Michael ‘Mikey’ Constantinou says his parents are always asking him why he keeps going back to Durham College.
“Durham College is my support group!”
He was born with Williams Syndrome, which can have many setbacks, but he doesn’t focus on the negative.
He says the syndrome is referred to by some as the ‘cocktail’ or ‘party’ syndrome, since a common characteristic is a personality that includes being positive, highly sociable and friendly.
Williams Syndrome is a genetic condition which is also characterized by learning disabilities, developmental delays and cardiovascular disease. But Constantinou says he doesn’t let any of those challenges get in the way of what he loves doing on campus.
At the beginning of 2010, Constantinou joined the college’s two-year Community Integration through Cooperative Education program (CICE), a program that includes a number of core courses such as interpersonal communication, job skills, self-advocacy, self-awareness and computer skills.
He says in the beginning he was nervous about the size of the school and finding his classrooms but he settled in quickly.
Constantinou graduated from the CICE program in 2012, and through the program’s co-op placement, he was able to practice his passion for cooking at Milos Greek Restaurant in Pickering.
Even once his placement ended, he still went back to volunteer making garlic bread, stir-fries and soups. However, he’s not there during the pandemic.
Constantinou burst into excitement while talking about the equipment he used while in some of the culinary classes at the college.
“When I took culinary arts, I was great in the kitchen,” he says.
He describes the sizes of the pots in the kitchen and says being in there makes him feel “like a little kid in a toy store.”
Constantinou is well-known and cherished within the college and university community.
“I saw the president of the college. I showed him my medals and he asked me if I was looking for a job and I said ‘yes’. Then, I asked if I could work with the athletics department,” he says.
Constantinou has won two bronze medals, two silver medals and one gold medal in track and field.
Since his graduation, Constantinou has stayed involved with the school by volunteering and taking part in the sports department. He works part-time as a game day assistant.
Athletic director Ken Babcock says Constantinou works at every Durham Lords home event, such as basketball and volleyball games.
Constantinou helps makes sure everything is set up before the games. Then during the game he interacts with the fans and he helps the clean-up crew afterwards.
“I love my job so much,” he says. “I make the crowds go wild.”
Babcock describes Constantinou’s personality and presence as positive, polite and helpful.
“He’s really outgoing and kind. He’s very open and has a great ability to talk to fans,” he says.
Babcock says Constantinou makes things easier and helps make sure things are done on time. He is reliable and loves being a part of the varsity programs and helping the teams with their success.
Constantinou says he comes to the college even when he doesn’t have to be at school.
“I don’t want to be stuck at home all day,” he says. “I’d rather be around people who are caring, supportive and loving.”
Constantinou says his favourite thing to do on campus is to “make new friends and see where it leads me to.”