Mickeal Du Plessis, a 28-year-old public relations student and former janitor for the OCSB and Algonquin College. Photo credit: Alfred Carreon

AC Day 1 allows teachers and students to meet each other, place a face to a name and learn more about their chosen program and the college.

When it was Mikeal Du Plessis’ turn to stand and introduce himself to his future classmates, he shared something intimate about his past. “I used to clean and mop the floor of this very room,” he said.

The room fell silent.

When Du Plessis was in grade 10, he dropped out of high school to help take care of his mother. She has been diagnosed with diabetic blood clots and gangrene, which is an illness that causes the tissues in the body to die due to the lack of blood supply.

“I was there when he was going through that time,” said Melissa Smith, 27, his best friend of 14 years. “He was emotional and a little angry all the time, but for someone who was put in an unfortunate situation, he handled everything like a calmly.”

At first, Du Plessis worked a job at Tim Hortons.

He worked there for three years before deciding that enough was enough.

He then decided to take a janitorial job because one of his regulars told him that being a janitor paid a little more than serving coffee.

He knew that he had to be in constant motion, so he became a floater janitor. A floater janitor is a janitor that gets called to go to different schools whenever they are needed.

Du Plessis cleaned hallways and classrooms for seven years for different schools around the Ottawa Catholic School Board and Algonquin College, hoping to save money so he could go to school again.

“I wanted to make more money,” he said. “I needed a change in my life, and [I] had a death in my family. Felt like the right time to make a big change.”

When he gathered enough money for his schooling for the winter intake, he was unsure of the program to take, so he decided to attend the intake counselling sessions.

Getting the results back about being a good fit for public relations, Du Plessis was very surprised about it. “The more creative and spontaneous, the better you are would be at public relations,” he said when he heard the news.

But, when he first entered his class and met his professor, Bradley Moseley-Williams, he came to the realization that he loved the program.

“For other people to read about his story or even hear about it, they’ll think: ‘if he can do it, I can do it too,’” Moseley-Williams says about Du Plessis’ past.

Mosely-Williams has advice for students who are also struggling.

“If there’s an opportunity, grab it,” he said. “Use the resources that you have available to you and grab that opportunity.”