Nova Scotia

Former university dropout becomes Mount Saint Vincent valedictorian

Megan Cook says she got "a lot of Cs and Ds" when she first went to university. That wasn't the case this time around.

Megan Cook left school in 2014 after her father died and her grades slipped

Megan Cook, right, was a Mount Saint Vincent University valedictorian earlier this month. (Mount Saint Vincent University)

A Halifax woman who dropped out of university after getting "a lot of Cs and Ds" says it's unreal she became a valedictorian.

Megan Cook, 28, was one of the valedictorians at Mount Saint Vincent University's recent fall convocation ceremonies. The bachelor of business administration graduate majored in business management and resumed her university studies in January 2020, almost six years after she left university.

For her, being valedictorian was a bittersweet experience. While she was thrilled with the honour, it brought back memories of why she left school in the first place.

Cook dropped out of New Brunswick's Mount Allison University after her dad died and her grades slipped. Her father, who was disabled and ill for many years, urged Cook to stay in school despite his failing health.

"It was kind of a bubble, you know. I was in a weird fog the whole time," she said of her first go at university.

Cook is shown in a 2017 photo from her time in Alberta, where she worked in the oil and gas business. (Megan Cook)

Cook said she encountered some stigmatization from people about her decision to drop out.

"They were like, 'Oh, you know, she will probably never finish her degree,' and that's OK. People are going to say that stuff," she said.

"But I guess for me, it really affected my confidence and, I guess, how capable I was."

After Cook dropped out, she moved to Alberta and worked as a dispatcher for a company that worked in the oil patch. While she enjoyed the work managing day-to-day operations and maintenance, she was frustrated she couldn't move up within the company.

With her confidence back, Cook was ready to go back to school. She moved home in late 2019 and started studying full time beginning in January 2020, while also working part-time as a supervisor at a Starbucks.

She took classes during the summer and maintained a 4.01 grade point average during her time at MSVU. She also received a $30,000 Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies to help support her business aspirations.

Studentgizor is planned for a September 2022 rollout. (Megan Cook)

Cook is the brain behind Studentgizor, an app targeting first-year university students, specifically those who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The app provides notifications to help keep students organized.

Cook said she has landed an investor for the app that is planned for launch in September 2022. She's also crowdfunding through GoFundMe for additional financial support and also works full time at Starbucks as a supervisor.

Prof impressed by Cook's 'grit'

Cook was nominated for valedictorian by her mentor at the university, Sandi Findlay-Thompson. Findlay-Thompson is the chair of the university's business and tourism department.

She called Cook inspiring.

"She's overcome a lot of challenges and she just keeps moving forward," she said. "And that's what we really need in the world, you know, we need people that have that grit, that resilience."

Cook said the message of her valedictory address was to believe in yourself, recognize you will make mistakes and blaze your own trail.

"It doesn't matter what age you are or what you come from or whatever, you can take years off of whatever and you re-centre yourself, you go to that goal and you can accomplish anything," said Cook.