For Donnie Kinistino, graduating from the social work program at Edmonton’s NorQuest College means a fresh start on life.
“Who ever thought I would come from the bowels of prison to walk across that stage this afternoon,” Kinistino laughed right after receiving his diploma on stage last week.
“Words don’t explain it — I was laughing, I was crying, [my emotions] ran the full gamut.”
The 57-year-old Edmonton man used to sell methamphetamine on the streets until he was arrested in 2012. It was that moment that prompted him to make a change.
Two years later, he graduated from Edmonton’s drug treatment court and vowed to become a social worker to explore the full depth of addiction for others like him.
Kinistino has already defied the odds — only 97 of 306 students have graduated from the drug treatment program since it started in 2005.
After striding across the Winspear Centre stage to receive his certificate, he was embraced by friends, colleagues and teachers.
One of the people there to congratulate Kinistino was Grace Froese, program manager of the drug court program, and now a close friend. To her, his graduation is “miraculous.”
“I feel so overwhelmed, this is someone that has worked so hard and wanted it so much,” Froese said about her friend. “He was up early this morning [May 25] thinking about it and he even said he was overcome with tears.
“He is accomplishing everything that the drug court program is all about.”
Throughout his time at NorQuest, Kinistino was a valued classmate and drug court mentor, always helping other students through his life experience with addiction.
Social work instructor Bob Marvin said Kinistino is an inspiration to “other Donnies” coming through the college.
“Students like Donnie will change the face of social work practice in Alberta,” Marvin said.
Everyone around Kinistino believes that his future is bright — but the graduate is just excited to bring the “goodness in my heart” out to the world.