Alumnae Spotlight: Leah John ’18

Following her Passion for Golf & Juggling University Life: Leah John ‘18

For Leah John who graduated from York House in 2018, taking a Gap Year to focus on her game of golf gave her a clear vision for her future. We caught up with her in between golf tournaments this spring. 

Tell us a little about your gap year and how that informed your decision for university?
Yes, I did take a gap year to focus on golf, and then I headed to The University of Nevada, Reno where I am studying Kinesiology. I spent a total of three months in Scottsdale, AZ. The first two months I lived in a motel and went to a golf academy called Vision54 to train every day. I also played on a mini professional tour called the Cactus Tour, so I could gain more experience and learn. This was the first time I ever lived entirely on my own, and it was a really great experience. For example, I remember having a tournament an hour away from Scottsdale and having to set up a host family to stay with, my rides, and cook all of my meals for the week. I met some close friends at the academy and learned a lot about myself. The third month I was there I lived with some family friends and did the same thing. I also met a physical trainer there who helped me and continues to help me get stronger and faster. 

Overall, it was the happiest time of my life, and I learned that being a professional golfer is definitely something I want to pursue. It was also incredible to meet and play with professional players, and have access to high-level coaching. This is something that is harder to find in Canada. Additionally, I wanted to take the gap year so that I could have a foundation for going into school that was mentally and physically prepared. I truly think it helped my transition into college because I already experimented with how to be self-sufficient, and more importantly I felt ready and fresh to take on the school and golf workload. 

You had your freshman year at the University of Nevada. Describe that experience?
My freshman year at UNR was awesome, but definitely hard. I always feel hesitant to tell high school graduates this because I don’t want them to feel more afraid about university; it is hard, but not in a way that is impossible. The first three months were busy because we were in golf season travelling almost every other week and I was still figuring out my classes. I would say the toughest part was being on somebody else’s schedule, balancing my perfectionist tendencies for school and golf, and learning to communicate better with my professors and coaches. Living in a dorm was also fun, and my roommate was the complete opposite of me which made for a perfect match. She was 6ft tall, ate the worst diet I had ever seen, didn’t care too much about school, but she played on the softball team, was extremely relaxed and kind, and she helped me get through some hard moments. 

York House definitely prepared me well for college. I got really good marks in school, I was great at time management, and I had solid study tools. My schedule and lifestyle made it challenging to meet people and immerse myself in the university culture, but that is something I would never trade for the amazing experience I already have. I think being a student-athlete is one of the best ways to experience college. Everything came to a halt in March. I was in Hawaii for a golf tournament where none of us had even heard of the word COVID, and the day after the tournament ended we found out all tournaments were cancelled, school was shutting down, and I had to go home. It felt very surreal. So that day I flew into Reno at 2:00 am, wrote an exam at 9:00 am, packed my stuff and flew home at 12:00 pm.  I was there from March to the beginning of January 2021.

I used that time to improve my golf game, see how good of marks I could get, and get as strong as I could. Everything was online, I turned my garage into a gym, practiced every day, read more, and did something challenging often. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime chance where the world paused, so I could experiment, fail, and push myself without as great of repercussions. I am now back at school, and loving it.

What has been keeping you busy? What’s your schedule like?
I am taking five courses, and they are all online. I love online school because I bring my laptop to the course with me and do class there. It saves a lot of time. I have school every day and I usually do my classes between 8:00 am and12:00 pm. I have team practice 5-6 days per week for at least three hours. I weight train five to six-day per week at 6:30 am for 1.5 hours, and we travel every other weekend where we play 36 holes in one day and 18 the next. This week I am going to Utah! I know it sounds wild to be travelling so much, but I honestly can say I feel safe, and luckily golf is a safe sport. My team are the only people I see, and I also get tested for COVID every week. We also wear masks and visors whenever we travel, and masks are mandatory during team practice and lifting. Needless to say, I am very busy, and I love it. My life is truly school and golf. 

What are your future plans post-pandemic?
My future plans are to turn professional when I graduate and work towards the LPGA tour. That probably means I will be in the states to play on mini professional tours and qualifying school (another way to get into the LPGA) so I can work my way up the ranks. Due to the pandemic, I gained an extra year of eligibility at school so I can stay for a fifth year and play golf if I want. I am still considering this. Some of my teammates are using that year to get their masters or apply to medical school. It is nice to have the opportunity.

Behind the Blue Line with Sandra Glendinning ‘90

One of the Vancouver Police Department’s popular social media accounts on Twitter is @behindblueline and alumna Sandra Glendinning is the woman at the helm. She graduated from York House in 1990 and her long career in law enforcement has been exciting and varied. 

Describe your career path after graduating from York House:
I went to school, worked on the weekends, volunteered with the Vancouver Police Department’s Victim Services Unit and Citizens’ Crime Watch, and was also a youth swimming instructor.

I applied to be a Reserve Constable with the VPD when I was 19 and still going to school (this program no longer exists and has been replaced with the VPD’s Community Service Personnel program), but my application was bumped to the regular police officer process and I went through the entire application process at that point. However, it became clear during this process that I wanted to travel and finish school, so my application was deferred for two years to allow me the time to do that.

Following my studies, I travelled to New Zealand and Australia for three months and when I returned to Vancouver, I trained as a Correctional Officer and worked at the BC Correctional Centre for Women. This was a penitentiary for women serving provincial and federal sentences for everything from theft to murder. The lessons I learned while interacting with the women incarcerated there have stayed with me ever since.

I started with the VPD in 1995 and worked in patrol (including walking the beat in the Downtown Eastside) until 2005. During that time, I had two children. In 2005, I joined the VPD’s Canine Unit where I was partnered with Police Service Dog Hondo. We worked together until he was retired at the end of 2012. This was certainly a highlight in my career.

From there, I was a detective in the Robbery/Assault/Arson Unit, and then the VPD’s first social media officer before being promoted to sergeant in 2015. After promotion, I received a mandatory assignment as an investigator to the Professional Standards Section. During this assignment, I investigated allegations of police misconduct as governed by the BC Police Act, and I reported to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

From there, I transitioned back to the Operations Division in the summer of 2017, where I took command of a patrol team in District 4, which is the south/west part of Vancouver that includes York House. I was promoted to Staff Sergeant at the beginning of December 2020, and I am transitioning into my new role of overseeing the VPD’s Marine Unit and the teams assigned to the Downtown Eastside. My job will be to support the sergeants in charge of those teams, and to ensure they have the resources required to fulfill their responsibilities. I’m very excited about this next chapter.

Did you always want to work in law enforcement?
I only became aware that law enforcement was an option when I attended York House’s “Career Night” when I was in either Grade 10 or 11. This was an evening where women from a variety of backgrounds gave presentations on their professions to expose students to career options. Women of similar professions were in small groups in different classrooms, and students could choose to listen to whoever they found interesting.

I remember attending one classroom where the presenters worked in the arts: graphic design, a glass artist, and a painter. It was so inspiring. I then went to the next room, where the presenters were a police officer and two women in similar fields – I don’t actually remember what their jobs were. The policewoman was VPD Constable Linda Stewart. She shared stories and explained what her job actually was, and I was hooked. Right away, I knew policing and I would be a good fit. 

Describe a typical workday.
I’ve been a police officer for 25 years and have been on the frontline for more than 20. For the last three and half years, I have been the sergeant in charge of a team of police officers working on patrol in the S/W part of the city.

My shift starts with a briefing with my team, almost like what you see on TV, where we discuss problem areas, persons of note, investigative files and events occurring in the city that we need to be aware of. I give out assignments, we discuss incidents from previous shifts, and I basically give a pep talk to the team before we hit the road. If it’s a really busy shift, I may not see some of them until the end of the night, so it’s important to start the shift on a positive and upbeat note.

Once out on the road, I review calls for service that are waiting to be dispatched, and I work with the dispatcher to ensure the more urgent calls are handled first. I spend quite a bit of time on the phone speaking with complainants, business owners, and residents who have called in to report a crime or raise a concern.

I am also responsible for running any priority incidents that occur, such as a bank robbery, break and enter in progress, or other, in-progress and potentially violent incidents that require an immediate police response. In these situations, I direct police units, establish immediate action plans, and ensure specialty units such as K9, the Emergency Response Team, or detectives are aware should we require additional resources. 

What are the three most important personality traits you possess that work in your favour in terms of working in the field?
Integrity, compassion/empathy, and the ability to think/act calmly when under stress (mental agility).

You are also a talented artist. Tell us more about your business and how you manage to find time to create work. 
I also considered a career in graphic design and I have had a long love affair with the arts. Now, though, my art is a major component in my coping mechanisms for working in law enforcement. My job can be extremely stressful, and the risk of burn-out, compassion fatigue, and the development of apathy is high, so I turn to art to decompress and bring me back to a level line. I have a little greeting card business that allows me to keep buying art supplies! 

You have a very engaged following on social media under your Twitter handle @BehindBlueLine. How do you manage your personal views with those of the official VPD? Is it challenging?
The VPD has a fairly robust social media policy, and all officers representing the VPD on social media have to have approval from the department to do so. I had a hand in writing the social media policy in 2013, so I’m very familiar with what officers can and cannot post.

My philosophy is simple – my job on social media is to always represent the VPD and policing in a positive light, and to share what it’s like to be a police officer so others not familiar with law enforcement can better understand some of the trials and tribulations we face. I don’t want my social media handles (Twitter and Instagram, both under @behindblueline) to be about me, but rather, about the job of policing through my eyes. I occasionally share snippets about my personal life (our dogs, the fact I’m married to a firefighter, that I’m scared of spiders, that I was recently promoted to Staff Sergeant!), but my focus is on sharing stories and experiences to pull back the curtain on policing.

What’s your favourite part of your job?
The people. In the department, being a police officer is like being a part of a very large and extended family, and I know my brothers and sisters in uniform will come to my aid without a second thought should I ever need help. Outside of the department, I am very fortunate to interact with people of all ages, socioeconomic groups, backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities during my workday. This job of policing is so much bigger than oneself, and I have met some incredible individuals along the way.

How do you think York House has impacted your career and life experiences?
York House taught me to look at the “big picture” and to believe I could do just about anything as long as I possessed self-awareness and worked hard.

Awards:

  • Police Officer of the Year, Vancouver Police Department, 2020
  • Order of Merit of the Police Services, Member, Governor General of Canada, 2020
  • Lieutenant Governor Medal of Valour, 2005
  • Chief Constable’s Award of Valour, 2005