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2016 Champion Veronika Simmons

Find your passion, recent grad advises

Graphic design career paths cover all ends of the creative spectrum.

That vast range of opportunity is what attracted Veronika Simmons to the field.

"The industry is so huge. You can design signs, logos, basically anything that has words on it."

Website Upload - Veronika SimmonsAfter working with an employment consultant at St. Leonard's Community Services in Dunnville, Veronika decided the Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design at Niagara College was her best bet to train for a bright career.

She was a 23-year-old single mother -- and high school graduate -- when she enrolled in the program.

"I hadn't been working," said Veronika. "I wanted to be able to raise my child. "Being a cashier or waitress is pretty much all I would have been able to do without a post-secondary education."

She graduated from the three-year program in 2014.

"Veronika is a positive example for others as she has demonstrated a commitment to improving her and her family's lives through education and training," said Betty Racine of St. Leonard's who nominated her as an Education WORKS Champion.

Returning to school with a one-year-old child was challenging but Veronika had plenty of supports, including her parents and friends. She also received OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) funding, Niagara College grants, the Niagara College Child Care Subsidy, and Niagara Region Housing and Social Assistance.

"It was tough, especially having a young child," said Veronika. "But the program was great."

She built a strong portfolio of her work, including logos, brochures and newsletters and was able to secure some contract work following graduation.

In October 2015 Veronika landed a job just a short drive from her home in Dunnville at Sticker-it Signs and Graphics.

"I wasn't optimistic about getting work in a small town," said Veronika, who is now married with two young children. "But I'm loving the choice I made. This is perfect for me."

Veronika is a strong advocate for post-secondary education, even if it comes a bit later in life.

"I would encourage young people who are struggling not to give up. Really feel out what you truly like and keep your options open. Education is definitely worthwhile even if you don't do it right after high school."