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Finding your place through volunteerism

Tessrah Baptiste knows a lot about adapting. When she was five, her parents packed up their family of six from their Scarborough home and returned to Trinidad & Tobago. This proved to be a tough transition.

“My accent was different, and I was the ‘rich’ Canadian kid,” says Tessrah. “Two years later, we were back in Canada.”

Back home, but still feeling like the “new girl,” Tessrah found a passion for drawing and began experimenting with her art using computer technology.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “I was pretending to make my own websites.”

At age 16, Tessrah applied to a performing arts school to develop her skills as an artist and designer. This was another difficult transition, as most of her classmates had started there much earlier. The entrance process was nerve-racking. Tessrah was put on the spot: “I was told to take off my shoe, put it in front of me, and draw it,” she remembers.

But she nailed it, and the experience was a great primer for when she discovered Seneca’s Graphic Design program. She was attracted to Seneca because of the field placement that would give her the hands-on experience of working with a design firm.

While Tessrah excelled at her studies, she felt something was still missing. She would attend class at Seneca@York, then head straight home. Tessrah wanted something more from her college experience.

“My cousin told me about the Seneca Student Federation,” says Tessrah. “It was great to work with students from different backgrounds, and I formed some lifelong friendships.”

Tessrah served as Coordinator of International Students and Coordinator of Clubs and Associations, arguably two of the SSF’s busier roles. Her proudest accomplishment was the overhaul of The Hive, the Seneca@York student pub. With a new stage, big screen TVs and pub-style seating The Hive has become the centre of activity on campus.

Tessrah’s hard work in the classroom and in the broader Seneca community, along with her outstanding GPA, were recognized with the Student Government Leadership Award.

Tessrah is open to all of the possibilities that may come after graduation: Maybe it will be an internship with a graphic design firm or some freelance work as a painter. No matter what new situation arises, she’ll adapt and excel.

“I am grateful for what I’ve gone through,” Tessrah says. “What matters most is learning from your experiences.”