Archive for December 2009
This will be the last post for 2009, as we break for Christmas today. We’re very fortunate because we get the entire Christmas break off rather than having to divide our time between family and work for those few days in between Christmas and New Year’s.
There’s a strong sense of family at the college. Many of the staff have worked here for years, and quite a few are alumni of the college. There are also a fair number of people working on staff who are related to each other and students and alumni (we are on an island, after all!).
How we feel about the importance of family is evidenced by the way the college community supports less fortunate families at Christmas. I asked staff at all of our centres to send me a summary of what they have focused their fund raising efforts on this Christmas season and, regardless of the size of the centre, all of them have given generously to people in their communities. Here’s a summary of what Holland College staff and students have put their efforts toward this Christmas season.
A quick tally suggests that staff and students have raised or donated well over $7,000 in cash, groceries, and gifts. I had intended to list the centres and their charitable activities in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but it would be far too long. Each centre had its own fund raising activities, while others were college-wide. Some centres sponsored a family in need for Christmas, checking off items on the family’s wish list and frequently adding extras for the parents, as the lists most frequently focus on toy and clothing for the children. Most centres also donated turkeys to the turkey drive, and many staff and students donated their time to worthy causes.
While all of the staff’s and students’ efforts are appreciated, of particular note are the Marketing and Advertising students at the Tourism and Culinary Centre, who participated in fund raising activities for organizations such as Breakfast for Learning, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Children’s Wish Foundation, the Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Operation Christmas Child.
The Charlottetown Centre, Montgomery Hall and Tourism and Culinary Centre students and staff contributed enough to sponsor not only the mother and three children they had originally committed to, but to help out two additional families.
From Casual Day Money collected during the months of June, July, August and December, a $200 grocery gift card was given to a second family and a $500 donation was made to the St. Vincent De Paul Society to help out a third.
Confidentiality prevents giving details about the first family Charlottetown staff and students sponsored. Suffice to say that although the family was in need of many items, the mother provided only a modest list of requests all of which were items for her children. Staff and students answered the call with their usual enthusiasm. When I asked for more information, Madonna Gallant, Facilities Coordinator for the college and one of our most active volunteers, wrote this:
“So many came forward to help out. We had staff come forward and offer to shop for the kids, wrap the parcels, sell the BINGO cards, collect boxes, we had luggers and lifters. The student union pitched in and looked after mom’s stocking, individual staff members as well as programs collectively got together to look after one or more of the children’s wishes. It’s an amazing process.
“Each child received new snow suits, boots, hats and mittens which they were in need of. They received new clothes and the toys they so desperately hoped Santa would bring. Mom received new uniforms for work and a Christmas stocking that would make Mrs. Claus envious. This was a very deserving family and thanks to the generosity of our staff and students, they received a very special Christmas.”
There are also many Holland College employees and students who volunteer outside of the college. Gregory Gairns and Ryan MacPhee, coaches of the Holland Hurricanes women’s hockey team, participated in a unique fund raiser with the other three members of the their triathalon training team, Tdisc. Greg, who is one of our Student Services and Athletics Officer, sent this information:
“On December 12th, all five members of Tdisc, a triathlon training team comprised of Holland College staff, participated in the Ole Charlottetown 5k Christmas Run. Each member was dressed in full Santa Claus costume, beard and all. Tdisc sought pledges and donations to go toward gift packages for local families. The five guys, Ryan MacPhee, Kris MacPhee, Josh Patterson, John Brioux, and myself raised $3,500 dollars for families in need. With the help of Birchwood School, they identified ten families in need and delivered a package of gift cards to help make their Christmas better.”
In this, the final blog entry of 2009, thanks go out to all Holland College students and staff for their wonderful contributions to their communities not only at Christmas, but throughout the year.
Special thanks to Madonna Gallant, Greg Gairns, Kathie Coffin Sulis, Elaine Black, Kim Gallant, Gary Torraville, and Lisa Finkle for providing me with information.
For the last 26 years, students and staff from Holland College’s Charlottetown Centre have celebrated the season with the Festival of Carols and Lessons. It’s an hour of respite from the frequently hectic pace of this time of year, and a chance for the college community to come together to celebrate the season by sharing their talents.
This year was no exception. For the 27th time, staff and students gathered in the gym of the Charlottetown Centre last Wednesday afternoon to sing Christmas songs, read lessons, and to hear a Christmas story. Not all of the staff and students attend, but those who choose to, come away with a little more of the spirit of Christmas. Some staff members say that to them, the Festival of Carols and Lessons is what really signals the start of the season.
I have great admiration for people who can stand in front of a crowd of people and sing or play an instrument, so I tend to get choked up regardless of the calibre of the performer, which is always very high at these concerts. Yet there always seems to be one that leaves the audience with their mouths hanging open in amazement.
A couple of years ago, it was a young woman in the Culinary Arts program whose voice was so finely trained that the audience was bowled over by her performance (it turns out she had trained as an opera singer). This year, it was Business Administration student Jill Harris. Jill performed a medley of Walking in the Air and the Huron Carol – on her harp.
The gym in the Charlottetown Centre is in need of renovation, but as I listened to Jill’s performance my eyes wandered to some of the architectural details that whisper of its former glory, when it was first built in the late 1930s, and many musicians played there. I wondered how many other performances there elevated musicians and audiences out of their everyday lives for just a few minutes.
There were many other highlights in the concert, including the percussive performance of Little Drummer Boy by the Holland College Drum Ensemble – Jason Campbell, from the Accounting Technology program; Yasser Mihareb from the Computer Information Systems program; Kyle Creamer, in the Environmental Applied Science Technology program; and Alan Dowling, Business Information Systems Development instructor and director of the Holland College Welshmen Community Band. These students have just taken up drumming, but they were great fun to watch and listen to.
Even though the concert is all about sharing and celebrating, there’s also a little rivalry that goes on between the male and female staff members’ choirs. Legend has it that the women’s choir all but fizzled out for a while, leaving the men’s choir the privilege of gleefully performing their perennial favourite, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and scooping up kudos unchallenged.
But last year, the tide turned. The women’s choir returned to the concert with several strong new voices. This year, they performed first, providing a richly textured version of Do You Hear What I Hear? and the audience was wowed. So, as it turns out, were some of the men. (See photo of Dr. McMillan below.)
Student Services and volunteer students and staff put a great deal of time and effort into the concert. Facilities and Maintenance staff set up the gym, Terence McGaughey was responsible for sound, and Debi Forse decorated the room. The Charlottetown Centre Student Association, and the Business Studies, Hospitality and Tourism, Media and Computer Studies, Applied Sciences and Engineering, and Health and Community Services departments sponsored the event. Thanks to everyone for once again putting together such an enjoyable concert.
Last weekend we had our first snowstorm of the season, filling the hearts of many Islanders with anticipation and dread in equal proportions. One thing a good storm will do is throw people into a panic about the impending holiday season. There’s nothing better than white-out conditions and icy roads to trigger the pre-Christmas alarms. Last Sunday, the clack of Christmas light bulbs rattling against each other echoed across the province as people hauled strings of lights out from under the stairs, untangled the rats’ nest that they inevitably become regardless of how fastidiously we stow them away, and braved a ruthless northeaster to fasten them to decks and drape them over bushes. It’s a task that for many people is more of an obligation than a pleasure, but not for Holland College’s Rob Blanchard, an instructor in the Computer Studies programs. Rob’s had his 8,000 lights up for a while now.
Rob’s Christmas displays have been a local attraction for many years, first in Sherwood, and now at the family’s new home in Stratford. Actually, the word “display” is something of an understatement. “Extravaganza” would more aptly describe what goes on outside the Blanchard’s home in December. Eight thousand lights are computer controlled and synchronized so that they fade from one colour to another and flash in time with Christmas music. But there’s no tinny public address system blasting the music out. Visitors tune their car radios to 91.7 FM when they are within 150 feet of the house to hear the tunes as they slowly drive past.
“Four Christmas songs are featured. Each song takes approximately eight hours to pre-program on the computer,” Rob explains.
This year, following the suggestion of many visitors, the display features a donation box for the Salvation Army, giving an always appreciative public the opportunity to the support a worthwhile cause while getting into the Christmas spirit.
