High school, CEGEP, university. For many, that is considered the “traditional” educational path. In Quebec, we have alternatives for those who prefer to carve their own educational and career path. Dakota Brown started by following the traditional path. However, it didn’t take long for him to realize that he needed to do something different.
Dakota has done most of his education at the Lester B. Pearson School Board. After finishing high school, he followed the steps of many others and enrolled in CEGEP. His objective was to get into university. Three years into CEGEP he was swamped with writing essays, cramming for exams, lab work, and group projects. He was weary of the never-ending stream of work with no foreseeable payoff. He decided to try something different. As Dakota stated, “I wanted to use my hands, to do something more tangible, to learn skills that would serve me well both professionally and personally.”
A lifelong cooking enthusiast, it came as no surprise to family and friends when he enrolled in the Professional Cooking Program at the Pearson School of Culinary Arts, at the Pearson Adult Career Centre in LaSalle. This, as it turns out, was the right decision for him. Dakota learned the trade from some of the city’s top chef instructors. His final stage (internship) was in France at a Michelin-starred restaurant. After returning home from Europe, he worked for a renowned restaurant in Montreal. His new career gave him a great sense of fulfillment.
Sadly, like many others, things changed in early 2020 when the pandemic broke out. His time in the kitchen was unexpectedly cut short. Knowing that he wanted and needed to find something new to do, Dakota investigated what other vocational programs were offered by the school board. After researching his options, he decided to register for the General Building Maintenance program at the Verdun Adult & Career Centre.
Although very different from Professional Cooking, both programs share some features. Both programs prepare students to be successful in the industry and teach all-important soft skills. Teachers are passionate industry professionals who are knowledgeable and actively encourage and support students’ learning. Dakota is amazed by how much he’s learned in a short period of time. He will be graduating in May. Along the way, he’s made many new friends. He’s also realized that many adult students have faced hardship, even tragedy in their lives. He admires the resiliency and determination of his fellow students. Dakota is grateful to his teachers for recognizing students’ sometimes challenging journeys and their continued efforts to succeed.
His teachers’ passion and dedication have had a surprising effect on Dakota. He has been inspired to pursue a career in teaching! As Dakota said, “despite Covid-19 and the hurdles we may still encounter, let us continue waking up, showing up, and making mistakes (because that’s how we learn). There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going!” We know you’ll go far. Congratulations!