Meet our Class of 2021 valedictorians.
Before coming to NSCC, Darrell Marriott worked as a carpenter for almost 10 years. Wanting a change that would lead him to a career better reflecting his passion – protecting nature and wildlife – Darrell found NSCC’s Natural Resources Environmental Technology (NRET) diploma program. To reach that goal, he needed to first finish his high school credits so he enrolled in the Adult Learning Program at Akerley Campus.
Darrell says key members of his faculty team made a huge impact on his time at NSCC – they were welcoming, helped show him what he was capable of and kept him motivated and inspired to succeed. The care each of his faculty members had for every individual student was, in his words, ‘astonishing’.
Darrell believes there is a program for everyone at NSCC. Given a little time and research, anyone can find a direction that matches their career aspirations and dreams.
With his credentials in hand, Darrell is looking forward to enrolling in the NRET program at NSCC. He looks forward to the day when those next steps in his educational journey will lead to a career as a conservation officer where he can play a part in protecting our land and wildlife.
Darrell’s advice to the Class of 2021: “We all have the ability to succeed. Even when it may seem as though there are too many obstacles holding us back. Stay positive, be optimistic. Face your challenges head on. You can do it.”
- Watch Darrell Marriott's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Having previously worked in telecommunications in Beijing, China, Kevin Chen found his calling through NSCC’s Geographic Sciences – Cartography program at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) at the Annapolis Valley Campus. He discovered he could combine his skills and interests in design, data analysis and art to develop map-based communications through this unique field of study.
Although moving to a new country, becoming immersed in a new language, and learning during a global pandemic were significant challenges, Kevin felt supported by his instructors and the sense of community and belonging he found at COGS. He learned that perseverance and a positive attitude would help him overcome obstacles and reach his goals.
Kevin is now employed with PHNX Technologies based in Ottawa and able to work remotely and stay in Lawrencetown, NS. He looks forward to reuniting with his wife and child soon and hopes to settle down with them here in Canada.
Kevin’s advice to the Class of 2021: “Never give up.” He also offers these words of encouragement he received as encouragement from his mentor: “Life is not just one straight line. It is filled with contours, lush forests, and barren deserts. It has its ups and downs. Like a river, life continues to flow. When a river comes to an obstacle, it flows over it or around it, never stopping. It is not our challenges that define us, rather how we approach those challenges and how we carry on despite them.”
- Watch Kevin Chen's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Looking for a career change and inspired to provide solutions for small businesses in her community, Jenny Scott decided to enrol in the Business Administration – Accounting Concentration program at Burridge Campus.
Jenny thrived in her program. She welcomed new experiences and the new friends she made with her classmates. She learned how to set goals for her future career, and she enjoyed exploring resources that would help her succeed in her program and after graduating.
Jenny was a successful recipient of funding from the Scotiabank Entrepreneur in the Making Program. This helped her launch her small business in Digby in June 2021 - Accountable Bookkeeping & Tax Services.
Jenny thoughts for the Class of 2021: “I am confident that as we go out and start our new careers, we will all make our mark on the world. Congratulations to all graduates for 2021. I wish you all the best now and in your future.”
- Watch Jenny Scott's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
A connection to community and a meaningful way to help people is what Amelia Dinh was looking for when she chose to attend the Early Childhood Education (ECE) diploma program at Cumberland Campus. In 2018, Amelia came to Canada from Hanoi, Vietnam, to complete her high school diploma in Vancouver, BC. From there she joined NSCC as a learner and a passionate member of the NSCC Student Association.
She says she chose to study in the field of early childhood education because she is a human-oriented person and the field of study would allow her to advocate for early childhood resources, connect with families as well as community and understand the learning process of young children.
Becoming efficient in time management is something Amelia says college life has taught her. It takes hard work to earn your degree, but you can get through your studies with less stress if you stay organized, and remember to make time for family and loved ones.
The biggest lesson she learned over her two years at NSCC was that she was fully in charge of her own learning. She says the program pushed her to get out of her comfort zone and presented plenty of opportunities to learn the skills she needed to fulfill her dreams.
