UPEI graduate determined to escape treadmill of menial jobs

Jim Day
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Joshua Boone McIntosh of Charlottetown has been busy helping his wife Karla raise the couple's two young children, Lily-Joyce and Colm, while earning his bachelor-of-arts degree at UPEI.

Joshua Boone McIntosh of Charlottetown knew he could do better.

For years, he lived from paycheque to paycheque, working one menial, low paying job after another.

He cleaned rooms at a hotel in Banff.

He worked at a call centre in New Brunswick.

He flipped burgers at a Wendy’s in Canmore, Alberta.

Add to that resume working at a convenience store in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where a large man robbed him at knifepoint, and working a string of restaurants, at times as a cook, other times as a waiter.

He was stuck in the life of the working poor. His pay never reached much above minimum wage.

Boone McIntosh was not pleased with spinning his tires on such an unproductive treadmill. Yet lack of ambition kept him from jumping off to find a more prosperous, rewarding path.

He would often drink away his blues between dismal work shifts.

The hardest part of his years of settling for jobs that paid poorly and offered little fulfillment came in watching the successes of others in the knowledge that he had the ability, if not the will, to succeed like them.

“Very unhappy with life and life choices,’’ he said. “I always knew there was better for me...I always knew there was more than I was doing.’’

Boone McIntosh, who turned 39 Wednesday, has had more than his share of hardship that was not his own doing.

His was a five-year-old boy, being pulled on a sled by his father, when dad suffered a massive heart attack and died.

After spending his first nine years of life in Charlottetown, he was regularly uprooted as his stepfather, Weldon Boone, moved from one CBC locale to another in his job as a reporter.

In 1978, Boone McIntosh’s mother, Joyce Boone, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Watching the physical deterioration of his beloved mother was “hard on him’’, notes Boone McIntosh’s aunt Bev Kelly.

Yet he was able to perform well academically in high school, noting he was an above average student.

Unfortunately, he made a mess of university time and again.

First, at age 19, he enrolled in the arts program at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie. For three semesters, he focused on campus nightlife, rather than his studies.

As a result, his post-secondary education came to an abrupt halt, and the “life of a gypsy’’ commenced.

He came back to P.E.I. in 2001, taking his second crack at university by enrolling in arts again, this time at UPEI. Just one month in, he was given the boot after UPEI learned that he was under a national suspension due to his poor academic performance at Algoma University where he failed to formally withdraw leading to failing marks in all of his courses.

Fast-forward six years; Boone McIntosh is once again taking classes at UPEI.

Just one month later, the death of his mother sends him into “a complete tailspin’’ losing the only constant in his life.

He shot out to Alberta, where he worked at Boston Pizza for four months before returning to P.E.I. in March 2008, finding work at Ocean Choice in Souris “slopping through the fish.’’

He met his future wife, Karla Santacruz, at the fish plant, and was content with his relatively low-paying job.

Two years later, the plant closed. The closure was a shock, but ultimately proved to be the push down a successful path.

“I had hit rock bottom,’’ he said. “What the bleep do I do now.’’

Boone McIntosh enrolled yet again at UPEI.

While under academic probation, he struggled the first term, failing one class and managing a slight pass in a second class.

“It was very stressful,’’ he recalled.

He was determined to persevere. He quit his job at McDonald’s, where he had been working full time while taking three courses in his first semester.

He wanted to succeed.

In the second semester, his lowest mark was 78.

He embraced campus life, not only studying hard, but getting involved with helping fellow students.

He worked with the chaplain’s food bank, constantly on call for students in need of food.

“I love it,’’ he said of the past four years at UPEI. “I love school. I love the atmosphere.’’

Today, he graduates top of his class with a bachelor of arts degree with a major in sociology.

With a young family in tow — Lily-Jocye, 3, and one-year-old Colm arrived on the scene during Boone McIntosh’s studies at UPEI — he is excited about both his life and future career.

He is not done with school just yet. He is doing post-graduate work in bachelor of education at UPEI and bachelor of social work online through the University of Victoria.

“I hope that I am able to work with troubled adults or youth,’’ he said. “I know how quickly the wheels can fall off. For so many years of my life I lived desperately.’’

UPEI chaplain Sr. Sue Kidd has watched the strong-willed mature student tackle university with great determination.

“He’s got a perseverance,’’ she said.

“He has very strong ideals...Josh knew this was about his family and he knew this was about his future.’’

Organizations: UPEI, Algoma University, CBC Boston Pizza Ocean Choice University of Victoria

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Alberta, Sault Ste. Marie Banff New Brunswick Canmore P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • sue somerville
    May 10, 2015 - 13:03

    Congrats Josh! We are all very proud of you.

  • Been there done that do not give up
    May 09, 2015 - 21:08

    arts,teaching,basket weaving ..whatever..that degree in the hands of someone with experience in life...that degree that showed you how to do research,,read beyond what is written ,to look at life with a critical eye ...will change your life and it all ready has.....forget the naysayers ,life is one of chances,don t be afraid take chances, because the world is changing,do not be afraid of change....believe in yourself.........I also took the path you took ...and it was a Mountie in Morell 30 yrs ago who told me the above......and he was right on ...2degrees later and my life has been one of success....you can do it also .....good luck....

  • John
    May 09, 2015 - 18:52

    Good job at sticking with it, but lets be honest, why would you go to school for an arts degree - historically the lowest paying and least in demand jobs? Bachelor of education (there are way too many for the positions available as is) and social work (low pay) don't really help him either...but good luck. Universal Basic Income needs to happen so people like this can not toil away in mcjobs their entire life, never having the time or money to train for a career they'd actually enjoy

  • Nancy
    May 09, 2015 - 17:21

    My Mom looked after Josh as a child, she thought of him as one of her own. She wants him to know that she is so proud of him and so am I. Well done, Josh! We often think of you.

  • LD
    May 09, 2015 - 15:48

    There are lots of people who can only do 'menial' jobs. Nice way to put them down, by the reporter and graduate. Lots of single moms without a partner have done what he has done, while working menial jobs. No Kudos for them? A degree is not a guarantee of work for anyone. Survey lots of people in 'menial' jobs and see how many are trying to pay off student loans while PEI and Federal Governments garnish their wages or GST refunds. This article should be called : What lots of women do every day!!!

  • Dennis
    May 09, 2015 - 14:29

    congratulations Josh. i worked with your Father for a few years before his tragic death and had gotten to know him well. i also met you and your Mother a few brief times, and i can say with confidence they'd be very proud of you.

  • Platinus
    May 09, 2015 - 13:36

    Great story, Jim ! Keep up the good work, Josh !!

  • chris arsenault
    May 09, 2015 - 13:01

    Koodo to u my friend. I was touched by your sharing your life and hardships with us Hope it inspires other people in the same predicdement to persevere your family is lovely good fortune from now on Chris former cleaner at upei

  • Islander 1
    May 09, 2015 - 10:22

    Keep up the good work and hopefully your life will be easier from here on in. All the best to you and your family.

  • Platinus
    May 09, 2015 - 10:17

    Great story, Jim !! Keep up the good work Josh !!

  • Nancy
    May 09, 2015 - 08:39

    Wonderful story of perseverance and the importance to not quit at something you believe in. Hopefully, he will be a speaker one day at UPEI so his story can help inspire and motivate others. Congrats!