Making a Career Change for the Better

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Ashlyn Joyce works as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) in a Long-Term Care Facility, which is a job she loves because “it is never dull or boring”, especially since she primarily works in the “locked dementia unit”. There are a wide variety of behaviours that are exhibited by the residents and because they  are battling an unpredictable disease, they can also become unpredictable themselves. It is important to realize that they cannot help the way they are and it takes a special person like Ashlyn to take care of them.

Being a Registered Practical Nurse can be very rewarding, but also incredibly sad, so Ashlyn advises others to “laugh every day”.  Unfortunately, she acknowledges that “you'll have hard days when your favourite resident will pass away, but you need to be able to get through the hard times.... I find that laughing is one of the best ways to get through those rough times.”

One of Ashlyn’s most rewarding moments came when a resident told her that she was good at her job and that she “will go far in life”, thanks to her kind and caring nature. Ashlyn finds that by taking a few minutes out of her day to talk with her residents, it helps build a “therapeutic connection” while getting to know them “on a personal level”.

Throughout her academic career, Ashlyn realized that healthcare was her “destined field”, but not before she went down a different path in hopes of becoming a teacher. Initially her studies began at Brock University: “I started out gearing my life towards teaching math and French, but after I finished my first year of that, I knew it wasn't for me. So, on a whim... I signed up for the Personal Support Worker (PSW) course and loved it.” Ashlyn graduated as a PSW from Niagara College. She then took a year off to work and save enough money in order to continue her studies as an RPN at Fanshawe College and “hasn’t regretted a day since”.

When teaching didn’t work out as planned for Ashlyn, she feared that her parents may never speak to her again. She was very open with her parents about needing to make a change, and they knew how she felt: “...when I dropped out of university I was terrified my parents would disown me” she said. So, this fear motivated Ashlyn to come up with a back-up plan geared towards nursing in order to stay in school. “[I] ended up loving my decision to change programs” and, as she puts it, “you'll never know what you enjoy doing if you're living in fear of pleasing others.”

Ashlyn hopes that if others can relate to her situation, that they do what makes them happy in terms of living their own life. Today, she and her parents have a more positive relationship, now that they’ve seen Ashlyn pursue something that she loves: “They're proud of me” she remarked, “and [they] said I'm good at what I do and I obviously enjoy doing it. So as long as I'm happy, they are too.”

  Ashlyn made the most of attending various schools and encourages others to “take every opportunity they can to keep learning and expanding their knowledge base” wherever they are. She advised that “You never know what lies ahead, so keep asking questions and taking everything in, because one day it will all come to use.”

Although Ashlyn’s career path didn’t lead her to a classroom, her residents are much like students. They require the adequate attention and emotional support she provides: “It always keeps me on my toes because anything could happen” she explained. Whether the residents are going through a medical or emotional issue, she has to be there, “to assess them quickly and provide the necessary support to them.”

Also like many teachers, Ashlyn loves that she is able to make a difference in people’s lives, “no matter how small that difference is”. Every day, whether it is through helping others, getting to know someone, or taking the time to laugh, Ashlyn Joyce finds validation that she has made a career change for the better.

Lisa Charleyboy’s Fashion Mag Will Tackle Aboriginal Issues With Style

By Tiffany Hsieh

Photo by Sofie Kirk

Photo by Sofie Kirk

Lisa Charleyboy (BA ’10, York University) always felt like an outsider to her Tsilhqot’in community and reserve in Alexis Creek First Nation, B.C. What helped ground her while growing up in Abbotsford, a suburb of Vancouver, was her insatiable interest in fashion and magazines. At 10, she devoured Vogue magazine cover to cover. By Grade 10, she decided she would move to Toronto upon graduation to study fashion communication. But it was at York University that Charleyboy discovered her indigenous roots and her true passion, which paved the way for embracing her native culture through writing on fashion and all things lifestyle.

“At York, I was encouraged to explore my heritage through writing and assignments, to explore history and be more critical about aboriginal issues in Canada,” she says. “I was very engaged as a student and with the student paper. I really enjoyed my time at York. It was a fantastic experience.”

Charleyboy is now a writer, fashion blogger, social entrepreneur and actress. She graduated from York’s Professional Writing program after a stint in fashion communication studies at another university didn’t prove to be what she desired. While a student at York, Charleyboy wrote fashion columns for Indian Country Today, was a fashion editor at York’s Excalibur, an intern at Lush magazine and a weekly contributor at on beauty, fashion and lifestyle. She also started her popular blog Urban Native Girl as a way to engage in writing and social media, and connect with native peoples from across North America.

When Charleyboy was approached by York to work as an aboriginal recruitment officer upon graduation, “It felt way off path,” she recalls. “I wanted to go into fashion magazines.” However, after the University approached her a few times, she decided it was a good opportunity for her to engage aboriginal youth about pursuing postsecondary education at York and following their dreams.

“There’s a native belief that if you are being asked to do something three times, you have to really give it some careful thought and consideration,” she says. “I took the job. I got to travel and meet people. I was involved with the native community across Canada. The job changed my focus to indigenous issues.”

During her two years in the role, Charleyboy helped York build relationships with First Nations communities all across the country. Among her many accomplishments, she helped to bring renowned author and York alumnus Joseph Boyden to campus for a speakers’ series. Not only has Boyden been a mentor to Charleyboy ever since, but he’s contributed to an anthology about indigenous youth that she co-edited. The book, titled Dreaming in Indian, Contemporary Native American Voices, was published last fall by Annick Press.

“The job at York shifted my life and opened my eyes,” she says. “Had it not been for this experience, my magazine would be more fluffy.”

Urban Native Magazine, an online publication Charleyboy launched in 2013, bears a mission to be “the go-to destination for current articles on indigenous fashion, art, culture, entertainment, lifestyle, news and business.” Despite the stark reality of print media’s continuing decline, her magazine’s first quarterly print issue is scheduled for launch this winter.

“I want my magazine to inspire indigenous youth. I want to distribute the magazine in northern communities, where there is limited access to smartphones and computers and not a lot of magazines in this realm,” Charleyboy says. “One of the things I hope to explore is fashion through [photo] shoots for my magazine and to showcase aboriginal fashion designers.”

Aside from being one of Canada’s most popular bloggers, Charleyboy was selected as a 2013-14 DiverseCity Fellow, one of North America’s leading urban fellows programs for rising city builders. As part of the fellowship, she has worked on an aboriginal youth media training initiative in Toronto. In her free time, Charleyboy has also been working on a book about urban native millennials, writing a “native chick lit” novel about a young woman in a big city looking for love, and filming a 13-part television documentary series called Urban Native Girl, which follows her as she takes her blog and turns it into a native lifestyle magazine featuring aboriginal fashion. The documentary is scheduled to air on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in fall 2015.

“Fashion is always with me,” says Charleyboy, who recently moved to Vancouver to pursue a master’s degree in business administration. “Even though I never thought I’d be a writer, I have transformed my love for fashion through my love for my culture and writing. It’s been an incredible journey.”

This article appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of York U, the magazine of York University.  Reprinted with permission. 

Putting It All Together: Michelle’s Public Relations Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Michelle Praymayer is the Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant at Home Hardware Stores Limited for the head office in St. Jacobs, Ontario. With previous employment in the radio and television industries, and as a former student of both Conestoga and Fanshawe College, Michelle has used her promotional and media experiences to excel as a member of the Home Hardware team.

Michelle says that she loves “the variety” that her job brings: “Every day is unique and I get to be a part of so many neat things.” Along with variety, Michelle loves the atmosphere surrounding her workplace: “It’s a family business. It’s a small town environment and most people know each other and are very friendly.... It adds to the charm.”

 On a typical day,  Michelle can be found phoning store owners and customers, picking products to donate to fundraisers, answering emails, creating and editing press releases or newsletter articles, as well as creating product lists. On the not-so typical days, Michelle’s variety of tasks increases! For example, earlier this year, she organized the entertainment for Home Hardware Canada's national Dealer Market event, which included a circus act called, “The Aerial Angels” and she was chosen to coordinate the Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the Home Hardware distribution centre as well. In addition, Michelle has suited up as the mascot, “Handy the Helpful Hound” for Thanksgiving and Christmas parades. Through her work, she was also able to attend the 2014 International Plowing Match which took place in Alliston, ON. Michelle has even worked alongside the experts seen in the Home Hardware commercials, Mark Cullen and Anna Olson!