Amelia has big plans for her future. She is going to bring her knowledge as a professional early childhood educator to help children develop their intellectual, physical and emotional growth. She also plans to advocate for female empowerment and help incoming international students to settle in our beautiful province.
Amelia’s advice to the Class of 2021: “Today is only the first of many amazing moments and I know life has many more in store for all of you!”
- Watch Amelia Dinh's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Jamie States was looking at options to support her interest in pursuing a career in the public sector. However, she was not only working as a hairstylist, makeup artist and retail manager, she was busy raising her children. She found the flexibility she needed to balance her studies with work and family through NSCC’s eCampus and enrolled in the Business Administration - Accounting Concentration Diploma program.
While in her program, Jamie found balance working in the day and studying at night and felt supported by her instructors and family. Jamie discovered personal success as an independent learner and soon found that with determination and perseverance, she could achieve her goals.
Jamie is already employed with Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice and hopes to continue her studies in the future to achieve her Chartered Professional Accountant designation.
Jamie’s advice to the Class of 2021: “Keep the passion for learning alive. You’re never too old to continue to learn. Remind yourself that most things in life do not come easy or without a struggle. We are continuously one step closer to achieving our goals day by day, and if we continue to focus on the journey ahead, and make good choices, the world can be our oyster.”
- Watch Jamie States' valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Jamie Lu wanted to find a career that made her happy. When she moved to Canada from the Philippines, she explored several options across various industries and decided to take a leap into the field of information technology. Once she made that decision, Jamie decided the IT Database Administration Diploma program at NSCC’s IT Campus was a good fit for an education and career she would enjoy.
Beyond homework and assignments, Jamie’s student experience included after-school activities, support from her instructors and building friendships with her classmates – something that would become a source of strength for her when faced with new challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Since completing her studies, Jamie has secured employment in her chosen field. Following graduation, she wants to continue to learn and explore additional aspects of the industry and expand on her skills within her profession and help in her community.
Jamie’s advice to the Class of 2021: “The world is filled with things that could scare you but remember how strong and brave you can be. If something is too big, break it down into pieces and take things one at a time. You'll realize it wasn't as hard as you thought. You have strength within you that you just need to reach into. Going to school during the pandemic was scary, but we did it. You have it in you, you can do anything.”
- Watch Jamie Lu's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Before coming to NSCC, Tiffani Hamilton was not sure which career path was right for her. After spending a few years working full-time in different management positions, and thanks to advice of friends who had studied business before her, Tiffani found her sense of direction and enrolled in the Business Administration – Management diploma at Ivany Campus.
The flexibility the program offered is what sold her on the experience. She knew once she completed her diploma, she could then have the option to take two more years at a post-secondary institution that had a College to University Transfer Agreement to complete a degree. Knowing this was a possibility, it took away the pressure of committing to a four-year degree initially and allowed her to complete her education at her own comfort level.
Tiffani thinks fondly of her experience. She feels lucky to have been helped, supported and inspired throughout her two years at NSCC. Her faculty members were positive, understanding and flexible, which aided in decreasing the anxiety she had about going back to school. She always felt appreciated and understood.
Tiffani says this experience helped shape her into the person she has become. From overcoming challenges during the first days of classes or learning how to log into courses when the College moved online last year, Tiffani says she learned more than she could ever imagine about herself and made some great memories and friends along the way.
And her learning journey is not yet complete. Through her course work at NSCC, she realized her heart is in the world of psychology. Tiffani’s next step is to further her studies at Saint Mary’s University.
Tiffani’s advice to the Class of 2021: “Keep moving forward. There will always be unexpected speedbumps that come up on your journey, but you will always find a way to get over them, regardless of how difficult it may seem at the time.”
- Watch Tiffani Mead's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
With her background in nursing, Ancy Yohannan knew she wanted to explore studies related to the health and human services field and train in a practicum based course. With encouragement from a friend and NSCC alumni, she enrolled in the Disability Supports and Services Diploma program at Kingstec Campus.
