On Thursday, the mother of five, step-mother of four and grandmother of 12, graduated from the Nova Scotia Community College, achieving a dream she had put on hold for a while.
Busy raising her family, that dream got “put on the back burner.”
However, the Trenton woman said working minimum wage jobs wasn’t something she wanted to continue doing. “Waitressing was something I liked, but not loved,” said MacKinnon, who was also employed as a seamstress.
With the encouragement of her husband Mark, she went back to school to obtain her Grade 12 – the first step toward becoming a hair stylist – graduating with honours. “It was with his support that I was able to do this,” she said.
Two years ago she was accepted into the cosmetology program. “Before I had my first child, it was one of my career goals,” she said.
Along with achieving her goal, she wanted to show her children, including her youngest who is 11, that “you can succeed and follow a dream.”
Her message to them: “Just don’t give up on your dreams.”
Already obtaining a job at a Stellarton salon, MacKinnon said her family is very proud.
NSCC principal Dave Freckelton mentioned her story in his remarks during the convocation ceremony, held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
“She raised a large family, held two jobs and attended school,” said principal Dave Freckelton. “But her dreams were realized.”
“I’m thrilled Dave chose me to be an inspiration to others,” MacKinnon said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for myself.”
A total of 258 students received certificates and/or diplomas at the NSCC convocation, held off campus because of construction work taking place there.
Freckelton told the graduates they should all be proud that they met challenges and persevered during their time at NSCC.
Valedictorian Jacob Prest of Mooseland, N.S., entered the carpentry program to pursue his ambitions of starting his own business in residential construction. After graduation, he plans to work toward securing his Red Seal certification.
He told his fellow graduates about an apple, which tells the story of their shared experience at NSCC.
Prest said buying a certain kind of apple at the store signifies choosing to attend NSCC, and then picking which apple to eat from the bag represents each person’s program choice.
Taking a bite of the peel is the first few days at school, when students don’t know many people. “You’re pretty sure you’re going to like it, but it’s hard to tell with just the first bite. But you keep eating the apple, and with every bite you take there’s less and less of the peel left, until one day without even having realized it, the peel is gone,” he said.
“You’ve become immersed in your program – you don’t have classmates anymore, you have friends, you don’t have teachers but instead have mentors.”
He said for the next little while each bite from the apple is a new experience. “These bites are the steps you take and the progress you make. Every step we’ve taken – even the smallest – has helped us get closer to the finish.”
Finally, reaching the core is getting to graduation. “Many people think this is it – we’ve eaten the apple, we got to the core, we graduated, we’re done.”
But Prest said in the core of the apple is the most important part – the seed that grows into a tree.
“It turns out the apple is just one step needed for the tree to grow, just as for us our time at NSCC is a stepping stone on our lifelong journey of learning. And just as that tree will continue to grow, we will continue to learn. How big and healthy that tree becomes depends on how well we nurture it,” he said.
“So continue your journey, continue to learn and continue to grow.”
Major award winners:
Peter Bate, an electronic engineering technician graduate, received the Governor General’s Academic Medal, awarded to a student of a college diploma program who has achieved the highest academic standing.
The NSCC Board of Governors’ Award was given to Madison Fleming, who studied business administration. The award recognizes a college diploma program graduate who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and contributed to campus and/or community activities
Brianna Cromwell, a social services graduate, received the NSCC Foundation Award, presented to a student who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and whose service and leadership has made a difference in the lives of others.
The NSCC President’s Award, for demonstrating outstanding academic achievement and contributing to campus and/or community activities, was given to Nicole Quinn, who completed the office administration program.
Kristen MacLane, another graduate from the office administration program, received the Gold Medal Award, given to a college certificate program graduate who achieved the highest academic standing.