UPEI graduate determined to escape treadmill of menial jobs

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 9, 2015

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.

©THE GUARDIAN/Jim Day

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.’’