Interested in learning the support services that are provided for persons with Autism and understanding how to enable them to contribute to their community, Ancy found what she was looking for. She is thankful for the faculty members who supported her learning, helped to broaden her mind and inspired her to decide on what contributions she could make to society through her field of studies.
Ancy recalls from her learning that permission to care is the first step to providing respect to the person you’re supporting. And she believes every individual in this world is skilled in one way or another and that it is our mutual responsibility to help find each other’s potential. She hopes to help those through the work that she does in this way each and every day.
Ancy’s plans for her future is to work in her field and expand on the skills and knowledge she has gained at NSCC by working toward a PhD.
Ancy’s advice to the Class of 2021: “We did it together. My success is part of your success. Thank you for being with me, for being with me with all my differences. If it is without you, it has not happened. Thank you and congratulations.”
- Watch Ancy Yohannan's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Erik Burgers says he is always up for an adventure. When he heard about the Tourism Hospitality Certificate program at Lunenburg Campus, he knew it was calling his name – uniting his love for working with people with his love for maintaining an active lifestyle.
During his time at the campus, he drew support from many helpful people and services – from library and tutoring offerings to the guidance of his faculty member who inspired him everyday to keep going and strive to meet his goals. He said this all contributed to his success.
Erik adds that the program guest speakers – who provided his class with insights into the tourism industry throughout the year – offered invaluable advice and insights as to what a career in tourism could look like.
He has already set his sights on combining his sense of adventure with his education; he is exploring opportunities to launch a spa resort and potentially start his own adventure tourism business.
Erik’s advice to the Class of 2021: “Don't struggle. There are always supports to help guide you through this amazing journey of learning. You are not alone and someone is always willing to help. You just have to reach out and ask."
- Watch Erik Burgers' valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
From a young age, Joe knew he wanted to help others. Having spent many years volunteering in his community coaching basketball and advocating for greater community mental health and wellness resources. He decided to turn his passion into a career and enrolled in NSCC’s Social Services Diploma program at Marconi Campus.
As a student, Joe thrived in his campus community. Noting the support of his family and friends along his educational journey, Joe also recognizes the immeasurable impact his fellow students and instructors had on him. He says they have become a family to him. He also participated in Enactus Marconi, a group which helps build entrepreneurial skills while using business to help address social issues.
Following graduation, Joe plans to work towards his Bachelor of Arts Community Studies degree at Cape Breton University. He hopes to put one of his core values – his desire to assist others – into action and eventually become a social worker.
Joe’s advice to the Class of 2021: “My one piece of advice is to continue moving forward in life, one step at a time. These past two years have proven that when we plan too far ahead, we can get caught off guard. Take things one day at a time, and no matter what, keep pushing forward.”
- Watch Joe Townsend's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Samantha Carrigan wanted to combine her passion for helping others with an education that would lead her to a career she loved. She was pleased to enroll in the Social Services program at Pictou Campus, close to her home and her family.
During her studies, Samantha enjoyed meeting new people and thrived in a small class setting. Although being a full-time student during a global pandemic posed great challenges, Samantha drew inspiration from her family, classmates and faculty who encouraged her and were a source of positivity for her.
Samantha is currently working towards completing a course in Indigenous history and, following graduation, looks forward to securing employment helping others in the education sector.
Samantha’s advice to the Class of 2021: “You all have not only sacrificed so much, but you’ve accomplished so much. In a time of uncertainty, you kept moving forward. I hope that your credential serves as a reminder of your commitment, strength and perseverance. May it also be a reminder that, when things do not go as planned, to keep moving forward. I’m proud of you and wish you all success in your chosen fields.”
- Watch Samantha Carrigan's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
While exploring his options for possible career paths, Jakob Almero worked at a grocery store, lobster pound and garden centre where he was able to accumulate the funds needed for post-secondary education. He determined he wanted to stay local, be a part of a trade and work hands-on. This led him to his interest in the Pipe Trades diploma at Shelburne Campus.
Both Jakob’s wife and step-father attended NSCC and had positive experiences, assuring him he would enjoy it as well. A visual learner and hands-on worker, Jakob knew his strengths would lend themselves to his success in the Pipe Trades program.
Jakob described the atmosphere at NSCC as encouraging, accepting and positive. He says he had an amazing experience and that his faculty, classmates and work placement co-workers motivated him to pursue and accomplish his goals.
Jakob’s connection to family is strong. His mother has always encouraged him to: “Be the man today that you want to be tomorrow.” This saying has inspired him to always be compassionate and display good workmanship which will bode well for him in his future endeavours.
He plans to work in his field of study as a Burner Technician and work toward his Red Seal certification through the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency with a future goal of owning his own business where he will employ other trades persons.
Jakob’s advice for the Class of 2021: “Let’s be great, strive to be the person today that we want to be tomorrow, make meaningful connections, and always aspire to inspire.”
- Watch Jakob Almero's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Victoria Lynn Lafford
Already a 2006 NSCC alum, Victoria Lafford realized that she wanted to return to the College to find a field of study that took her away from desk work and made her feel like she was making a direct impact on the lives of others. After a great deal of research, she says she didn’t choose the Social Services Diploma program at Strait Area Campus, it chose her.
Victoria credits her faculty and peers with making an immense impact on her experience at NSCC. She says the compassion the College’s employees has for its students is what attracted her to study here and is what helped her succeed in her program.
As for her future plans, Victoria says the sky is the limit. While putting her new skills to the test, she dreams of being a strong advocate for Indigenous women’s rights. One day, she would like to share her story of perseverance and resilience more widely.
Victoria’s advice to the Class of 2021: “Be an agent of change. Stay focused. When times get tough, always remember that this too shall pass, and honour yourself with self-care.”
- Watch Victoria Lynn Lafford's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Logan Martell, a past NSCC Plumbing graduate, learned while working on the job that his strengths in the business aspects of the trade were something he wanted to build on. Inspired by his brother and mother - who reminded him it is never too late to go to school - Logan returned to NSCC to enhance his studies through the Business Administration - Accounting Concentration Diploma program.
Before returning to NSCC, Logan was active in his community - volunteering as a firefighter, working with his local Cadet unit and was a commissioned officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. In his program at Strait Area Campus, he enjoyed hands-on learning and applying his new skills to real life settings.
Logan hopes to gain additional work experience in the coming year and is looking at the possibility of continuing on even further with his education through NSCC’s articulation agreements with other post-secondary institutions.
Logan has been encouraged by the positive spirit and adaptability his fellow classmates have displayed and maintained throughout the challenges of the pandemic.
His advice to the Class of 2021, “Be proud of the skills you have learned from NSCC, for even if you choose to focus on something different from what you have learned, you can still use the skills you have gained to help better yourself.”
- Watch Logan Martell's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)
Prior to attending NSCC, Meshach George’s career in logistics and operations, coupled with his desire to deepen his understanding of international business practices, led him to pursue the International Business Advanced Diploma at Truro Campus.
During his time at the College, Meshach achieved a number of milestones and attributes his success to the guidance and encouragement he received from his close friends and immediate family, in addition to the support from his faculty and other staff at the campus.
Having worked for several organizations, Meshach has always been intrigued by business operations regardless of the industry; it is his dream to be a key contributor to how businesses operate and help companies optimize their profitability. Given the amount of uncertainty in today’s world, he believes it is becoming increasingly clear that the companies that pivot, particularly in times of crisis, outperform their competitors and he would love nothing more than to put the knowledge he has gained at NSCC into practice in the real world to help companies exceed their goals.
Meshach’s advice for the Class of 2021: “As you take your first steps into the world, remember, never lose sight of your dreams, pursue them relentlessly, surround yourself with people who will motivate you to be your best self and, most importantly, have fun.”
- Watch Meshach George's valedictorian speech (links to YouTube)