Be your own inspiration: BCIT student Mitchell Garrett is an accessibility advocate

BCIT Marketing Communications student Mitchell Garrett
Mitchell Garrett and his classmates celebrate after presenting their capstone project to an industry sponsor

BCIT Marketing Communications student Mitchell Garrett is a goal keeper, not just on the ice playing para hockey but in every aspect of his life — from crafting a new career to advocating for people with disabilities.

“No matter what situation you’re in, you have to have a next step,” explains Mitchell. “I always have a goal.” 

Right now, he’s juggling full-time coursework with high level athletics and a busy student life — and navigating it all using a wheelchair.  

It’s a very different experience to his first go-around at BCIT, where he trained to become a carpenter. In 2017, an ATV accident left Mitchell unable to walk and grappling with an uncertain future.  

“My life changed and I had to find a different direction,” he reflects. “I spent a couple years trying to find that direction, not really knowing what that was. It was really difficult. There were a lot of nights where I went to bed and I had no idea what was coming up for me or what I really wanted to do.”    

In the end, Mitchell decided to go back to school again at BCIT.

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The ambitious path forward with BCIT Marketing Communications

After taking the prerequisite courses for the entrance requirements, Mitchell began his full-time Marketing Communications Diploma program at the end of 2020. He’s now completing his final capstone project, as part of the program’s applied learning model to help him build industry connections and experience before entering the workforce.

“I inspire myself. That’s why I chose the BCIT Marketing Communications program. The program seemed daunting. It seems like, if I completed it, then I’d inspired myself to go do more,” emphasizes Mitchell. 

The two-year intensive program includes in-class lectures and labs, designed to help students experience what it’s like to be immersed in the fast-paced world of marketing. This means working in groups to develop online and offline strategies to drive results, as well as 9-week internships. 

Learn more about BCIT Accessibility Services 

Fireweed Podcast sparks stories of resilience and adaptability

Outside BCIT, Mitchell is also training with Team Alberta for para hockey where he’s in the net and tasked with the high-pressure role of goalie, a position he’s always enjoyed. 

Mitchell decided to share his experience as a disabled person attending BCIT after listening to his Team Alberta teammate Ryan Straschnitzki speak on the Fireweed Podcast about adapting to using a wheelchair as a survivor of the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Because the more awareness about accessibility, the better. 

“It goes back to me being a social person and how I’m outspoken,” Mitchell says. “I don’t have a problem answering questions. I don’t have a problem talking about my disability.

He’s candid about the many physical hurdles of student life from managing the long hours involved in studying to the importance of being able to find accessible bathrooms.   

“For an able-bodied person, you can sit down at a desk for eight hours and if your legs hurt, you can stand up and stretch them out. I don’t have that ability,” he shares. “So being able to disconnect myself and giving my body the time to stretch is super valuable.”

LISTEN: Fireweed: An alternate path invites Ryan Straschnitzki to talk about life after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and learning to navigate a world that wasn’t built for him in a wheelchair.

What’s next? Another goal ahead

After completing his diploma at BCIT, Mitchell plans to pursue his Paralympic dream and from there, create a career in online marketing, sports marketing, and social media. 

“Throughout this entire series that I want to take place over the next eight years, I want every single post to have the caption ‘what’s next?’ because literally, I always have another goal,” he says. “You’ve always got to keep yourself ambitious.” 

He is inspired by the work done by BC activist and athlete Rick Hansen. 

“The impact that Rick Hansen has on the Vancouver community, even if you are able-bodied, is tremendous. One thing I’d like to do that I think he really did well is push the narrative that people with disabilities are still people,” he says. 

“I really look up to him. He’s making the world better for everyone.” 

Still, Mitchell is clear about crafting his own unique legacy: “I am not going off someone else’s path. I’m creating my own.” 

Follow Mitchell on TikTok, where he creates engaging short videos that explain the life someone with a disability.

Are you ready for the intensive, dynamic training you need to begin or advance your career in marketing or advertising communications? Learn more about the BCIT Marketing Communications program.

(This story is written by Chantal Eustace.)

Caption for top photo: Mitchell Garrett (left) and his father Ken Garrett (right),who is also his coach.  They won a recent para-hockey tournament in Calgary.

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