Youville Alumnae Inspire Current Students at Mentorship Lunch & Learn

May 27th, 2014

Lunch & Learn Alumnae 002

Pictured here with our students are: (second from left) Marina Stipanac, Mentorship Program Volunteer, and (centre, L to R)  Penny Carkner and Darlene Villeneuve, Youville Centre alumnae.

April’s Lunch & Learn event brought two former Youville graduates back to the centre to speak to our students. Organized by Mentorship Program Volunteer Marina Stipanac, the lunch was a great success and a chance for current students to connect with alumnae, and to be inspired by their stories.

First to speak was Penny Carkner, who currently works as a Retail Manager at Rexall. Having graduated in 1990, Penny was in the second graduating class in Youville’s history, and she told our current students that the first graduating class inspired her: “That set in motion the dreams I had to move forward”, she said. After Youville Centre, she went on to college, and started working at Wal-Mart. She moved up to Assistant Manager there and with this promotion she was able to travel for work. Penny worked at Wal-Mart for 13 years and thoroughly enjoyed her time there. “Don’t overlook retail as a career”, she told the students. “There are opportunities for management, merchandising and other corporate roles.” Now at Rexall, Penny loves her job  and she loves her customers. She is a homeowner, and is married with another child. Her son who attended Youville Centre as a child, won our Second Generation Bursary in 2009, and is now a licensed mechanic working for OCTranspo. Penny admitted that she has had her ups and downs, but that she feels confident that she’s doing well.

Penny shared some sage advice for Youville’s current young moms:

  • “Look for the opportunities that are out there for you!”
  • “I can and I can’t. Very powerful words. — That’s your choice. Don’t let people think that you are not good enough.”
  • “Look for the good within yourself because it’s there.”
  • “Be proud of who you are today because the person you are today will influence who you become tomorrow.”

Next to share her story with Youville’s young moms was Darlene Villeneuve, a Youville Centre graduate from the Class of 1993, and currently an Educational Assistant with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Darlene was at Youville Centre for two years and some of her fondest memories involve learning to cook and helping in the kitchen. She thanks Youville Centre for setting her upon a positive path towards her dreams: “Thank God for Youville”, she said.

After Youville, Darlene admits that she had to work hard, and she had some challenges along the way, but she never gave up, and she echoed that advice to our students: “Even if the doors keep shutting on you, don’t give up”, she urged our young moms. “I never gave up because I always had a dream to work for the school board, ever since I did a placement there at the age of 16.”

Darlene set upon the path to achieve her dream, and along the way she attended college, volunteered with children, studied graphic arts and computer technology. It was her aptitude with computers that got her in the door at the school board.

Today Darlene has 3 children. One of her sons lives in Whistler, the other is a stand up comedian here in Ottawa, and she also has a 9 year old at home. Her two older sons both recieved our Second Generation Bursaries in 2007 and 2011. Darlene has been working with the Ottawa Catholic School Board for six years now and she couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments: “I’m just so happy to be finally where I dreamed to be.”

It was a wonderful chance for Youville students past and present to connect at this Lunch & Learn. If you are a Youville Centre graduate and you’d like to become involved with Youville Centre again in some way, please contact us at or (613) 231-5150 Ext. 128. We’d love to hear from you!