The lights are on Sunday to Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The display is located at 46 Harvest Drive in Stratford. Take the Kinlock Road, go approximately 300 metres past Fox Meadow golf course and turn left onto Trillium. Go to the end of Trillium and turn right onto Harvest Drive.
If you can’t make it over to Rob’s house, you can see the house on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luVtyrAhsQg
A judicious mix of theory and hands-on training is the cornerstone of all of Holland College’s programs. Not surprisingly, the theory is seen as a necessary evil by some students. The real thrill is getting their hands on the tools of their chosen trade and applying what they’ve learned to real life situations. This year, students in the college’s Carpentry program get the opportunity to experience the real world of a carpenter while helping children in the region escape the reality of their worlds for a little while.
The 36 students and their three instructors are building six cabins for Camp Triumph, a camp for children whose lives have been affected by chronic illness. The cabins are being built at the college’s Aerospace Centre in Summerside, and will then be shipped to the camp, which sits on a piece of land leased to the camp by the provincial government next to Cabot Beach.
Camp Triumph offers children from families dealing with chronic illness a respite from the stresses and responsibilities of their day-to-day lives. A registered charity, the camp provides a comprehensive program for siblings and children of the chronically ill or disabled. The summer program helps children develop coping strategies, and provides them with the opportunity to participate in an adventure-based camp where self-esteem and confidence are nurtured as they form friendships with children facing similar challenges in their homes.
Carpentry instructor Ryan Rogerson, who had discussed the possibility of helping out with the camp’s executive director, Katherine Sheriko, for a couple of years, was delighted when she approached him to say they were ready to go ahead with the project.
“This year she was able to get the money for the supplies together, so we sat down and drew up plans for a bunkhouse-style cabin with room for 12 children and counsellor’s quarters,” he explained.
The students are extremely enthusiastic about the project, Ryan said.
“They’re here first thing in the morning checking the staging to make sure it’s secure and getting ready to put in a full day on their cabin. Working in teams of 12, each has two cabins to complete. Although safety is always first, the students are still competitive; keeping an eye on how the other teams are doing, and making sure they’re not lagging behind.”
Only two teams of students can work on the cabins on any given week, one class or another is always in the classroom with instructor Elmer McDougall. Elmer teaches the students about the materials used in construction and about safety. The students also spend time in the workshop practising the skills they need to complete these cabins.
For example, the third instructor of the program, Donnie Brown, assigns them a baseboard project. It entails putting together a series of mitred baseboards into a rectangular structure. It’s designed to show them how to use the saw in every possible angle required when mitring corners. Anyone who has tried to put up baseboard or crown moulding probably knows the frustration of cutting a piece only to discover the mitre is going the wrong way!
So by the time the students began framing the buildings, they had already practised the required skills.
It’s a great way for the students to get a sense of what it’s like to be out in the work world, and it’s not just about carpentry skills. This kind of work involves being outdoors in all kinds of weather, and getting used to doing even the simplest of tasks with several layers of clothing on is no mean feat.
Every week, a different student on each team is assigned the role of Supervisor for the week, and consequently learns about the roles and responsibilities of each member of a team. The students are responsible for making sure that no tools are left outside at lunch time or at the end of the day, and often meet with their team members to plan the next day’s activity.
It’s not only the Carpentry students involved in the project, though. Students and instructors from the Electrical Technology program are wiring the buildings, all of which must be inspected and up to code. When the time comes, students from the Wood Manufacturing – Cabinetmaking program will move in to do the millwork and build the bunks.
“We are very grateful to Holland College for their support and we are impressed with the professionalism the instructors exemplify for their students. It is our hope that we will secure funding for the next phase of the camp, specifically, the building of a lodge which would provide an indoor space for programming during inclement weather,” Camp Triumph’s executive director Katherine Sheriko said.
For the instructors, the cabin project is a perfect way to develop the students’ skills. For the students, the project gets them out into the real world working on a real building that has a particular purpose. For the children of Camp Triumph, the buildings will be the places where they will forge memories that will sustain them throughout the challenges of their day-to-day lives.