Civil Engineering Tech. grad ensures quality, safety at Transcona Roofing

May 8, 2017 • Written by

Ceilidh Houston, Transcona Roofing

She’s not the one climbing ladders, but Ceilidh Houston is responsible for ensuring you have a good roof over your head.

As project coordinator at Transcona Roofing, Houston plans, organizes, leads and manages roofing projects from start to finish. A graduate of Red River College’s Civil Engineering Technology program, Houston was hired on at Transcona Roofing in May 2016 after completing both of her six-month work placements there.

“I’m responsible for quality, safety and profit,” she explains. “Basically, I’m in charge of coordinating with my foreman and our crews, in charge of coordinating with suppliers to ensure that I have everything I need, and in charge of coordinating with contractors, making sure I’m abiding by specifications and contracts.

“I’m monitoring the scope of a project to make sure that nothing outside the scope is being thrown in without getting paid for.”

After completing the first year of Civil Engineering Technology, Houston chose to specialize in the Structural Engineering Technology stream of the program. Perhaps it’s not an obvious match, but Houston says her education does apply to her employment.

“A lot of the design [instruction] I don’t use because I’m a subtrade, but learning how drawings, specs and contracts work, that’s huge for my job,” Houston says. “Also, I feel like what I learned most at Red River was the confidence to know what I’m doing and to know that I’m doing it correctly, so that when I walk into a trailer of 50 guys looking at me for an answer, I’m confident I can do the job.” Read More →

Rebel Generation Award winner trades roadwork for leadership role at RRC

May 4, 2017 • Written by

Nikolai Bola, RRC Rebel Generation Alumni Award winner

On the final day of Camp Aurora, Nikolai Bola watched as 40 LGBTQ youth he’d just spent a week mentoring put on a talent show. The individual acts don’t stand out in his memory as much as the event’s atmosphere: supportive, encouraging and joyful.

It’s was a far cry from what was once a typical day spent toiling away on the highways, but Bola had a transformative year after leaving his road construction career and attending Red River College’s Business Administration program. Walking away from the steady income that had provided him with a house, two new cars and a comfortable life wasn’t an easy choice, but Bola — who recently won the College’s Rebel Generation Alumni Award — says the short-term sacrifices have been more than balanced by long-term gains.

“I knew I needed to go back to school for a while,” says Bola, who began his decade in road construction at age 19, without a high school diploma. “Eventually I decided there wasn’t ever going to be a ‘right time,’ so I had to cut my losses and try it out.”

Having originally registered for Civil Engineering Technology due to his work experience, Bola made a last-minute shift to Business Administration, where he could pursue “broader learning objectives that would open up many different jobs.” He’d realized Civil Engineering might send him right back to the highway he was trying to leave, whereas the Business programs could provide him new horizons to explore. Pushing his doubts down, he signed the forms.

Changing his career trajectory would add more financial uncertainty to his decision to head back to school, but Bola had a strategy: take as many courses as he could, as quickly as possible, to speed his re-entry to the workforce.

A passing conversation derailed his plans, though. Read More →

Disability and Community Support grad helps prepare clients for workplace success

May 1, 2017 • Written by

Jennifer Everard, SCE Lifeworks

Jennifer Everard focuses on ability, not disability.

As work experience coordinator at SCE Lifeworks, Everard supports people with developmental or intellectual disabilities — helping them work, participate and succeed in the community.

“I supervise four to five job coaches that work out in the community with people with intellectual disabilities at different work sites,” Everard says. “I also help our employment consultants with employment development support, and I assist in the transition of high school students coming into the program.”

Everard is coming up on 15 years with SCE Lifeworks, having landed a job in the organization immediately after completing Red River College’s Disability and Community Support program (then called Developmental Services Worker) in 2002.

However, her desire to help others started much earlier than college, or even high school.

“As a child going to an elementary school that had a lot of students with disabilities, I was just drawn to helping,” Everard says. “Even in Grade 1, I remember volunteering in the special education rooms. It just felt natural and comfortable.”

The two-year Disability and Community Support program includes six work placements relating to the disability field (community residents, employment agencies, schools and adult day programs). Everard credits the hands-on component of the program for showing her how she could best help people.

