Nicole Mccormick

I am a journalism student at Algonquin College and current Assistant Managing Editor of the Algonquin Times newspaper. This is a portfolio of my work published in the Algonquin Times , both print and online.

Adderall for ADD, not for fun

Recreational use of Adderall has become a serious problem among students who use it to stay up late instead of drinking a Red Bull. It doesn’t help that there is currently a lack of education regarding the consequences of taking a drug with amphetamines without having Attention Deficit Disorder. This needs to change. One of the main perpetrators of the issue is ignorance. A lot of people think that having ADD means you’re hyperactive and scatter-brained. But it’s actually a disorder that occurs when certain brain chemicals cannot function properly resulting in the inability to focus and complete everyday tasks. I was diagnosed with ADD 13 years ago and have been on medication ever since. Most people would never guess that I have it because I am quiet and focused. But I rely on Adderall to function properly and would not be where I am today without it. A quick Google search about Adderall abuse will garner tons of results and lead you to different studies carried out on students. But there is one problem. These studies are all American. There is very little conclusive information available linking Canadian students and recreational use of Adderall. But that’s not to say the issue doesn’t exist. A study carried out on 2,000 University of British Columbia undergrads in 2014 revealed that one in 30 students have used Adderall and other stimulants that treat ADD without a prescription. Those numbers come from just one of Canada’s 98 universities, but everyone knows that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. According to Statistics Canada, 1.3 million students enrolled in Canadian universities and 747,576 in colleges during the 2013/2014 school year. If the UBC study’s findings were applied to the entire Canadian student population, then theoretically there would be over 500,000 young Canadian Adderall abusers and we would have a serious problem on our hands. If nation-wide studies were to be carried out, I can guarantee that people would start talking about this. In fact, I would bet money on it.

Algonquin takes down rape culture

Sexual violence is a serious issue that women face every day, but male victims and female perpetrators are often excluded from the discussion. Laci Green and Julie Lalonde spoke out against this stigma and brought men into the picture as they tackled the subject of rape culture at Algonquin’s Consent Fest on Feb. 2-3. Green, an internet sex educator with nearly 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube, hosted the first day of the event and gave an hour long presentation to over 70 students who had registered. Following along with Algonquin’s sexual assault initiative, Green clearly set out what constitutes consent and explained the effects of rape culture in North America. “Sex is something that happens together,” said Green. “Sex is never something that happens to someone. Sexual assault happens to someone.” According to Green, trivialization is one of the driving forces behind rape culture. “Instead of being seen as a serious social problem, it’s seen as an accepted part of life,” she said. “My favourite trivializers are American politicians. God bless America y’all.” She went on to emphasize that trivialization and gender roles have also created created a stigma of male victims coming forward. “We render men as essentially un-rapeable,” said Green. “This isn’t just about women.” She also encouraged the audience to use their own voices and become active participants in the initiative through internet activism. The second day of Consent Fest hosted Governor General Award winning activist, Julie Lalonde. She blanketed Green’s sentiments and defined the role of a positive bystander during the Bystander Intervention and Safe Partying workshop. The workshop is a part of Lalonde’s organization, Draw the Line, which she developed in 2012. Even though it had a smaller turnout than day one, the workshop still had a big impact on the police foundation students in attendance. According to Rob Mulley and Matt St. John, both police foundation students, the group was attending the workshop as a part of their criminology course. “We were learning about victimology in our course and our teacher thought it would be a good idea to bring us here,” said Mulley. Their instructor, Lisa Gerrard, is optimistic that the workshop will be a valuable tool for her students. “I’m hopeful it will make them more knowledgeable first responders,” said Gerrard. Like Green, Lalonde touched on rape culture, but the main focus of her presentation was the importance of bystander intervention. According to Lalonde, the presence of other people often hinders intervention. “Nobody wants to be a cock block,” said Lalonde. “The things people will do to avoid an awkward situation is fascinating to me.” Lalonde also made reference to the Canadian Criminal Code and described its definition of consent as “super chill.” “You can do this and still have the best time,” said Lalonde. “People think that if you did what the feminists wanted you to do, you’d never have a good time.” She also emphasized that the point of this initiative was not to single out men as perpetrators. “One in three women being assaulted does not mean one in three men are perpetrators,” she said. “I don’t hate men. Straight up!” Although Green and Lalonde had different focuses with their presentations, both agreed that society needs to put an end to victim blaming. “Let’s take down rape culture y’all,” urged Green.

