NC alumni shine with Premier’s Award nominations


Presented annually to six recipients, the Premier’s Awards for Ontario College Graduates celebrate the outstanding contributions college graduates make to Ontario and throughout the world. This year, 103 nominations were received from Ontario’s 24 colleges in six categories: Business, Creative Arts and Design, Community Services, Health Sciences, Technology and Recent Graduate. The nominees were celebrated and the winners announced at the Colleges Ontario annual conference in November in Toronto.  Niagara College was proud to nominate six distinguished alumni for these prestigious awards.

Jennifer Blakeley – Business

Human Resources Management 2004

Jennifer Blakeley is an award-winning entrepreneur with three successful businesses. Jennifer Blakeley Photography specializes in maternity and newborns, in spite of Blakeley’s vision loss in one eye. Sips & Suds features a Wi-Fi cafe within a laundromat. Alphabet Photography offers more than 1,000 photos of items resembling letters that make unique gifts. In 2010, Alphabet Photography generated more than $1 million. Blakeley received worldwide media attention for her innovative Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, and holds the YouTube record for most watched flash mob of all time with 33 million views. She graduated from Human Resources Management in 2004.

Cal Coons – Creative Arts & Design

Broadcasting-Radio, TV & Film 1984

As writer and producer of The Listener, Cal Coons continues to help raise the popularity of Canadian television. This writer, director and producer worked on The Republic of Doyle, Murdoch Mysteries, ReGenesis, and Blue Murder. Both international hits, Murdoch Mysteries received 25 Gemini nominations including Best Dramatic Series, while Blue Murder was nominated for 26 Gemini including Best Series and Best Writing in a Series. Coons co-wrote documentaries for Bravo and Discovery, one of which received a Gemini nomination for Best General/Human Interest Series. This self-proclaimed workaholic is a member of both the Writers and Directors Guilds of Canada.

John Osczypko – Community Services

Social Service Worker 1987

John Osczypko has focused his entire career on preventing homelessness. As executive director of Gateway Residential and Community Support Services, he oversees the building of housing projects providing safe and affordable shelter for individuals living with mental illness. Partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Gateway is now the largest provider of mental health housing in Niagara. Osczypko expanded his dedication to aid disadvantaged citizens and youth by founding the Housing Help Centre, and the Resource Association for Teens. He is a board member of Niagara Regional Housing and the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health.

Danny Kerr – Health Sciences

Ambulance and Emergency Care 1991, Advanced Care Paramedic 2007

Danny Kerr has always been devoted to the well-being of others. He graduated from Niagara College’s Ambulance and Emergency Care program in 1991, and the Advanced Care Paramedic program in 2007. As a paramedic and volunteer for Global Medic, Kerr saved lives by training medical personnel in Cambodia who work on demining teams. Kerr funds these missions 111% by organizing campaigns. After having a heart attack at 36, Kerr has been dedicated to fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In 2011, Kerr and his Niagara EMS Ride for Heart team raised $24,000 to bring automatic external defibrillators to Niagara.

Jerry Howell – Technology (2011 Winner)

Computer Engineering Technology 1988

Jerry Howell’s entrepreneurial spirit began at nine years old, selling pumpkins out of a wheelbarrow from the family farm. After graduation, he pioneered Howell’s Family Pumpkin Farm into an agri-tourism business from the ground up, promoting it as a Halloween destination with pumpkins and animatronics shows that draws thousands of locals and tourists. Combining farming with tourism and entertainment, Howell’s company, Chick-n-mation, uses state-of-the-art electronics and software to create and sell singing, talking and moving animatronics shows to farms worldwide. He received the International Amusement Parks Association Trade Show Award and the Premier’s Award for Agrifood Innovation Excellence.

David Pratt – Recent Graduate

Greenhouse Technician 2007

David Pratt is the Head Grower at Sundrop Farms, the first commercial greenhouse worldwide to use the sun’s energy to desalinate seawater, which produces freshwater for irrigation. He graduated from Niagara College Greenhouse Technician program in 2007. Being the first grower worldwide to use this innovative technology for commercial purposes, and to grow tomatoes in the Australian outback with seawater and no chemical pesticides is a highlight of his already successful career. In 2008, Pratt set a world record for the production of yellow bell peppers per square metre. Pratt mentors Niagara College students in the Greenhouse Technician program.

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