An Authentic Pathway to Success

June 25, 2024

An Authentic Pathway to Success

For many people, failing once is enough to convince them to quit, but for a resilient few, failure presents an opportunity to try a different approach. That was the case for Aiden Wadden-Lynk.

In 2018 Aiden moved to Alberta to attend NorQuest College while also beginning his medical transition from female to male. At the time, Aiden was not only struggling with managing the mental health impacts of his transition but also trying to juggle school, which he said has been something he’s always found to be difficult.

Despite his efforts, Aiden faced failure.

“I had always struggled with learning, so when I arrived at NorQuest I connected with academic supports and was put on a waitlist for free ADHD testing,” he said. “Fast forward to December 2018 I had failed all but one course.”

At that time, Aiden was informed by the college that he needed to take at least two semesters off before he would be eligible to re-attempt his diploma. This is the point where many people would choose to quit. But not Aiden.

“Instead of two semesters…I took three years off.

In February 2021, after subsidizing his own ADHD assessment, Aiden decided to try again. He applied in February, and a year later following an interview he found out he had been accepted.

“At that time, I explained my struggles with learning and ADHD and how much my transition had impacted my mental health.”

Despite his determination to succeed, returning to the place where he had failed once before was intimidating.

“In August 2022, I walked into my first class feeling terrified, alone, and unsupported… but that first day changed my life.”

Aiden says everything changed after meeting his microeconomics instructor, Daisy Loh. Aiden said Loh saw his desire to learn and inspired him in a way no teacher has done before.

“Daisy, along with quite a few of the other instructors I’ve had over the past two years have inspired me and supported me every step of the way,” he said.

With a new understanding of his neurodiversity, new confidence in his own skin, and a new support system, Aiden found success.

It was at this point, after Aiden was celebrated for being part of a group of business students who brought home multiple awards at a case competition, did he meet Norma Schneider, NorQuest’s Vice President of Academic.

“Aiden’s comment about how meaningful it was for him to participate in the competition, and how grateful he was to be a NorQuest student piqued my interest,” said Schneider. “I wanted to hear his story.”

It wasn’t long after that Aiden shared his experience with her.

“I remember exactly where I was when I opened that email,” she said. “As I read it, I felt tears running down my cheeks.”

In his email, Aiden had included photos of his first set of transcripts which showed his failing grades, and then photos of his final grades which were all A’s and B’s. The final photo he included was of his conditional acceptance to the Master of Business Administration Program in the Community Economic development program.

“I was, and am still in awe,” said Schneider. “What courage to rise from having a failing semester to try again, what determination to work with a learning disability and achieve such academic success, what strength to be him to be his authentic self and carve a pathway for his future. Aiden is an inspiration.”

Aiden crossed the stage at his NorQuest convocation at the end of May, and is excited to soon start his master’s program, following in Daisy Loh’s footsteps.

“It is thanks to those instructors that I have found my path.”