Living a Working Poet’s Life: Holly’s Story

By Holly Painter

Facilitated by Elyse Trudell, WorkStory Ambassador

 If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered "teacher". If you had asked me as a teenager what my plans were after high school, I would have answered "teacher's college". If you had asked me as an early twenty-something what my passion and future career was, I would have answered "teaching". So as my 30th birthday approaches, you might naturally assume that I spend my weekdays in a classroom, standing in front of a group of students discussing important topics and curriculum material, preparing them for the next test, essay, exam, grade. If you assumed all of this you'd be half correct, but I bet you'd never guess my job title: I'm a poet.

Poet? I can imagine exactly how your forehead is wrinkling at the thought. Poetry, as in the boring stuff studied in school? Who would decide to do that as a job? How is it even possible to make any money? And how is that in any way related to teaching?

I am a spoken word artist. I perform poetry, writing and rehearsing my poems before sharing them on stages (and in classrooms) across the country. I began performing at poetry slams (after battling my fear of public speaking), and eventually my hobby became my job. Correct that; my hobby became my passion that pays the bills.

I run the London Poetry Slam, a space and stage open and welcoming to creative writers and spoken word artists of all ages. Right now, over fifty percent of our performing poets and audience members are youth under the age of 21. Poetry is alive and well, and it's all the things you never knew from English class: it's energetic and engaging, it packs a room once a month on a Friday night with 150 excited people, eager to share their own and listen to each other's stories. And youth love it.

The basic messages of spoken word poetry in London are "Speak Your Truth" and "Show the Love". These messages I carry with me as I speak at schools across the province at assemblies or in classroom workshops. The poetry actually becomes secondary to the themes of being open and willing to share personal experiences, and listening and being respectful and empathetic as people do. You would think high school would be the last place you would see this type of thing happen. But I see it every week. Youth relishing the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, and passions with their peers, to write, create, and speak freely, and to snap their fingers in support and acceptance as they hear and connect with what others are going through.

I may not be a full-time classroom teacher, but I wouldn't trade my job as poet/public speaker/arts educator for the world. What I have learned about youth through listening to their poems are the fundamental things I believed about them when I felt the tug at my heart to be a teacher; young people are artistic, articulate, and altruistic. They are passionate, perceptive, and powerful. They are enthusiastic, empathetic, and engaging. They are artists, advocates, activists, and teachers just as much as they are students when given the chance to open up, speak, and share. Often they just need a way to express all of this and someone to throw them the ropes and listen when they take hold.

If you asked me years ago how to help students become all of the things listed above, I guarantee you I would not have answered poetry. Funny what happens when you try something new, ignore doubts or fears, and encourage young people to realize the power of their words.

For more about Holly’s work check out

A version of this piece originally appeared in the London Free Press on March 6, 2015 


East Coast Fashion: Amanda & Laura’s Story

       Amanda Kincaid

       Amanda Kincaid

Another fashion story -- this time from Halifax where fashionistas Amanda Kincaid and Laura Corkum have launched Nova Fashion Incubator!    Their goal?   To provide co-operative space, equipment, expertise, ideas, and inspiring support to emerging east coast fashion design talent!  

As Amanda and Laura told Bill Powers:

        Laura Corkum

        Laura Corkum

“…there is a ready market for an incubator in the region, with about 30 people graduating annually from programs like the Centre for Arts and Technology’s fashion design and merchandising program, Dalhousie University’s costume studies program, and the University of New Brunswick’s craft and textile program.

Learn more about the Nova Fashion Incubator here.

Stylerunner: Julie & Sali’s Fashion Story

Another entrepreneurial sibling story!  Australian twins Julie and Sali were looking for workout clothing with fashion and style – all in one online shop.    Finding nothing that fit the bill, they made some decisive career moves and launched Stylerunner!  Sylvia Pennington tells their inspiring fashion story!

“…It was a business opportunity that couldn’t be passed up, says Julie Stevanja, who was living in London at the time. She packed in her job with a film streaming technology start-up and hotfooted it home to Sydney to team up with sister Sali, a recruitment consultant, in getting the venture off the ground.”

For more about Julie and Sali, have a look here and here.

Tasha Cull: Proud Mom and Personal Support Worker

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Tasha Cull has been working as a Personal Support Worker (PSW) for nearly three years in the city of London, Ontario and the surrounding area. She travels every day to and from her clients’ homes to give them the help that they need in order to live as independently as possible. Tasha’s favourite part of the job is building the same type of relationship with her clients that friends would have: “I love taking the time to [get to] know my clients and build a sense of trust and [understanding] with them.”

Tasha was inspired to become a Personal Support Worker after she witnessed the care that a PSW provided to her great-grandmother when she was “going through her final stages of life.... She suffered from dementia and cancer....”

