Philippe Lafon

Philippe Lafon

From pro wrestler to NorQuest social worker grad

If you didn’t know Phil Lafon personally you could assume this former WWF wrestler was made of stone and concrete. But Lafon is living proof that image should not be used to judge character.

In May of 2014, at 52 years of age, Lafon – the former tag team specialist with the Can-Am Express – crossed the stage of the Winspear Centre to accept his social work diploma. He arrived at this point of his life with the help of two years of Academic Upgrading classes at the college previous to joining the Social Work program.

The life-changing milestone of becoming a social worker highlighted a markedly incredible transformation, but not simply from macho man to supporter of some of our society’s most vulnerable.  No, Lafon discovered himself at NorQuest, some 30 years after he struggled just to finish high school.

“I always had difficulties in school even as a young man. Even though I put as much effort in as any other student, my work was never the same quality,” he says. “I never knew why. When I came back for the second semester of the Social Work program I was about to quit because I was having such difficulty, but (academic strategist) Iona Thomas came up to me and asked if I had ever been diagnosed with a learning disability. I didn’t have a clue what she meant but I went in and was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).”

The result of the diagnosis put him on a path to where he didn’t have to be frightened of upcoming tests or in-class presentations.

“Being diagnosed with ADHD was one of the most beneficial things to ever happen to me. It enlightened my life because now I knew why I struggled. It made sense to me. And with the helping hand of people like Iona, and the social work program at NorQuest catering to my needs, I was helped so much.”

So where does Lafon go from here? He facilitates an ADHD support group – using his social work training and personal experience with the disability to help others realize their untapped potential – and he still coaches wrestling, helping youngsters stay active and healthy. But his professional social work career is beginning with a focus on the other end of the age scale.

“An instructor told me to go outside of my comfort zone so I decided to work with seniors (for his final practicum),” he says.” I was really nervous and even tried to talk myself out of it, but I believed in the instructor because he was so good to me, and it has been one of the wealthiest experiences I have ever had.”