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|Established as Toronto's first public college in 1966, Centennial College offers programs in business, communications, community and health studies, science and engineering technology, general arts, hospitality and transportation.|
Good fortune had a hand in giving a very young Shannon Boodram her first camera, which in turn fueled her interest in visual arts and, eventually, journalism.
“My father had taken me to Woodbine racetrack and bet on a horse for me. It finished first and he gave me the winnings,” she recalls with a smile. “I spent the money on a camera.”
That little camera helped Boodram learn skills both as a photographer and as a keen observer of modern life. Warned that photography did not pay as a career prompted her to put down her camera and concentrate on another career path. She would pick it up again soon enough.
Born in Toronto of immigrant parents, Boodram, 22, was always encouraged to try new things, just as her parents had by choosing to settle in a new land. Her family lived in the Scarborough neighbourhood of Malvern and eventually moved to Pickering. Boodram attended high school at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School, where she earned a name for herself in track and field.
She also became adept as a writer and enjoyed practicing her craft. Track and field won out, however, and Boodram applied to Coppin State University in Baltimore, where she was accepted on a full track scholarship. She found the experience fun, but unsatisfying.
“I loved the time I had there, but I wanted to work on my writing. The emphasis on sports in American schools was too much,” she recalls. “They’re not well-rounded. I missed the balance I had at home.”
After a year in Baltimore, Boodram returned home to try a different tack. She applied to Centennial College’s journalism program, which was offered jointly with the University of Toronto at Scarborough Campus (UTSC).
“I started at the college’s East York campus for two years, then did my final year in Scarborough,” she says. She found the program ideal in that it focused on the things she wanted to learn.
“There’s an emphasis on writing in the program, and it also gives you a taste of different media, including broadcasting and even podcasting.” Boodram says she also enjoyed working on the Observer, a real newspaper students write, edit and distribute in the surrounding residential community.
At the same time, Boodram explored other avenues while she attended Centennial. She started to volunteer at Rogers’ Durham studios, where she learned to write for television, do standup reports and other tasks behind and in front of the camera. It was an invaluable opportunity to augment what she had learned at college.
All that extra time in the studio built up her confidence, so much so that she felt ready to audition for actual broadcasting jobs. After a couple of setbacks, she got called last fall when Rogers was looking for the host of a show called “High School Rush.” This time, she clinched the audition.
The 30-minute newsmagazine program profiles high schools, local celebrities and bands – anything that might be of interest to teenaged viewers. Boodram immediately put her fingerprints on it by bringing new ideas to the format.
“Whatever you want to do with a show, Rogers is receptive to making room for you,” she says of the experience. Community cable television allows the creative freedom that up and coming broadcasters appreciate as they cut their teeth on local productions.
In addition, Boodram was assigned to MTV’s Canadian headquarters on a college work placement, where she does background research on musicians, transcribes shows and does other “intern-type stuff.”
Beyond her broadcasting work, Boodram continues to hone her writing skills. She has written for several publications and websites, including CBC News, Urbanology and Peace magazines, the Pickering News-Advertiser and the Observer community papers.
As if that isn’t enough, Boodram has picked up her camera again and is doing a good business as a freelance photographer. She takes portraits, landscapes, events and more, providing her with a good income. A Mississauga condominium developer hired her to take artistic photos of the surrounding community. The stunning black-and-white prints were displayed in the developer’s model showroom, earning Boodram a lot of praise.
Despite her success, she still views herself as a writer first. “But being good at one discipline I think suggests you can be good at all of them,” Boodram says of her ease in moving from one medium to another. She makes it look easy, which can be misleading as she herself acknowledges.
“People think these jobs are glamorous, but they’re tiring and tough and draining. Who is left still standing at the end of the process gets the job,” Boodram observes.
Last month, she was featured on a segment on Citytv News about local heroes who are making a difference in their community. Boodram was chosen for her work coaching a girls’ basketball team in her old neighbhourhood of Malvern. It was another Centennial journalism graduate, Kris Reyes, who interviewed her for the story.
Boodram says the opportunities to get her name out there have more to do with hard work, rather than luck. “Build a name for yourself through a collection of experiences,” she advises others who wish to follow. And leave the good fortune to the horses.
For more information about Centennial College’s media programs, visit: www.centennialcollege.ca/thecentre.