Tasha watched as the PSW’s care and compassion shone through, even when her great-grandmother “was at her worst”. Cull noticed that the Personal Support Worker always “remained composed”, which made a positive impression and  led Tasha onto this career path. “I knew I wanted to set out and be like her. I'll never be as good as she was, but I aim each day to be like her.”

Cull studied to become a Personal Support Worker at Westervelt College in London in 2011 and then graduated in 2012 with honours! She now has a family of her own with her husband, Allan. They became parents in 2014 to their son, Everick who is seen in Tasha’s photo. When asked if being a mom has influenced the way she works or if her job influenced her as a parent, she replied as follows.

“Oh yes! As a PSW, I learned a lot about caring for another person and I feel like being a mom has definitely changed how I treat others. It's most certainly helped me cope knowing I've done this before, just not with such a wee one. I've always cared about others in a compassionate and gentle way; but having a baby makes you so much more emotional to others’ feelings because a baby and most elders can't or won't tell you how they’re feeling. I can now relate to elders on a different level! It doesn't take a mind reader to know when someone's in pain but it's easy to hide it when someone is scared or unsure how you'll react when they tell you. Many elderly people will hide the pain because they don’t want to trouble you, or make you feel obligated to help. Being a mom, I've been more aware and able to see the signs more clearly when my little one is in pain or upset, because obviously a 3 month old can't tell you they can't poop or have an upset tummy.”

At the time this article was written, Cull was still on maternity leave, however, she said, “I can't wait to go back to work and share my stories and hear more about my clients’ memories of their little ones as well!”

Through working with others as a PSW, Tasha has learned that it is not always about the physical care she provides. She trusts that anyone who is looking to become a Personal Support Worker will also be emotionally supportive for their clients. It may seem obvious but being compassionate is a huge part of the job: 

“I hope they have patience and a lot of different experiences in life. You must have a strong heart and a sharp mind because you come across so many interesting people from all walks of life and you need to be kind to every one of them.... They all have their own story and a lot [of them are] heart breaking.” But all in all for Tasha Cull, “It's a very rewarding career!”

A Dream Job: Natalie Quinlan, News Anchor and News Room Supervisor

University of Guelph-Humber stories don’t end with graduation. The university revels in the success of their past students and was pleased to discover that Natalie Quinlan, a Media Studies graduate had landed her dream job on Canada’s west coast! This is Natalie Quinlan’s post-graduation success story.

Natalie graduated from the UofGH Media Studies program in 2013 with an area of emphasis in Public Relations. After graduation, she completed a post-graduate certificate in Broadcast Journalism - Television News at Fanshawe College. 

In November 2014, Natalie, 24, became the evening news anchor and news room supervisor for CJDC-TV, a division of Bell Media, located in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The evening news show reaches about 60,000 viewers.

Working for a local station, Natalie finds her role requires her to “wear a lot of hats.” As the evening news anchor, Natalie relays important local, national, and regional news to viewers. This is no small feat – working for a local station, Natalie has to do her own makeup and hair, mic herself up, follow her own cues, and roll her own teleprompter. As the news room supervisor, Natalie manages a team of four reporters and works on her own stories in preparation for the evening news. “It’s a huge time crunch during the day,” says Natalie. “Reporting and shooting and editing everything definitely take the most time.”

Making the six o’clock news show seem effortless requires a considerable amount of energy – and effort. “We’re working so many different roles that we have a ton of responsibility on our plates. So, that’s why it feels like the day feels flies by,” says Natalie. “We are the reporter, videographer, editor, news anchor.” This makes for an invaluable and, more importantly, fun, experience.  “It makes the day so much fun,” Natalie adds. “It gives me a really good appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes.”

Natalie credits much of her drive and inspiration to pursue a career in television broadcasting to her experience at UofGH. Natalie was one of the pioneering students who worked on the very first student-run Emerge Conference at UofGH.

A hands-on learner, Natalie values the Media Studies internship opportunity in her final semester. “I interned at Entertainment Tonight Canada in Toronto and that really opened up my eyes to the possibilities associated with broadcast journalism and the world of television,” explains Natalie. “I always knew I had a passion for it, but I was a little bit scared of pursuing the industry because I’d heard so many horror stories. “ But after the internship, Natalie’s mind was made up: “I knew that it was where I wanted to be.”

In the spring of 2014, Natalie applied to a job posting at a radio station in Alberta. “What scared me more than moving out [there] by myself was not having a job in something I graduated in,” admits Natalie. “That’s why I just jumped on the opportunity right away. I would definitely recommend people to search out for the opportunities instead of just kind of waiting for them to come to them. You really have to go where the opportunities are, sometimes. Sacrifice a little bit, and you might be home in a year. That’s really a blip on the large scale of life.”

It was the right move – without it, we couldn’t have penned this momentous chapter in her career.

With permission of the University of Guelph-Humber