David Parkinson: Grad returns to college to find career supporting other learners

In 2016, David Parkinson ‘19 lost the job he had held for nearly 13 years when Sobeys closed one of their distribution facilities. He not only lost his job, but his stability and vision for his future. He was given a year’s notice before the termination would come into effect, which made him realize he had a choice. He could apply elsewhere and continue to work a physically tolling job, or he could try his luck and go back to school. He decided to apply to the Educational Support program. Today, David is a learning support officer at Mohawk College City School. 

The path to get to City School was not easy.  

David had been out of school for nearly 25 years, and his English marks needed improvement, if he wanted to apply. He was introduced to Mohawk’s free Academic Upgrading program, which typically takes a full  year to complete. After receiving a conditional offer form Mohawk College, he knew he couldn’t wait that long and decided to buckle down and double-up on his coursework to finish early. 

On his first day in the Academic Upgrading program, David was nervous about going back to school and what to expect as a mature student. 

“When I got near the academic upgrading room, I froze. I was aware that I was standing in one spot for quite a long time. To snap myself out of it, I just walked into the room, and luckily, it was a beautiful experience.” 

One of the biggest challenges David faced while completing academic upgrading was learning how to use new technology. 

“I walked in there thinking that I knew everything,” David said. “I had that fixed mindset where it's like, ‘There's nothing anybody's going to teach me here, right? I've got life experience and you can't teach me nothing.’ That was until I needed to learn how to create a PDF.”

The decision to take another chance at school ended up being the best thing for him.

“I couldn't have had a better college experience this time around,” David said. “I’m really grateful for academic upgrading. I can never thank Mohawk College enough.” 

David’s experience volunteering for local elementary schools introduced him to the educational field. He was accepted to the Educational Support program at Mohawk, where he developed the skills to help students academically. He was able to complete his placement with City School, which helps community members access free post-secondary and employment courses. Along the way, he discovered how his journey could help other adults who might be facing a similar mid-life career change.

“My job is to essentially meet our students where they're at,” David said. “As long as our students want it, I'm always in their corner and I'm their biggest cheerleader.”

In his current position as learning support officer and instructor at City School, he has a purpose and a reason to show up every day, which he didn’t feel at his previous job. He acts as a leader and role model for students who need it most and uses his own story to show what can happen when you decide to take a leap.

By Katrina Rathie, Journalism student