The first valedictorian to represent Algonquin College’s journalism program, Madalyn Howitt, delivered her farewell speech to the graduates of the School of Media and Design at a virtual convocation ceremony in June.
“I never would have thought that third time around going to school I would get to be the valedictorian,” said Howitt.
Howitt had previously pursued a career teaching English abroad. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature through Trent University and completing a Master’s degree at Ryerson University, Howitt lived in Japan for three years teaching English as a second language. She returned to Canada at the end of 2019 to rest over the holidays with the intention of continuing to teach abroad, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to put her aspirations on hold.
In her speech, Howitt explained how the journalism program provided her with stability and a place of refuge. “A year ago, when it felt like my life was crumbling, Algonquin College was a safe haven. A place to weather the storm that was raging around the globe and make sense of the unravelling world around me.”
Howitt stressed that even without the additional challenges brought by the pandemic, any form of academic achievement is a major success.
“This has been an incredibly unique year, but getting through school, getting a degree, diploma, and even just taking classes at a post-secondary level, even if you don’t finish it, that’s always a big accomplishment in any year, not just this one.”
Julie McCann, program coordinator and Howitt’s biggest fan, was responsible for her nomination. McCann has no shortage of praise for Howitt’s accomplishments and attention to detail. “When you read her quotes and her stories, you can tell she is really listening to her interview sources,” said McCann. “It can be really hard to kind of steady yourself and just listen, and Madalyn can really do that. She’s a fantastic listener.”
In the spring, Howitt became the first Algonquin College student to receive a field placement opportunity at The Globe and Mail. Interning at The Globe and Mail helped cement Howitt’s faith in her new career path.
Howitt will be covering the 2022 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games for OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Although her current focus is to gain experience as a reporter, Howitt still has a passion for teaching and would eventually like to return to academia. She hopes to merge her past and present by educating through a journalistic lens, citing McCann as her greatest inspiration.
“It helps us learn about how we move through the world and how others move through the world, and maybe what we want to change about that,” said Howitt.
Howitt ended her speech by reminding the graduates of their strength. “Be brave, be kind, and remember your resilience in the face of a remarkable challenge.”