Youville Centre Graduation 2022

Congratulations Class of 2021 graphic with photo of young mothers dressed in graduation gowns throwing caps in air

In the Spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, Youville Centre would like to acknowledge that the land on which we inspire, educate and nurture, is the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg People. On this land, on June 17, 2022, Youville Centre hosted their 34th graduation ceremony, along with M.F. McHugh Education Centre and St. Nicholas Adult High School.

While the current circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic are leading to less restrictions, this year’s graduation ceremony was once again held in a modified smaller scale from the pre-pandemic times, but it was still a very impactful ceremony. Graduates were able to invite a few guests to attend in person, and we were able to welcome our volunteer Board of Directors to experience graduation in person this year, along with some of our bursary donors and dignitaries. 

The ceremony was live streamed for our Child Development team to catch glimpses as they provided essential care for our graduates’ little ones; and this led to some special moments of children being thrilled to see their mothers on screen. 

ECE Emily Bowen pictured watching the graduation livestream with a graduates child; Katerina is pointing to her mom Angel on the stage

Once again we welcomed M.F. McHugh teacher Amanda Brown (former lead and math/science teacher at Youville Centre), as our Master of Ceremonies. Amanda introduced our many dignitaries, with a combination of virtual, quoted messages and in person inspiring messages of congratulations:

  • Honourable Mona Fortier, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa-Vanier; shared the following greetings; “Congratulations to all this year’s Youville Centre Graduating Class! You’ve all worked extremely hard, especially over the past two years, but you’ve made it. Certainly, this is a time you, your family and friends, can be proud and grateful for your hard work and dedication. The resilience and determination that brought you here is so immensely important and the skills you’ve acquired at Youville will surely serve you well in whatever you choose to do. Once again, congratulations to you all on this amazing accomplishment. I look forward to seeing the amazing things you will all accomplish in your future.”
  • Mayor Jim Watson, City of Ottawa; submitted a video greeting that can be viewed here 
  • Lucille Collard, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa-Vanier; spoke in person
  • Councilor Mathieu Fleury, Ward 12 – Rideau/Vanier; spoke in person
  • Cindy Simpson, OCSB Trustee, Youville Angel and former Executive Director of Youville Centre; was in attendance
  • Nicola Benton, OCSB Superintendent of Special Education and Student Services; spoke on behalf of the Ottawa Catholic School Board, and
  • Shailja Verma, Board President, spoke on behalf of the Youville Centre volunteer Board of Directors.
Collage of Speakers at 2022 Youville Centre Grad

Shailja concluded with these words “Collectively, so many people, including staff, learners, funders, donors, and the public, are involved in this journey. I want to thank you all. We are truly a village of movers and shakers! Thank you to everyone who has helped to build upon the legacy of that vision, which has led to today and to this incredible moment which will continue into tomorrow. Class of 2022 be proud; you have earned this. Go out and flourish, grow and experience new adventures. Congratulations!”

A message from Executive Director Bev MacKillop followed. Bev began by acknowledging the courage and personal growth our 2022 graduates have displayed despite the uncertainty lingering with the ongoing pandemic.  “You have developed confidence, you help each other in the face of adversity, you have learned to be humble in your encounters with each other and staff, you stand up for what is right, you forgive each other for mistakes and you have shown determination and resiliency. We have asked so much of you and you continued to exceed our expectations. By choosing to come to Youville Centre, you chose to continue your fabulous quest to be the best moms ever. We see evidence of the beautiful relationships you have with your children every day. You give us so much to be proud of you; you are all such fantastic mothers!!!”

Bev ended with a wish for our graduating class: “Our wish for you; Every great dream begins with a dreamer; You have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars… to change the world.” (Harriet Tubman)

Each year, we have an alumna of Youville Centre come back to speak to our graduates about their journey, and to share words of wisdom for the days and years ahead. This year, our speaker was Taylor Lalonde who graduated from Youville Centre in 2021. Taylor shared a special message to our graduating class.  “When I graduated, I was so scared to leave, but with the amazing help of the Child Development Program team, Intensive Treatment Support Program, counsellors and teachers, it made my transition to post-secondary less daunting. Overall, Youville really did help me figure out who I am, how to cope, and where I want to be. Everyone at the Centre played a huge part in this. To the graduating class of 2022…..I wish you all the best….

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”  Taylor Lalonde pictured above addressing the graduating class.

Finally, the 10 graduates in attendance (out of the 11 graduating this year) walked across the stage, one by one, to receive their diploma. Their teachers prepared personal anecdotes to share, and bursary awards were announced. Graduates were photographed with any bursary donors present or with the Centre’s Deputy Director, Peter Embleton.


M.F. McHugh Education Centre Principal's Award

Angel Hollywood was the proud recipient of the M.F. McHugh Education Centre Principal’s Award. The Principal’s Award is given to a student who has exemplified academic persistence, and a dedication to their own learning. Each and every day, Angel demonstrated the M.F. McHugh standards of growth mindset, pathway building, and project-based learning. She has successfully demonstrated how working hard and advocating for herself can lead to accomplishing her goals. Congratulations, Angel!

2022 Principal's Award Recipient Angel
Angel Hollywood, 2022 recipient of the MF McHugh Principal's Award, pictured with Principal Barb McInnes

Spirit of Youville Award

Paris Geuer was selected as the Spirit of Youville Class of 2022. Our Spirit of Youville student was chosen because she embodies the Youville “voice”. Over her time at Youville, Paris has demonstrated personal growth, leadership skills and academic perseverance while developing her parenting skills along the way.

Spirit of Youville 2022 Paris pictured with Bev and Heather
2022 Spirit of Youville recipient Paris Geuer, pictured with Executive Director Bev MacKillop on her left and St. Nick's teacher Heather Marshall on right.

 These were her parting words to her peers: “Continuing our education and attending Youville Centre was a choice.  We made that choice to build brighter futures for ourselves and our children. Our paths have been anything but normal, and that isn’t a bad thing. We are not your typical high school students. I think by acknowledging our differences we can truly appreciate how strong and capable we are not only as mothers but students too.  This is the time to look back on our hardships and struggles and recognize how far we have come. Many of us gave birth and had to learn how to become parents during the pandemic, while balancing school, work, mental health and just trying to figure out who we are as young women in this world. […] I’ve always been told it takes a village to raise a child.  For me, Youville has been that village. Thank you for being our family, and thank you for making Youville a home. Congratulations Graduates of 2022!” 

Alumnae and Second Generation Bursary Awards

Next, Alumnae and Second Generation Bursary Award recipients were presented. We were pleased to be able to award some of our recipients in person at the ceremony this year, as last year we were not able to invite them to attend. More information about Alumnae and Second Generation Bursaries, and our 2022 recipients, including photos, can be found on our Alumnae Bursary website page here:

Thank you, to every one of our bursary donors, and special thanks to those who have continued to provide bursaries for our graduates for multiple years. These donated bursaries make a huge impact on two generations, as our graduates pursue their post-secondary education and create a better life for themselves and their children. Of special note is the fact that this year, three bursaries were donated by two Youville Centre Alumnae; it is so amazing when clients circle back to help young mothers succeed!

Closing Remarks and Thank You's

We are grateful to our photographer, Tia McPherson (who is also a Youville Centre Alumna from the Class of ‘97!) for donating her professional skills to capture the special moments you see pictured from our graduation! Big thanks as well to Kristyn Perry, another former client, who donated her time and skills as a hairstylist for our graduates this year! 

As a special tribute, during closing remarks, Amanda shared; “As our graduates leave Kinsella Hall today, a special song will be playing  – “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now”. Gerry Larkin, a bursary donor who is here today, was a long serving Board Member between 1985-2005, and he recalled this song being played at one of the first Youville Centre graduations. We feel it is appropriate for this graduating class as well!”

Many thanks to our dedicated staff in the Child Development Program, Intensive Treatment Support Program, Support Staff and Teachers for supporting our clients through their journeys and for the extensive planning and effort involved in making this day a great success!

Front Cover of 2022 Youville Centre Graduation Program
Back Cover of Youville Centre graduation program with Bursaries and Thank you's listed
Graduation Cupcakes enjoyed at the outdoor reception following the 2022 Youville Centre Graduation

Congratulations Class of 2022!