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Celebrating International Women’s Day with NSCC grads

Image shows 5 photos of people in one collage.
Meet Erica, Jessica, Holly, Olivia and Kyah – five women and NSCC grads making a mark in their field of work.

Celebrated annually on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to celebrate women and their achievements while considering the challenges that still exist for women both locally and globally.

IWD’s theme this year is Invest in women: Accelerate progress. In celebration of IWD, we’re highlighting five grads who are making an impact on their communities, their field of work and proving how powerful an investment in education is.

Check out the stories below on how Erica, Jessica, Holly, Olivia and Kyah are using their education to follow their dreams and become leaders in their field:

A headshot of a person wearing a purple blazer.

Erica Meus-Saunders

Screen Arts, 2017

“I grew up on Andros Island in the settlement of Mangrove Cay in the Bahamas. The oral tradition of storytelling has always been a part of my life from my earliest memories. Our granddad would gather all his grandkids around, under a coconut tree and regale us of tales of “Ber Bookie and Ber Rabbie” and I would be transported off to a magical world.

As someone who has always had a passion for writing and appreciation of stories, from running my own magazine (Nu Woman Magazine) back home in the Bahamas to writing poems and short stories, my path to film and NSCC came later in life.

After co-producing a TV series on our local TV station (Cable Bahamas), I got the bug and knew this was what I wanted to do. The medium of film and TV was what I wanted to use.

NSCC wasn’t initially my first choice, but for what I desired to do, it was my best choice to learn and get a solid foundation on everything film and production. After completing the Screen Arts program and graduating with Honours, I immediately jumped into the industry. I started working some volunteer roles and smaller gigs (editing, production coordinating etc.) from connections made at the College to landing a full gig at Screen Nova Scotia as their Membership Services Coordinator.

Today I’m working as the Executive Director of Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative and am also a practising filmmaker. In the past two years I’ve made two short films with great festival runs and I’m currently working as producer on an upcoming project.

NSCC gave me the both the skills and a real understanding of the industry. My upbringing taught me that nothing is ever outside of my reach, or my ability as a woman in this industry. I’ve faced challenges and have been knocked down, but I always get back up. I want anyone, especially women entering this industry to remember to always do the same. Determination and steadfastness will see you through, and always give yourself grace. With that, I’m proud to call myself an NSCC grad.”


A person is looking at the camera with rainbow paint covering their hands.

Jessica Jerome

Applied Media & Communication Arts, 2014, Graphic Design, 2016

“As a Mi’kmaq Two-spirited woman, I’ve always had the passion in my heart to create. I was born in Listuguj Mi’kmaq First Nation and raised in Gesgapegiag Band. After high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and didn’t know what kind of career would best suit me.

I knew one thing for sure: I love to be creative and love to paint, and I wanted to someday bring more attention and design to my community.

I started as an oil painter for years until I was hired to be a communications liaison for our community health center where I designed the local newsletter and website. I knew then I wanted to be better at this, so I decided to further my education in the arts.

I received my Foundation of Visual Arts certificate from New Brunswick College of Craft and Design in 2013. Then, I became a two-time NSCC alumni graduate: I received a certificate in Applied Media and Communication Arts in 2014, and my Graphic Design diploma in 2016.

My artwork style has aspects of traditional Aboriginal style with a contemporary vision. I started off painting my dreams and emotions. I’ve always been inspired by where I grew up and often illustrate movements like the rivers and the water of the coast in my work. I also have aspects of animals native to Quebec portrayed in my artwork to represent where I am from.

I’m often inspired by my Two-spirited energy to create a reflection of myself and to illustrate my life’s events. What inspired me the most was becoming a wife and giving birth to my son - the emotions of trying to create while caring for my little family. I dedicate everything I create to my wife and sons who teach me every day how beautiful life can be.

Now, I work for many different Mi’kmaq communities from Quebec to Nova Scotia as a designer and illustrator. I had amazing teachers at the Waterfront Campus [now Ivany Campus] who inspired me to pursue teaching, so I am currently working on my adult education certificate in hopes of becoming a teacher as well.

My advice for anyone entering this field of work – never give up. Don’t be afraid to take on new things. Never underestimate yourself. Your work is always worth it and never compare yourself to someone else’s work. You’re unique in what you do. Breathe and don’t be so hard on yourself.”


A person is standing on a cliff, overlooking the ocean with ice burgs in the background.

Holly MacKinnon

Marine Engineering Technology, 2020

“Attending NSCC’s Open House changed my life. I was feeling a bit lost and wanting more for myself, but I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.

In 2015, I visited Open House and learned about Women Unlimited, a free program for women to explore trades. That’s when I learned about the Marine Engineering Technology program – the furthest thing from my serving job at the time. The instructors told me this trade is a bit of everything – you could be an electrician in the morning, a welder by lunch and working on HVAC by evening. The idea of being a marine engineer ignited a drive in me that I was searching for. Plus, work life balance? Sign me up.

And that’s what I did. I signed up and got into the program. I haven’t looked back since.

I started the Marine Engineering Technology program in 2016. There were a few women in the program, but I was the only woman in my year. I never let that stand in my way. NSCC was a really supportive place to learn. I was face to face with employers before I even graduated, and we all [my classmates] secured jobs before our work terms ended. It was in this program during a career fair that I met my current employer, the Canadian Coast Guard.

In 2020, after working in oil and gas, the Canadian Coast Guard called me and offered me a position on a ship leaving the next day for 4 weeks. My decision came instantly. I packed up, hopped on board and the rest is history.

I’m currently working my dream job as a direct supervisor, working right under the chief engineer – my end goal one day. I manage a team of all men and 95% of the time, I’m the only female on the ship. This has never held back my drive. It fuels me to do everything I can to reach my goals.  I always want to push myself to be the best I can be.

For women considering a marine job, I want you to know how attainable this career path is. I was intimidated at first, but I didn’t let it be a determining factor and hold me back.

The College completely changed my life. They gave me the skills to believe in myself to reach greatness. Now, not only do I love my career, but I have so much more time to do the things I love in life. This is the career I never knew I wanted and I couldn’t be happier.”


A person wearing a chef uniform is posing for a photo.

Olivia Sewell

Culinary Management, 2023

“What I love most about cooking is the ability it gives me to be creative - along with making tasty food and eating it. I love that it’s also a way to give; whether it’s cooking for my family, friends or customers, I get to give to others and see them enjoy that.

Inspiration comes from everywhere: trying new food or watching a skill that I've never seen before. Immediately, my mind starts brainstorming what I can create with these flavors and techniques. I love working with whatever is in season. The fresher the produce can make all the difference. Nothing beats a fresh tomato in its season. I love making fresh pasta. I started to see it as an art, like I’m making tiny sculptures. I find it very therapeutic.

Being the single competitor to represent NSCC, Nova Scotia and Canada at WorldSkills in France feels incredible. I'm excited to get this opportunity to show what our province and country can bring to a worldwide competition. I’m looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience competing against 50 of the world's best young chefs.

There are many skills and qualities I've learned that you need to compete at world level. Adaptability and problem solving are huge ones for both training and competing. The quicker you can think about how to recover when something goes wrong, the faster you can adapt. You need to have some drive in you, pushing you to keep going, working harder and faster. There’s lots of people who can cook, but when you carry these qualities, it will set you apart.

Being a woman in this field means I get to express the passion and creativity that I have for what I do and spreading that throughout my workspace. If I could make an impact, it would be to show how truly powerful a woman in this role can be. There’s absolutely no limit to what you can accomplish. Work hard and support those around you with compassion, you’ll go very far.”


A person is standing in a broadcasting room holding a large filming camera.

Kyah Sparks

Radio Television Journalism, 2015

“Since I can remember, I always had an interest in broadcasting. I knew that someday I'd amplify Black voices. Black music and culture always played a significant role in my upbringing. As a kid I wished for more of it to be represented in Canadian broadcasting. That lack of representation was always the driving force behind where I am today.

When deciding what to do after high school graduation - NSCC was at the top of my list. The Radio Television Journalism program was a no-brainer.

I was excited for this new chapter, but I wasn't expecting to be the only Black girl enrolled in the program. Looking around the classroom there wasn't one person I could identify with. I met some great people, but I didn't fit in. That was a first for me - coming from East Preston where I was always surrounded by people who shared unique similarities. I did struggle with the racial barriers and I'd remind myself often to ‘be the change you wish to see’ and that ‘I'm here to change the narrative.’ That discouragement turned into motivation.

I spent many dedicated hours in the radio booth at NSCC, producing a radio show with music, segments and interviews about popular Black culture. Since graduating from NSCC 9 years ago - I've been doing that very thing professionally. I've played many roles in the media, as a show host, reporter, producer and more recently a creative visual and audio storyteller for a variety of platforms on CBC in Halifax.

I'm very grateful for where I am today. I am proud that I am creating the path I always dreamed of. I faced many challenges along the way, but I also received a lot of encouragement and support. You really need to show people what you are capable of for the doors to open. I didn't give up on my dream and when I couldn't find a way, I made one. I'm thankful for the education I was able to receive at NSCC and I hope I can inspire other future broadcasters to stay authentic. In a world full of problems - be the solution. Results don't happen right away but anything that is goal driven is achievable.”