“I came into the program with the intention of pursuing a career in the education system,” she explains.

“My final practicum was at Connect Employment Services, who happens to be SCE Lifeworks’ sister company. My experience at Connect completely shifted my career focus, and I would not be where I am today had it not been for my practical experiences.” Read More →

A business plan with bite: RRC training opens restaurant options for grad

April 27, 2017 • Written by

Helene Seradilla, co-owner, Bisita

Helene Seradilla is well acquainted with the concept of ‘mise en place,’ the French culinary term referring to advance preparation — gathering tools and ingredients so everything is in place when you’re ready to start cooking.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but during three years in Red River College’s Business Administration program, the 1998 grad was gathering the tools she’d need to become an entrepreneur in the restaurant business.

In 2012, Helene (nee Paredes) and her husband, well-known local chef Rod Seradilla, rolled out popular Filipino food truck Pimp My Rice. Last year, they opened full-service Corydon Avenue eatery Bisita (Visitor, or Guest, in Tagalog), a venture that required a solid business plan — something Helene had already taken a dry run at in college.

“That’s what we had to do in our program at Red River,” she says. “Pretend you found a location and you leased it and how much would the lease be, how much square footage … the equipment, the assets, the payroll, how would you work it, and what product would you have.”

A busy mom to two young sons, seven-year-old Ryu and six-year-old Sonny, with a full-time career at Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in the individual tax and benefits section, as well as the two “mom-and-pop” businesses, Helene has aced multi-tasking.

Fully hands-on with Pimp My Rice, which will be back on the road this summer after a hiatus in 2016, she often heads to Bisita in the evening and on weekends.

“I’m in there as much as I can be — as much as, you know, you can work with someone that you live with,” she laughs. Read More →

Hard work, motivation pays off for Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic grad

April 24, 2017 • Written by

Billie-Jo Laird, Bison Transport

As a Red River College student, Billie-Jo Laird worked hard while completing her work placement. And for both her and her employer, that hard work paid off.

In the fall of 2015, while attending RRC’s Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic program, Laird was sent to Bison Transport for the first of two work placements. By the summer, Laird was a Level 1 Tractor Apprentice in Bison’s maintenance shop.

“Before the end of school I had already secured my job,” Laird says. “I got good reviews from both (work placements), and come June, when everyone was looking for work, Bison contacted one of my instructors at school to ask me to contact them about a job they wanted to offer me.

“I asked my instructor, ‘Does that usually happen?’ He said, ‘No.’”

“When students come in here and ask me, ‘Do you have any ideas for how to get a job?’ I say, ‘Just show your motivation. Don’t treat your work placement like a two-week vacation. This is your job interview. Ask as many questions as you want, just don’t slack off.’”

No one could accuse Laird of slacking off. In 2014, she earned her Mature Student High School Diploma. Prior to earning her Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic certificate from RRC, Laird was working in fast-food restaurants. Now, she’s putting in 12-hour days, from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. no less, at Bison.

On top of that, she’s a mom caring for her two sons, aged seven and eight, as well as her own mother. With her family as motivation (that, and a lot of coffee), Laird is determined to work her way up at Bison. Read More →

Let there be light: MET grad keeps region illuminated as Sylvania’s area account manager

April 17, 2017 • Written by

Jeffrey Laurin, Sylvania

Jeffrey Laurin is serious about making light.

An account manager for the Sylvania lighting brand, Laurin is the go-to guy for all Sylvania lighting projects in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. His duties include energy audits, lighting design, and end user and distributor training – basically everything but screwing in the light bulb.

“We don’t do the install, but we have contractors that do, so I work with contractors to get the product installed, and [on] the maintenance of it as the years go on,” says Laurin, who graduated from Red River College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program in 1996.

“I’m the local expert for anything Sylvania. For instance, if you’re a school division and you’re looking to do something with lighting in it, you generally contact me. Basically, I do everything – from the energy calculation, recommending the right product, and following it through.

“Also, there are Sylvania distributors in Winnipeg and Manitoba and Ontario that I look after. I make sure their sales teams are up to speed on what they need to know for our products. There’s day-to-day stuff too, like, ‘What do I need to fix this problem?’ or ‘What lamp do you recommend for this application?’ or ‘What’s the best new product to replace our lighting?’”

