Student entrepreneur focused on mental health

At Durham College (DC), Kinen Ocitti has everything he needs to turn his passion for mental health into a thriving business.

A student in the Data Analytics for Business Decision-Making program and Computer Programming graduate, he is building Kuwota, a journaling application to improve overall mental health and well-being. To do so, he has taken full advantage of DC’s FastStart program, which helps student entrepreneurs launch their business.

“Kuwota is a journaling application that promotes personal growth and well-being and offers direct access to licensed therapists for the individual’s self-discovery and self-improvement,” explained Ocitti. Once granted permission by the author, therapists will be able to read the user’s journal entries and provide feedback.

To help create an event that would promote Kuwota and the benefits of journaling, the FastStart office connected Ocitti with Teresa Avvampato, a professor in the Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant program, and her students Alexandra Dougherty, Shun Naito, Jessica Reed and Mehrad Zaroorian. As second-year students, their experience running group therapy sessions was ideally suited to the challenge. Naito, who previously worked as an event planner in the hotel business and shares Ocitti’s passion for mental health, was particularly excited to help out.

“I think the mental health aspects of occupational therapy have been increasing, and I believe psychotherapy has been added to our job duties,” said Naito.

With the help of a $3,500 grant from Tomorrow’s Leaders Starting Out, the team organized an event at the FastStart office in January. A number of DC students were in attendance to learn about Kuwota and hear from two visiting therapists. The event was a big success with numerous students expressing their interest in the app, which Ocitti hopes to launch by September.

An occupational therapist and psychotherapist by trade, Avvampato was pleased to help introduce the Kuwota app to students.

“It certainly meets a strong need. Mental health and wellness are more top of mind for everyone and in particular the student population,” she said. “We’re seeing more and more awareness about the importance of balance and taking care of your mental health, and journaling is an exceptional way to do that.”

As work continues on Kuwota, he’s grateful for all the help he’s received from the DC community.

“When I approached FastStart, I came with a block of marble. I knew I wanted to do something with it, but I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. FastStart really helped me sculpt the edges.”

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit like Ocitti, DC is ready to support you.

FastStart is a free, extra-curricular program offered to all DC students, and it can help you make your business dreams a reality.

“We help student entrepreneurs develop and start their own businesses,” explained Sundar Manku, Manager, Entrepreneurship Services. “We’re an incubator, so we help bring their idea to the market and help raise those initial funds.”

Students who sign up for FastStart have access to an online course, industry specific programming as well as a variety of college and community workshops and events. They’re also paired with mentors uniquely suited to their particular business goals.

FastStart can also help you market your business, from social media strategy advice and support to logo design and beyond. 

Student entrepreneurs will also benefit from FastStart’s extensive connections in the business community, with a variety of networking events and business idea pitch contests to take part in.

FastStart is located in the 360insights Entrepreneurship Centre inside the Centre for Collaborative Education and is open year-round.

The road to employment: How one graduate credits his success to the powerful impact of his professors

Graduate Spotlight – REJOY JAMES

When Class of 2023 graduate Rejoy James reflects on his time at Durham College (DC), he’ll always remember his professors and the role they played in helping him land his dream job as a Vendor Compliance and Product Stewardship Analyst at Staples Inc. – even before finishing his final classes and exams.

Rejoy’s new job combines the skills from both programs he completed at DC – Data Analytics for Business Decision Making and Supply Chain Management – Global, where he is part of the first graduating class set to cross the Convocation stage in June.

While the pandemic impacted Rejoy’s experience when he first enrolled at DC in September 2021, the timeliness and relevancy of his programs offered the chance to apply the course materials to real-life scenarios, strengthening his understanding and preparing him to become a career-ready graduate.

We caught up with Rejoy to learn more about his DC experience and plans for the future.


How did DC prepare you to be career-ready?

I owe a lot to my professors at DC because they made my experience so memorable. They are professionals with industry experience, which I found to be one of the best things. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like you’re talking to a professor. They really help you and never shy away from questions.

What led you to further your education at DC?

I always had this idea that I would go into the data analysis field, but after the support I received from my professors, I thought, “What if I take another program at DC?” That’s what led me to the Supply Chain Management – Global program.

What impacts did the pandemic have on your studies and your DC experience?

Since data analysis is programming-based, I was a bit skeptical about how a fully-online program would work, but all the professors were experts at teaching online and communicating with students virtually. Whatever question I had, they had the answer.

In my Supply Chain Management – Global program, we were constantly talking about the pandemic, and how the supply chain was affected. I learned that the supply chain is like the glue that holds all the industries together. For example, we discussed the chip shortage and toilet paper demand and were able to apply the in-class concepts in the real world so we could see how customers would be impacted.

How did your professors help you land your first job before you even graduated?

Many of my professors were willing to go beyond the syllabus and teach us more about how to do things, and how to develop soft skills, such as interviewing. We discussed what questions employers might ask so we could be better prepared. Along with the course material, this career development helped me land my new role at Staples Inc. and I’m very grateful.

How will your DC credentials, along with your previous education support you in your new role?

I never imagined I’d land my first job even before graduating. My new role will combine five of my six credentials and I’m very excited. In addition to my two DC graduate certificates, I hold a Bachelor of Technology in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Business Administration (Management), a Product Design and Analysis diploma and a Chartered Management Institute Level 7 diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership.