Besides spotlighting students who meet mentors through Student Links, People You Should Know features people in the community who have interesting stories to share. In this edition we will be getting to know polymath Nicole Flynn. A polymath is someone who is knowledgeable about a number of subjects.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a photographer, conservationist, writer, business owner, public speaker, college student, philosopher and activist. I’m also a paid consultant for People Minded Business. I live in Centre Hastings.
You have some beautiful wildlife shots and those are not easy to get. How did you get them?
Patience, and being in the moment. I remember waiting for this shot of water as it dripped from my brother’s paddle. I like to absorb nature, and sometimes it takes hours to get the shot. Some wildlife, like the fox, is drawn to me. I am passionate about the messages of conservation in the photos. I am an activist for nature, as well as for people who have disabilities.
You are a recent graduate of Loyalist College. Can you tell us about your academic journey?
I dropped out of high school and completed the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Then I learned about adult education and was accepted. I achieved my Ontario Secondary School Graduation Diploma and was the valedictorian. I was inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes. His poem “I, Too” inspired me to go to college. I took college with everyone else, not the CICE [Community Integration through Co-operative Education] program! I got into Loyalist College and took social justice studies in the first year but moved to general arts and science in my second year. I learned about intersectionality and marginalization, which really opened my eyes and gave me the big picture. I enjoyed ethics – I love Socrates and debating. I am submitting a paper I wrote on ethics for publication. An academic friend of mine has suggested different places for possible publication.
Tell us about your role as a political activist.
I presented a speech to the mayor and was eventually asked if I wanted to meet Justin Trudeau. I said, “hell yeah!” Presently, I am the VP of the Council of Community Living Ontario and I sit on the Freedom from Harm Committee and the Engagement Committee. People who have an intellectual disability need better income, better housing, better education, and better employment opportunities.
In an article you wrote called “Changing our instincts, beliefs and actions”, you recommend the following in order to become more inclusive:
Become a friend, or a good neighbour, to a person who has an intellectual disability. Include your new friend in your book club, or Bible study, or bowling night. Try new things together. This will increase their awareness of someone who has an intellectual or developmental disability as a person. This will also begin to change the genetic code in the brain towards one of inclusion.
Why is this important?
It’s important that you get to know people, like me, who have lived experience. Give us a chance to try. The most important thing is that people with intellectual disabilities get to define their own path.
You have experienced exclusion and you have still managed to persevere and succeed in a number of disciplines. How do you do it?
I had good role models starting with my parents. In my life, I have focused on independence, learning and believing in myself. Life is not a straight line. There will be ups and downs, and obstacles, but you have to see beyond the obstacles. I like this quote by Bruce Lee: “Using no way as way; having no limitation as limitation.”