Photo: Michael Ledda at his home in Winnipeg
Before Covid-19 wreaked havoc on Winnipeg, Michael Ledda was living life as usual. He was busy working full-time as a chef, happy with his job, and making a steady income to support his three children.
But when the lockdown started, Michael’s entire world quickly crumbled. Before long, he was out of a job. Things got so tight financially, he had to sell off his possessions just to pay rent.
Sadly, Michael’s story is not unique. So many Winipeggers lost their jobs during the pandemic, the CBC wrote an article about it, featuring Michael and several others.
Jenna Boholij (Herzing’s Director of Marketing Communications) read the CBC story and was so moved by Michael’s struggle, she proposed an idea.
Why not offer him a full scholarship, so he can re-train and get back on his feet?
The entire Herzing team got on board and reached out to Michael with the offer. He happily accepted and is now enrolled in the Broadcasting and Media Communications program.
This week, we chatted with Michael to find out how his life has changed since going back to school. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Q: Michael, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Michael: I am 40 years old and have been working as a chef in Winnipeg for decades. I have been cooking in restaurants for as long as I have worked.
I have always had a job. After 20 years of cooking, I have built quite the resume as a chef. From cooking for thousands of people at the Canada Games, to catering for the airline industry and planning banquet dinners.
Q: What was your work situation before the pandemic?
Michael: Before the pandemic, I had two jobs—one where I was managing full time and another for extra income.
Being a chef isn't the most financially rewarding job, but it's still passionate work. Before Covid, I had the work and the money to live a good life, including paying child support for 3 children.
I was happy, working hard, and living independently.
Q: How did things change after the lockdowns?
Michael: After the first lockdown, my world flipped upside down. I was suddenly stripped of my daily routine, and any chance of balancing my cheque book.
Even when I got back into the kitchen, my hours were cut and work was scarce.
When the second lockdown hit, things got even worse. I was earning half what I used to make. I couldn’t pay my bills and struggled to keep up with my rent.
I was stuck selling off my valuables just to make ends meet. It was a very isolating and lonely time.
Q: What did you think when Herzing College Winnipeg contacted you with a full scholarship offer?
Michael: I asked, is this real?! It was an absolute blessing. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience.
Q: What inspired you to choose the Broadcasting and Media Communications program?
Michael: I chose this course because I feel this type of work was made for me. I've taken creative writing all throughout high school and post-secondary, and I love to create art, write stories, and also compose music.
I am super excited to part of the Broadcasting and Media Communication program.
Q: What type of media career do you want to pursue?
Michael: I wouldn't mind trying different opportunities in radio and television, focusing on developing my skills in both audio and video production.
I'd love to produce my own music, blogs or podcast stories.
Q: Are you back to work now? Has your employment situation improved?
Michael: After CBC news covered my story, I was offered a job at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. I am also back to cooking part-time.
Q: How is school going so far? How does it feel to be a student again?
Michael: The instructor, Bev Edmondson, is a wonderful teacher with a strict attitude toward success and completion. And the course is a good pace, even for my busy schedule.
This is my first time using Moodle and Teams, but my ability to write is a bonus in producing quality work for my assignments. I'm having loads of fun, and I hope to be top of the class.
The last time I went to school was 2001. It feels great to be a student again. If I had my way, I would take classes for the rest of my life!
A big thank-you to Michael for sharing his story with us. We’ll be following his journey through the Broadcasting program and internship. So stay tuned for updates.
Learn more about the Broadcasting and Media Communications Program
Are you considering a career in media? Herzing College Winnipeg offers a totally unique 12-month Broadcasting program.
Students learn cutting edge skills in both traditional and digital media production, including writing, editing, camera work, on-air announcing, podcasting, social media, investigative reporting, and storytelling.
Training includes a 6-week internship at a local station or media company.
Click below to explore the program and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We’re here to help!