Determined learners never done studying

Three Western students were among 10 learners from a variety of educational institutions and agencies who received Adult Learner Awards from the London Council for Adult Education May 25. A fourth Western student received the Society of Mature Students (SMS) Mentor of the Year Award presented by The Student Success Centre on April 4.


Colten Atkey

Colten Atkey played junior hockey in the United States for five years, while being homeschooled. His career on the ice showed promise until he received the devastating news, at age 20, that he had psoriatic arthritis. The pain of the ailment became too much for him to bear, and he was forced to retire from the sport shortly after being diagnosed.

Considering Atkey had been homeschooled, he had much to learn about formal academics when he came to Western. At the time he started, there had been an eight-year gap in his education. He struggled immensely for his first four years – he had never written an essay, never taken a multiple-choice test.

On top of this, the arthritis continued to flare up, even to the point where the inflammation was so bad, he could no longer write. He was taping the bottom of his feet every day to provide extra support to his arches.

Despite these challenges, Atkey kept a positive outlook, volunteering his time at numerous organizations, helping out at school functions and running the business operations for his grandmother’s family farm. Growing up with a single mother, Atkey was raised by his grandma and returns to the farm every summer to help. Atkey is an important role model for his younger sisters, 15 and 16. His 16-year-old sister even wrote an essay about him for her English class on how inspiring he was to her.

Atkey graduated in 2016 with a cross-disciplinary degree in social sciences. He then applied to Commercial Aviation Management and Geography specialization and has completed year two of the module. Last term, his average was 90 per cent.

Atkey was finally treated for his psoriatic arthritis last summer. He has since made the varsity fencing team, was named as a 2017 City of London Diversity and Inclusion Champion, and has secured two medical research positions for the upcoming summer. He has kept the goal of medicine in his sights for many years.

During the 2017-18 school year, Atkey will work in a research position with a cardiology clinic while he spends his year at The University of West Indies.

Devika Jayawardena

Devika Jayawardena’s academic journey is interwoven with her family’s journey.

Devika, along with her husband, Asanka, and then-2-year-old son, Chathushka, came to Canada from Sri Lanka motivated by better educational opportunities. Today, Jayawardena inspires her own children to study – two of whom want to become scientists, just like their mom.

After arriving in Canada, Jayawardena studied at a high school in Mississauga to upgrade her education. She had some of the highest marks in her classes and won a Trustee Award from the Peel District School Board in 2011. He daughter, Oneesha, was born during this time.

When she applied to university, Western’s offer of admission was among the first. Here, she discovered “a nice, quiet city with a bustling university which offered programs which aligned with her academic interests.” She followed her passion in science. After completing her third year, and while enrolled in a summer online course, her youngest, Ethushka, was born. In her fourth year, Jayawardena was on the Dean’s honors list.

Now completing her Masters of Science, Jayawardena started her days hours before the kids went to school and ended long after they went to bed.

Through her research, Devika overexpressed human metallothionein isoform 2a – or MT2a – in E. coli in large quantities. Elevated levels of MT can be seen in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Pick’s. Over expression of MT can be found in cancers such as thyroid cancer, uterine cervical squamous tumour, ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

Now, Jayawardena is anticipating an offer to start her PhD this fall.

Rozan Trad

Rozan Trad first came to Western Continuing Studies in 2014 to complete the Professional Certificate in Adult Education (now the Professional Certificate in Learning and Development). At the time, Trad had recently moved to London from Saudi Arabia with her two young children and husband, who was completing his medical residency at London Health Sciences Centre.

Trad is a dedicated lifelong learner, having completed both her BA in Japan and MBA in Saudi Arabia. Even though English is not her native language, Trad was determined to make the most of her time in Canada.  She began to look into courses to support her occupation and former career in human resources and learning and development.

Since completing her schooling, Trad has taken further courses in business analysis. More recently, she has been offered admission to the Master of Professional Education program at Western.

Trad looks to use her education to become a college/university instructor, or continue to improve her skills as a workplace training facilitator.


David Seston

David Seston was awarded the Society of Mature Students (SMS) Mentor of the Year Award at the annual Excellence in Leadership Awards, presented by The Student Success Centre, on April 4.

His nominator wrote: “David is an exceptional student across the board. His passion and commitment for mature students is so evident. David is the kind of student you want on your team; he jumps in as needed and his enthusiasm is contagious. The SMS Mentor program was introduced this last academic year, and David is excited to be the first mature student who has been given this award. The mentoring program allows first-year mature students to connect with peers from their faculty, and the SMS runs events and programming throughout the year to ease the transition for mature students.”