Kerri Ann Podwinski has been on her own since she was 14. Barely a teenager, she moved out and started taking care of herself.
Between making ends meet and her high school classes, something had to give. Her grades suffered.
“I had no influential adults in my life,” she said, adding she was alone and dealing with mental health issues including anxiety and depression.
Podwinski never believed university was within her reach.
That changed when she attended the Second Chance program at Beamsville District Secondary School. Her teacher, Jon Bald, encouraged her to apply herself. He told her she was smart. That she could succeed.
She believed him.
“I worked three jobs saving money for university,” she recalled.
Podwinski went to night classes and completed some online courses to get the grades she needed to attend Brock University.
Friday, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and earned the undergraduate Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock award.
During her time at Brock, Podwinski logged a whopping 2,500 hours of volunteer service at the University and in the community.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without all that volunteer experience. I’ve really grown as a person,” she said. “Brock offers a lot of opportunity for extracurricular involvement.”
She spent five years volunteering with the Power Cord program at the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being and said the inspirational and motivated people she met there solidified her commitment to working in health care.
She also volunteered with MedPlus, Southridge Shelter, Youth Net Niagara, Niagara Health System and the Migrant Worker Health Interest Group.
Joshua Bowslaugh was the recipient of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences graduate student Spirit of Brock award Friday.
He completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brock and was an outstanding student who was heavily involved in non-academic activities.
Bowslaugh worked at Smart Start, as a teaching assistant and tutor in the Department of Kinesiology and as a volunteer in the SeniorFit program.
Dean’s medals were awarded to Cameron Giles and Laura Wiens.
Delivering the convocation address Friday morning was Department of Kinesiology associate professor Jae Patterson, the recipient of Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award.
He told the students about the importance of always challenging themselves.
“Sometimes challenges are uncomfortable and sometimes it doesn’t make you the most popular person in the room, but there’s are a lot of benefits,” Patterson said. “If you look at the experts, the only way for them to get better and maintain their expertise, is for them to put themselves in challenging situations. Not only do you learn in challenge, you maintain your expertise in challenge.”
The afternoon speaker was professor of Epidemiology Martin Tammemägi, an internationally recognized expert in the field of cancer screening.
The convocation was President and Vice-Chancellor Jack Lightstone’s last before he leaves office at the end of the month.
The Faculty of Applied Health Sciences ceremonies from Friday can be watched in full below: