A special gift at a special moment

June 22, 2022

A special gift at a special moment

On May 25 and 26, NorQuest College celebrated its first in-person convocation ceremonies in three years. It was a special moment where students, their families, college faculty, and the entire NorQuest community felt the energy and pride from thousands of grads.

For one NorQuest instructor, the event took on a special meaning when something unexpected happened – in a good way. Alexandru Caldararu, who founded and teaches in​ NorQuest’s Settlement Studies Diploma program, tells the story.

Convocation is always a bittersweet day for me. On the one hand, I love seeing so much unbridled joy from students who are celebrating their big accomplishments with their families, friends, and peers. On the other hand, it’s sad to say goodbye to a group of people you’ve grown accustomed to seeing week in and week out for two consecutive years. Even though goodbye doesn’t mean farewell, it is impossible to escape the reality that convocation represents the end of an era (and the dawn of a new one) for students and Faculty alike.

However, this year’s convocation was a bit different for my students and I​. This particular group of learners endured a full year online, followed by a second year of on-campus openings, closings, and re-openings due to the on-again, off-again nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, despite these challenges, the quality of their work was outstanding. In addition, the level of camaraderie I witnessed as an instructor was really inspiring! This really felt like a community of learners and future practitioners in the making. As a result, crossing the proverbial “finish line” this year really did feel like an amazing accomplishment for many reasons.

Following the convocation ceremony, I was invited to meet the graduates in the main lobby of the Winspear Centre. When I was able to locate them, I was amazed to learn they had a special ceremony planned – for me.

One of the normally less vocal students took me by the hand, and presented me with a series of gifts to show the appreciation the Settlement Studies Class of 2021-22 had for the time they spent in my classes. I was presented with a framed “Certificate of Appreciation” by the students, a portfolio of heartfelt comments from each individual student (many of which were in their native tongues), a special coffee mug for teachers and gift card to Indigo. After presentation of the gifts, the students all insisted on taking group photos with me holding the certificate they presented. It’s important to note that this was their graduation day, and they were all still dressed in their graduation caps and gowns at this time.

I have been very fortunate to work with some truly amazing people over the years, and have enjoyed the privilege of teaching countless students during my time at NorQuest. However, this thoughtful gesture is one of the most powerful expressions of gratitude that I have ever received in my career. While it is humbling to learn how much of an impact one individual can have on the lives of others, it is even more humbling to learn of the extent to which one’s efforts are appreciated. For that reason, I will always think fondly of what occurred during Convocation Day 2022 at NorQuest College!