Drive-in event celebrates student success

MRU lauds Employment Preparation Certificate grads

A drive-in event held at Mount Royal University celebrated the graduates of the Employment Preparation Certificate on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

A drive-in event held at Mount Royal University celebrated the graduates of the Employment Preparation Certificate on Nov. 4.

Celebrating the success of graduating students with developmental disabilities was the focus of a unique event held in a parking lot at Mount Royal University Wednesday morning.

A drive-in event — complete with big screen, broadcast sound and honks of encouragement — took place for the 24 graduating students in the Employment Preparation Certificate, a program that supports adults with developmental disabilities in building employment and life skills. Students attended with their own cohorts in vehicles in order to gather safely.

“Graduates, you have the knowledge, the hands-on experience and the skills to make your mark on the world,” said Tim Rahilly, president and vice-chancellor of Mount Royal. “Please remember that at Mount Royal you have a community that believes in you. I believe in you.

“It’s our job to help people learn, to grow, to nurture them and to really develop a sense of diversity, inclusion and equity.”

The audience cheered from their vehicles and beeped their horns as each of the graduates’ accomplishments were detailed by their instructors. During the yearlong program, which is part of the Transitional Vocational Program, students take courses such as Math and Reading for Work. They also complete workplace practicums throughout the year. Goals of the program include improving skills for getting and keeping a job, developing positive attitudes and habits, and increasing a more independent lifestyle.


Valedictorian Lexie Massicotte ticked all those boxes and more. In addition to posting exceptional marks, Massicotte asked for detailed feedback on all her assignments and tests. She showed that same dedication to improvement and learning in her work placements, said longtime program administrator Craig Baskett, who was on leave for a portion of the school year.

“She has taken initiative to expand her job duties and continue to challenge herself. For example, she asked to take on new duties while working at MRU Wellness Services,” Baskett said. “Over the Christmas holidays, she volunteered to come in and work when the University was closed. Lexie has applied her learning from the classroom to her work.”

In her speech, Massicotte extended a “huge thank you to everyone that I have learned from over the past year ... including my teachers at TVP who taught us to be more independent at school, at work and in life in general.” The year was challenging, including moving to online courses, but they got through it together, she said.

“Despite COVID, this has really been an amazing year full of life experiences, amazing friendships and growing closer to the person I would like to be,” Massicotte said. “Even though we had to make big changes and adapt to working remotely, we have all been able to learn so much from each other.”

Valedictorian Lexie Massicotte.

Valedictorian Lexie Massicotte addressed her classmates via a video at the event.

As part of the graduating class of 2019/2020, Massicotte joins a 40-year tradition at Mount Royal. TVP is considered “the heart of Mount Royal,” said Brad Mahon, dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension. For four decades, the program has prepared students for competitive employment and community living while promoting community engagement on and off campus.

“I’m proud of our institution’s 40-year history with the Transitional Vocational Program. More than 4,000 adults with developmental disabilities have experienced the benefits of being a part of TVP and Mount Royal,” Mahon said.

“By completing your studies, you’ve shown that you are open to learning, to exploring and to engaging in new ways of doing and new ways of thinking. Take what you’ve learned here and use it to reach the goals you set for yourself, whether that be at work or in your personal life. Be a lifelong learner with the world as your classroom.”

Brad Mahon, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension.

Brad Mahon, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension, celebrated the success of the graduating students.

Amreet Kandola embodied those traits during his studies in the Employment Preparation Certificate program. When Kandola experienced difficulties with the shift to remote learning, he reached out for support. His efforts and commitment earned him the Most Improvement Student award.

“Amreet has shown great improvement in his work ethic, motivation and communication skills,” Baskett said. “Amreet applied strategies put in place by his instructors, employment specialist and supports to keep him on track and complete all necessary tasks ... Amreet has demonstrated a positive attitude, become more independent in his work and more confident in communicating his needs to be successful in the program.”

Graduate David Nicholson.

Graduate David Nicholson took in the event from the comfort of his mother’s car.

Angela Brown received this year’s Robert Hunter Memorial Award. Brown was selected by her classmates as showing the greatest leadership in the classroom in the graduating class.

“Despite the tough times the pandemic has caused, it has been a great year. I wish everyone the best in the future,” Brown said after thanking her fellow classmates, instructors and the Hunter family.

Michelle Cheverie, who was acting program administrator during most of the school year, lauded students for pushing their boundaries and learning from all their experiences, not just the ones that turned out how they wanted. She reminded the students that being an engaged member of the community, on campus and off, is one of the most valuable things they will take from their time at Mount Royal.

“The experiences and the friendships are a true treasure of your commitment and one each of you should cherish,” Cheverie said. “I am proud to call each of you a friend and love the experiences I hold dear. Congratulations to the personal success, achievement of goals and the gift of friendship for every one of our grads!”

Nov. 5, 2020 — Ruth Myles

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