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UTSC graduate wants to pay it forward by giving back

UTSC recent graduate Cicely Burnett at her convocation ceremony. (Photo by Ken Jones)

When Cicely Burnett heard her name called during her recent convocation ceremony, a flood of different thoughts and emotions filled her mind as she reflected on the past ten years of her life.

“I mostly thought about all the fun times I had and the good friends I met while at UTSC,” she says. “I also remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here! The time has flown by.’”

Burnett, a Women’s Studies major who recently received her H.BA degree, was born with a visual impairment. This presented a series of challenges she had to overcome as an undergraduate, especially one taking courses with a heavy reading load.

“The biggest hurdle was probably time management because with my disability, it takes me longer to get through my readings compared to my classmates,” she says. 

In order to keep up her textbooks were converted to a CD format that could be read on her computer at home. She also recorded lectures to help her concentrate on the content instead of worrying about keeping up with her note-taking in class.  The ability to take classes part-time was also instrumental in her success, says Burnett.

Burnett says her professors, in particular Senior Lecturer Nancy Johnston at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and the team at AccessAbility Services, were instrumental in the support they provided throughout her years at UTSC. She also credits support from her mother and is proud to be the first person in her family with a university degree.

“My mom told me after the ceremony that she’s never been so proud as when she heard my name being called,” she says. “It was a very moving moment for us both.”

As for the future Burnett wants to continue her education while also pursuing a career as a life coach.  She is inspired to help others following her time as a volunteer at a retirement facility.

 “I’ve received so much support in my life, especially from my family, and I think I can transfer some of what I received into a fulfilling career.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough