Few may know that a Humber alumna sits at Queen’s Park.
Sophie Kiwala was elected the Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands last summer in the election that gave Premier Kathleen Wynne a majority government.
The rookie MPP defeated her NDP opponent by more than 6,000 votes, but her long road to Queen’s Park involved a seemingly unrelated stop at Humber College.
Kiwala was a young mother when she decided to enroll in Humber’s Floral Design Program. The Kingston native was looking for a post-secondary program that could get her into the workforce quickly.
“I didn’t have the luxury of time or money to go to university at the time,” Kiwala said at her Queen’s Park office.
Floral design appealed to her as someone with a family background in art.
“It was probably something that came naturally to me,” she said.
Botany class was her favourite. She enjoyed working in the greenhouse and learning about the different types of plants.
However, her time at Humber was not dedicated solely to academics.
“I have to admit the campus pub was one of my favourite spots,” said Kiwala.
Kiwala appreciated the social experience of getting together with fellow students and talking about what they had learned.
“It was a break from my regular life, which was quite filled with responsibility,” she said.
Albert Graves has taught Floral Design at Humber since the program’s 1990 inception. He said the skills he provides his students are transferable to many different fields.
“I’m a very strong believer that each person has their own unique qualifications to be creative,” he said. “It’s my job to develop that within each student.”
He repeatedly emphasized creativity as the major skill taught in the program, which he said allows the students to find themselves.
Floral Design took Kiwala to an award winning flower shop in France, where she spent more than two years. She spent another two years in Turkey, but always felt her calling was in public service.
Kiwala joined the Liberal party because in her view it “has the right mix of social justice concerns and fiscal accountability.” It is the biggest tent of the three major parties, she said.
She opted for provincial politics because issues like health care and education are closer to her constituents’ day-to-day lives.
But there is occasional overlap between provincial and federal jurisdictions.
For example, Kiwala joined the call to establish a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Rano Daoud, president of the Kingston and the Islands Provincial Liberal Association, worked directly with Kiwala during this past summer’s election campaign.
“She works incredibly hard, [putting in] very long hours, probably longer than the hours I was usually able to put in,” Daoud said.
He was most impressed seeing her speak to constituents individually.
“You can tell she cared very much about them,” Daoud said. “She’s a very good listener.”