Laurin says the MET program’s wide scope – which includes such topics as design, manufacturing methods and quality assurance – prepared him for the diverse nature of his job.

“You can get into all kinds of different fields – manufacturing, design or sales,” Laurin says. “I think the program just prepares you with enough information so you feel confident. Day One at Sylvania, my electrical wasn’t up to [that of] the guys I was talking to. But with the different courses you take at Red River, you put everything together and come up with reasonable answers.” Read More →

CreComm grad keeps TSN 1290’s drive-home show in gear

April 10, 2017 • Written by

Adam Toy is the off-air hustle behind the Hustler and Lawless show.

As senior producer at TSN 1290, Toy’s main task is putting together Hustler and Lawless, the station’s afternoon drive show featuring hosts Andrew Paterson (Hustler) and Gary Lawless.

A graduate of Red River College’s Creative Communications program, Toy starts his day by scouring the sports news for show topics. At 9 a.m., he participates in a conference call with the show’s hosts, where the trio puts together a first draft of that afternoon’s show.

After that call, Toy begins booking guests, putting together audio clips and compiling information for the show. Simultaneously, he’s checking in with the station’s program director and promotions department to see if there’s anywhere else he needs to direct his attention.

Toy’s job really heats up when the Winnipeg Jets play at home. On game day, he attends the morning skate at MTS Centre, gathering audio and checking in with visiting sports writers. Then he shoots a Facebook Live video with Brian Munz and Paul Edmonds, TSN 1290’s Jets broadcast team. Next, it’s back to the station to cut up audio, print notes and finalize the show.

And on game days, Hustler and Lawless broadcast live from Boston Pizza cityplace, so Toy heads back downtown for the show, after which he heads over to the rink for the game. During the game, Toy handles social media for the station; post-game, he’s in the dressing room, interviewing the players and personnel.

“There’s this thing called the NHL grind, the grind of the season. It’s a real grind,” Toy says. “There are times when that high pace and those long hours can get to a person, and it has got to me before, but I’ve adopted some practices to help me get through that. I try to take care of my body. I’m in the gym three times a week and I try to eat well. I’m also trying to improve my practice of meditation, so I can attack the day with a refreshed mind.” Read More →

Strictly business: Teacher Education grad takes hands-on approach at Tec-Voc

April 3, 2017 • Written by

KAthleen Mira, Tec-Voc High School

Kathleen Mira is taking care of business.

A graduate of Red River College’s Business/Technology Teacher Education program, Mira has taught at Technical Vocational High School in Winnipeg’s West End since 1999.

Mira has taught it all at Tec-Voc, from computer and software applications to accounting principles and systems to retailing, promotions and entrepreneurship, and everything in between. She says her time at RRC prepared her well for the multi-faceted and ever-changing world of business.

“You have to be versatile in this position. You have to be able to adapt to change,” Mira says. “We offer at Tec-Voc the full gamut of the business curriculum. Working here, I’ve had to be very versatile. I have to be able to turn my brain on for accounting, shut if off, then turn it on for marketing, shut if off, and then turn it on for entrepreneurship. You have to be able to change on a dime.”

Speaking of dimes (and nickels, quarters and loonies), Mira also operates Tec-Voc’s school store, Stingers, where students get real-life experience in a retail setting.

“It gives students hands-on experience that they normally wouldn’t get because of their age,” Mira says of the store, the name of which is a nod to Tec-Voc’s athletics teams, the Hornets.

“We have a point of sale system. [Students] scan items, they cash out, they cash in, they do inventory, they stock shelves, all those fun things. It’s like any other retail environment.”

The practical applications of Tec-Voc’s business programs don’t stop there.

“Being the accounting nerd that I am, I really wanted to start a credit union here at the school,” Mira says.

“We are in a partnership with Assiniboine Credit Union. We started that in December 2014, and it’s an awesome program where my accounting students can operate as member service representatives — or as many people know them, tellers. They get some hands-on experience developing those skills, so accounting is not just boring stuff every single day, they’re actually doing something.” Read More →

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