Nina was from Oakville, Darnel was from Markham. He was into sports at UTS: track and field, basketball, rugby, and was named UTS Athlete of the Year in 2004. She was into the arts and theatre, loving how UTS gave her the opportunity to perform and take part in events like Café Bleu. They first came together as a couple in M4, when Nina invited Darnel to celebrate his sixteenth birthday lunch over pho and ice cream.
At UTS, Darnel and Nina both made really close friendships – even the commutes became a formative experience with the “UTSers” who lived near them. Nina says they made the kind of friendships where you, “never miss a birthday, never miss Christmas, even though we’ve all moved all over the world.” Years later, their wedding was attended by 20 of their UTS classmates. Darnel adds that even after graduation, he has forged strong connections with other UTS graduates.
Nina started giving back to the school in her twenties, out of an immense sense of gratitude. She came to UTS in M4, after searching extensively for a school where she would fit in. At UTS, she did more than fit in – the freedom and empowerment given to students made her feel like only at UTS could she have such an amazing experience. “UTS lets you make your own path,” she says.
Nina and Darnel became avid supporters of the Building the Future campaign. “Small but very important infrastructure upgrades like new science and computer labs made a big difference to the experiential learning at UTS when we were students,” says Darnel. New astronomy equipment meant Darnel could actually see the stars up close, instead of learning about them on paper. “Being part of this campaign is important to me – to see how major improvements to the school will help the next generation of students.”
Nina recalls being trained to use the workout equipment at the Ridley Fitness Centre in 2000. “To this day, I really enjoy going to the gym because I had that experience at such a young age.”
As alumni, they have volunteered for UTS, with Darnel organizing alumni basketball events and Nina being the Year Rep for the Class of 2004. She has also served as a Director of the UTS Alumni Association (UTSAA) from 2009 to 2017, Vice-President from 2013 to 2015, and Chair of the Event Committee.
Nina and Darnel are also really excited about the new UTS Strategic Initiative on Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Diversity is UTS’ strength,” says Nina. “There have been greater efforts to reach out to more diverse communities and we are excited to see what that will mean for the future of UTS in our renewed building.”