One woman at a time

Looking at it from the outside, it’s just an ordinary home and the only feature that sets it apart from the rest of the block is an electric blue Volkswagen Beetle parked in the driveway. But inside is the office of Shari Graydon, where the work carried out on behalf of her non-profit organization Informed Opinions is nothing short of extraordinary. Throughout the past 35 years, Graydon has been labeled a journalist, catalyst, producer, press secretary, author and Governor General’s Award recipient. But these days she has a different label for herself. “I consider myself more of an activist,” said Graydon as she sits cross legged on her living room couch with the fire place roaring in the background. Although she is passionate about many issues, Graydon focusses most of her energy on advocating the importance of fair and equal representation of women in the media. “The continued failure of all societies to treat women equitably, to benefit fully from their insights, talents and contributions is profoundly unjust and a colossal waste of potential,” said Graydon. “The future of our planet depends on changing that.” And that is exactly what she is doing. Graydon uses her non-profit organization, Informed Opinions, as a platform to encourage women to get involved in media by means of providing expert opinions or writing commentaries. She achieves this by hosting workshops, giving presentations and providing ongoing support and advice. Since its formation in 2010, hundreds of op-eds have been published in major publications by the organization’s workshop grads. Sarah Neville is an educator, a speaker, writer and the founder and principal of the Toronto based company, Open Line, which specializes in the development of communication skills. Neville has known Graydon for ten years and not only attended one of the Informed Opinions’ workshops but also went on to publish op-eds and collaborate with Graydon on her own Leadership Presence for Women workshop. “We are like minded and I love bouncing ideas around with her. She’s smart, funny and insightful, and loves ideas,” said Neville. “Getting women to speak up, especially in the media, is absolutely essential. Shari is a powerful example.” Naila Keleta-Mae, a drama professor at the University of Waterloo is another prime example of one of Informed Opinions many success stories. Keleta-Mae received a fair amount of attention in July of 2015 when she published an op-ed in the Huffington Post titled “Why I’m Teaching a University Course on Beyoncé” after attending one of the organizations’ workshops. “I received more interview requests from prominent media outlets after my op-ed was published,” said Keleta-Mae. “Shari Graydon offered to review the op-eds of any of the participants if we ever wanted that support in the future. She also said that when women with expertise write opinion pieces it is both an act of civic engagement and a fulfillment of a responsibility to share our expertise with wider communities.” It’s reasonable to say that this line of work is Graydon’s true calling. But oddly enough, this wasn’t her original plan. Growing up, she had artistic aspirations and intended on pursuing a career in visual arts until a brush with sexism derailed her plans. “Until the age of 16, I was intent on being a visual artist,” said Graydon. “But my grade 10 art teacher assigned a different project to the girls and boys and when I handed in the much more creatively challenging boys’ assignment instead and she wouldn’t even look at it, I switched to theatre.” She went on to study theatre at the University of British Columbia with the intention of pursuing a career in acting. “As a child, I liked to tell jokes and stories at the dinner table and what I loved about studying theatre in university was the energy exchange that you get from a live audience,” explained Graydon. She graduated from UBC with her degree in theatre but found herself feeling lost upon the realization that the majority of interesting theatre roles were written for men. “I knew I didn’t have the necessary drive to pursue acting as a career, to be auditioning for work all the time, judged as much on the basis of your physical appearance as your talent,” said Graydon. She went on to spend a year post-grad working at Budget Rent-A-Car before backpacking through Europe for six months. She then worked as shiatsu therapist for three years before going to work at an international public relations agency. Then in 1991, Graydon decided to pursue a master’s degree at Simon Fraser University. “It wasn’t until I returned to school to do graduate work in communications and was first exposed to a feminist analysis of media that I really landed in a place that felt like my true path,” she said. “Since then, I have worked deliberately to raise people’s awareness and understanding of the social impacts of media, advertising, pop culture, news, particularly as they shape and and influence how women are seen and treated.” Graydon went on to work in public relations, as a newspaper columnist, press secretary for the premier of British Columbia, TV producer, and CBC commentator amongst other things before leaving British Columbia in 2002. She relocated to Ottawa with David Mitchell, her partner of 25 years, when he was offered the position of vice president of the University of Ottawa. Graydon credits Mitchell with being one of her biggest influencers. “I’ve been inspired by many women, from my strong, independently minded mother to feminist activist Gloria Steinem,” said Graydon. “But on a day-to-day basis, my life partner has exerted the most significant influence. He has repeatedly encouraged me to expand my horizons and step out of my comfort zone, supporting me in every way imaginable.” Graydon would then go on to publish three books while continuing her advocacy work in Ottawa. Her first book, Made You Look, was published in 2003 and was followed by In Your Face: The Culture and Beauty of You in 2004. She subsequently edited and released a compilation of essays entitled I Feel Great About My Hands: And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging in 2011. In 2007, Graydon was awarded the Governor Generals Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case for her advocacy work. She then founded Informed Opinions three years later. The organization stems from Media Watch (formerly Media Action), a non profit organization that Graydon was the president of from 1991-2000. The current president of Media Watch, Amanda Parriag, first connected with Graydon in 2004. She was deeply impacted by their meeting and still considers Graydon to be one of her biggest inspirations. “I felt struck by what she said,” said Parriag. “Shari is a change maker. She is one of the few people who can dream something incredible and actually make it happen.” According to Graydon, her passion for feminist issues along with a series of personal experiences with sexism are the driving forces behind the organization. “The impetus for Informed Opinions wasn’t one single event, but rather 20 years of accumulated experience and observation related to researching, writing and speaking about the under representation and stereotypical portrayal of women in the media and the profound injustice of that,” she said. Her most current initiative is expanding upon Informed Opinions with a database called The new site will host profiles of Canadian female experts who are willing to provide their expert opinions to journalists. Graydon is also releasing her fourth book, an adaptation of her keynote presentation for the Informed Opinions’ workshops titled OMG…What If I Really AM The Best Person? Despite her busy schedule, Graydon always finds time to support and keep contact with the women who have become involved with Informed Opinions over the past five years. Former project manager for Informed Opinions, Claire Bellefeuille, left the organization in 2014 but still maintains a close relationship with Graydon. According to Bellefeuille, the two regularly meet for lunch, coffee, or a night out at an Escape Room and discuss Informed Opinions’ recent successes. Even though she no longer works with Informed Opinions, Bellefeuille still remains passionate about Graydon’s work with the organization. “She uses this energy to do work that Canada truly needs by encouraging women to participate in the public discourse,” said Bellefeuille. “I can say from working on the project, that the number of women who have written op-eds or said yes to media interviews who wouldn’t have done so prior to taking Shari’s workshop speaks to the value of her work.” And indeed it does. Arguably, Informed Opinions is at the top of Graydon’s long list of achievements. However, Graydon herself cannot say what the most impactful moment of her career has been. “I hope it hasn’t happened yet,” she said with a smile.