 Initially, Michelle wasn’t expecting to get the job: “My mom worked there first and brought home the posting. I applied in March... and didn’t get a call until end of May. They hired me in that interview.” Michelle began working at Home Hardware in June 2014 and credits her previous experiences, including volunteer work, for helping her acquire this position. “Say yes to every opportunity” says Praymayer. “Volunteer in the field or a related field early to gain the competitive edge and make you more appealing to the employer.”

 Michelle studied at Conestoga College in her hometown of Kitchener for a career in Broadcasting; This led to appearances on television and radio and many other opportunities. After one year, she changed directions and continued her education at Fanshawe College in London with the Music Industry Arts program. After graduating, Michelle took some time off and returned to Conestoga to become an Event Planner. Michelle says that she is still figuring out what to do with her life. However, she has been able to successfully apply aspects from all of her programs as a Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant for Home Hardware:

 “It’s really neat to see things from my past coming up” Praymayer explains. Michelle worked on entertainment contracts while in school, which is something she has to do at work when booking the entertainment for various events. “I created training videos here [and] I used previous knowledge from my writing skills [I] developed [as a writer for] SportsXpress magazines”. Michelle also had previous work experience in the food industry which has helped her to create menus for other special events. Although Michelle Praymayer may be unclear on what her future holds, it is certain that she will continue to excel at what she does, thanks to her hard work and determination, in whatever field she chooses.

Amy Haughton’s Love of Childcare

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador

Amy Haughton has always loved working with young children. Since Amy herself was a child in daycare, she loved to see the children around her grow and develop. She realized she wanted to work with children early on, from the strong and positive relationships with the younger infants at the daycare with her. That is why she attended St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, for Registered Early Childhood Education.  After working in the field for 15 months, she secured a job at Westport Child Care, in Westport, Ontario. As a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE), she works with children from the age of 12 months to school age. At Westport Child Care she is working with a focus on infants. The goals of an RECE are “assessing the children’s developmental needs and stages in all developmental domains. To design programming to address children’s identified needs, stages of development, and most importantly their interests, where children can be actively engaged. To provide an enriched, positive, safe and caring environment for play and activities that help children make developmental progress. Create a positive rapport with parents, children and coworkers and always report to the parents about their progress.”

Amy says the thing she loves most about the job is that she is making a difference in a child’s life. Whether it is teaching them something new or building a positive and lasting relationship with the parents and children. “Walking into work everyday and seeing that the children have been waiting for me, with their smiling faces, is so fulfilling.” She indulges that “this career can be very challenging and mentally draining, but there is so much that makes it worth it. Watching a child grow in developmental domains that they had previously been struggling with, or teaching a child something new that they are so proud to show there parents, makes the job so worthwhile.”

She explains that through her life, many people encouraged her to work in the career. Many peers and family members would tell her she wasn’t only good with children but also bonded with them quickly, making childcare something she should do for a career. The hardest decision for her was what career she wanted to go into whether it be Child and Youth Worker, or Early Childhood Educator.            

Amy’s advice for people figuring out what they want to do is: “if you really want to work with children, consider all the types of fields you can go into, whether it be working with early years or older school age children – child and youth worker, social worker, autism and behavioural science, and so on.  This career is very challenging, mentally draining, it has its ups and downs, but it is all completely worth it when there is such a great positive outcome. This career is a learning process, and it’s different and exciting every day.” 

The “Kid” Kept Dreaming: A Chef’s Story

By Jesse Baker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Windsor

Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur

Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur

Curtis Bell is one of those rare young people who decided what he wanted to do with his life shortly after it began. According to Bell, he knew he wanted to be a chef when he was about ten years old. He told his dad that he wanted to go to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) by age twelve, to which his father responded: “keep dreaming kid.”

He did.

Bell’s main source of inspiration came from a chef at The Trinity Grille, a restaurant Bell frequented with his father when he was young, “The chef’s name was Micah, he was there for a really long time and always talked to me about food” Bell recalled. “He also happened to attend the CIA. I think I was also very inspired by my father and his home cooking, as well as taking me out to some impressive restaurants. I was a sponge, and he helped foster my passion.”

Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur

Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur

Bell attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, a school many consider it to be the best culinary school in the country. “I agree with that,” Bell remembered fondly. After earning his associate’s degree Bell decided not to pursue a bachelor’s degree. “My reasoning was that much of the education within my industry is found in the field, not a classroom. During the two years that my peers spent chasing their bachelor’s, I worked my way up in the industry. I was in a well-respected management position by the time they were graduating and entering the field. I think I got the better end of the deal.”

Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur

Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur

Curtis Bell wasted no time. The morning after graduation, he drove out to Montauk, NY, where he had a job waiting for him. “I worked at The Surf Lodge, where I worked into becoming something of a Chef Tournant, which meant I was knowledgeable about all stations and held a decent amount of responsibility. After a summer there, I came back to Denver because I had another job waiting for me [as a personal chef] as long as they liked me. I did a stage, and was offered a job at the end of the night. I was really glad that opportunity panned out.”

As a personal chef for an affluent couple in Denver and an entrepreneur working to build different companies all related to food, Bell describes himself as “almost sickly passionate person when it comes to food”.  He’s constantly working to try new things and learn more about the science and art of food.  Becoming a personal chef was never as aspiration. “Coming up in the industry, it’s not a job one thinks of as a reality, more like a fantasy,” Bell said. The opportunity totally fell in his lap, “and I ran with it”.  He was only 21 then, didn’t feel necessarily qualified, but went for it anyway and got the job. According to Bell that opportunity has opened a lot of doors for him and he is incredibly grateful for it. 

Overall, Bell thinks his success boils down to a few things: Luck, passion/ambition, great social skills and networking abilities, and general technical skills. “The industry is aggressively competitive, so it is absolutely vital you work on being the best you can in all the previously stated categories”.  Future goals include a business that would continue to allow Bell to work in many different culinary facets. The current dream is to get paid to travel in some way, and do something that makes a difference in people’s lives for the better. Bell said he thinks he’s on the right track so far.

Q&A with Curtis Bell:

Would you have done anything differently?

“I could have gone back to Cape Cod to where I did my internship and learned more than at any other job I have ever had. I could have stayed in New York after graduating and worked my way up in that vicious arena of restaurants. I could have stayed working as the Sous Chef of La Tour in Vail. Considering where I am today though, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. No regrets”

Talk about your recent trip to Vietnam and Phocomentary!

“Vietnam. What a trip! I went out there with my great friend Freeman LaFleur and his other half Josie. We had a serious goal in mind: to find the roots and true story of pho, as well as its progression to what we know of the dish today. What we experienced was far more than we expected, and I am forever changed by our journey. The culture and environment of Vietnam is so mind blowing. The people are almost too nice, and the way of life there is impressive.

Chaotic as hell, but they make everything work somehow. I could explain the trip more, but you would be better off watching the  Phocumentary which is  the reason I went to Vietnam. Freeman LaFleur is a very creative entrepreneur and quite talented with a camera. He invited me to be the film’s food expert and help him to find the true story of one of the world’s favorite noodle soups. The motivation to chase the story stems from Freeman and I enjoying pho all the way back when we first could drive and get down to the Little Saigon district of Denver, where we first went crazy for the stuff. Having recently lived near L.A, home of the largest concentration Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam, Freeman ate lots of pho, and realized that no one had tried to figure out where the dish came from. The idea was born as a joke, but became more serious as he found the story to be much more complex than first thought. When he asked me to be a part of the project in January of 2015, I jumped on board immediately. In May, we did a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project. Although we were going to Vietnam whether it was a success or a failure, halfway through our trip in Vietnam, the campaign ended a success and our project was fully funded! … The film is now in the process of being put together. I am very happy with the story we found, and I think it will make for a great documentary.”

Talk about Rogue Food Works!

Rogue Food Works is a fun little venture in Denver that my talented friend Dan Gullickson pulled me into. He had an idea to have an underground dinner club where there is only one rule: that we have fun! We have a big party once a month for anywhere from 10 to 40 people. The party usually consists of a crazy meal that is 5-12 courses and quite intricate. We have used it as a platform to experiment and foster relationships with not only the guests, but also local farms and ranches. The whole thing evolves a bit every month, and has been a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Advice for an aspiring Chef?

“I would tell any aspiring chef to ask him/herself how passionate they are about food. This is a very hard industry and you have to commit your life to it. Try not to pick up bad habits, work with a purpose, and never stop learning. Any seasoned chef can tell immediately if you are worth your salt, so you better take extreme pride in what you are doing, or you will be chewed up and spit out.”

Curtis Bell is patiently waiting for the edited version of the Phocumentary, which should be available before the end of 2015. If successful this project could be a launching pad for Bell’s ultimate goal of being paid to travel AND create beautiful edibles around the world!