Helen Perez, Anthony Brough and Darren Bounds have all made their mark, albeit in widely different ways. Perez juggled job and family to earn a degree at age 52. For Brough, an accident changed the course of his academic life, while Bounds found rewards through his volunteer efforts.Keep learning, stay young
By Diane Luckow
Lifelong learning is a principle that Helene Perez (left) began practicing long before it became fashionable. She has credentials as a medical assistant and a court interpreter and worked at both of those jobs for several years before spending the last 14 years assisting people in crisis at an emergency after-hours office run by the ministry of children and families.
During nine of those years, Perez has been working toward a bachelor of arts degree, which she'll finally receive this month. “With my job, my son, my husband and my house, it did get challenging,” concedes Perez, 52. “The bottom line is, it was something I gave to myself, to do this.”
Despite being older than most of her fellow students, Perez was never intimidated by their youth. “School has kept me young,” she says. Academically I've always felt the same as the other students. We were all learning things we didn't know.” In fact, Perez, whose first language is French, did better than most - she will receive a book prize from the French consulate for having the highest grade point average in the graduating class.
Perez doesn't plan to stop learning now, either. She has already applied to do a master's degree in French and hopes to eventually teach French at the college or university level.
School of hard knocks
By Stuart Colcleugh
Some people need a gentle nudge to steer them down the right career path. But for Anthony Brough (right), who graduates from SFU this June with a bachelor of science degree, it took a good smack in the head.
In May 1999, Brough was a third-year kinesiology major driving home from school when he slammed into a construction divider, landing in hospital for a week with a concussion, a broken ankle and internal bleeding.
“I had to take a year off from school,” he recalls, “and it forced me to rethink my career plans.”
Brough began first year in 1994 as a mathematics wizard, garnering two entrance scholarships after graduating from Terry Fox high school in Port Coquitlam. But a detour into kinesiology led him away from his math talents and he became increasingly uneasy about the choice, despite several rewarding co-op terms.
The accident, says the Victoria native, was like a wake-up call: “I realized that math and dealing with people were my real strengths. And an advisor in first year had suggested that I could combine both with a career in actuarial science.”
Abandoning his previous major, he switched to actuarial science during the fall 2000 semester and “everything just clicked.” His marks zoomed from Bs to straight As as he completed the required course work in four semesters.
Next month, Brough starts work in Toronto with actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, using insurance and financial data to help predict future employee-benefits needs for its corporate clients. His wife Mandy, a fellow SFU graduate, will be working for Canada Customs at Pearson International airport.
“I've learned to enjoy the ride,” says Brough, “and not be afraid to choose a new road if I don't like the one I'm on.”
Volunteering a way of life
By Howard Fluxgold
Science graduate Darren Bounds (left) knows that there's more to life than counting genes. An honours student who is about to earn his BSc in molecular biology and biochemistry, Darren has made a point of broadening his interests beyond the realm of science.
At the end of July, Bounds is headed to Japan to teach English in the Japan exchange and teaching program. The program, administered by the Japanese government, is highly competitive and the prized positions pay a starting salary of $48,000 Canadian.
“I've lived in Vancouver for 23 years,” says the 23-year-old, “and although I've travelled a little in Europe and Asia, this is a great opportunity to get away from home, go to a different place and learn about another culture.”
Bounds was chosen partly on the strength of his volunteer work. He was a volunteer English teacher at a language exchange centre in Vancouver where, in return for his teaching, he received tutoring in Japanese.
Volunteering is a way of life for Bounds. He'll be on the Miracle Makers panel in June for the Children's Miracle Network telethon to raise money for the B.C Children's hospital.
He was also a volunteer for the Vancouver Board of Trade's Leaders of Tomorrow program and a member of the board of directors of the Greater Vancouver region chapter of the Canadian Liver Foundation.
“I like doing volunteer work because it supports good causes and you get to meet people from different backgrounds,” Bounds explains. “It's excellent for becoming a well-rounded person.”
At SFU, Bounds worked with Willie Davidson, Dean of Science, sequencing genes and creating a library of data as part of the federally funded Genomic Research on Atlantic Salmon project. The project aims to increase the viability of Atlantic salmon.
When he returns from Japan, Bounds plans to complete a MBA and work for a small biotech firm. “I think it is a good idea to diversify and have both a science and business background,” he says. “With the growth in the biotech sector, people with that combination of skills are in demand.”
In the meantime, he's brushing up on his Japanese and packing his bags.