Profile of a PACC Favourite: Orville Burrows

by Sonia Ruivo

When you first walk into PACC Adult, one of the first people you see is likely to be student supervisor Orville Burrows. He cheerfully greets visitors, students, and staff as they walk in. This is particularly true, post-Covid. “When Covid hit, people became fearful and distant. So, just me greeting them with a good morning and making eye contact makes me happy. I think this interaction helps people feel connected.”

Orville started at PACC Adult over 20 years ago, when administration hired three student supervisors to help improve security in the building. There had been some incidents in the school and the supervisors were hired to bring back safety. With a diverse background in a variety of security work, including hotels, bars, and private security, Orville was well qualified for the task at hand. In addition to his experience in security, Orville also has received extensive training in interventions.

Orville is known for his kind and calm demeanour. Oftentimes, when students are in distress, it’s Orville who is one of the first points of contact. Orville loves to chat up students. A keen observer, he can tell when someone is struggling. He credits his security background for his ability to suss out a situation. If he sees that someone is not looking well, whether they are sad, angry or something looks off, Orville will approach the person. Although he cuts a striking figure, standing at well over 6 feet tall, Orville exudes a calm and reassuring energy. “I’ll go and approach the person and I’ll try to help as best as I can. If I can’t help, I’ll find someone who can.”

Assistant Centre Director Qaadira de Coteau says, “I’m in awe of him watching him interact with students. He’ll find a story that relates to the person in front of him, and it’s a true story. In an instant, he can read the student, understand their perspective, and provide them with guidance, recommendations, suggestions, or a “hang in there’ that makes them feel better as they walk away.”

If a situation escalates, Orville knows how to quickly de-escalate. He says, “communication and empathy are essential when dealing with someone who is in crisis or struggling. If you don’t have it, it’s tough to help. You can’t create those connections without it.”

Orville loves sense of community at PACC Adult, as well as his interactions with students and staff, and the close connections he’s made. Over the years, he’s been invited to student weddings and other family celebrations. Orville is touched that he’s treated like family whenever he attends a student’s special life event.

Several years ago, after a knee injury, he was off for two years. He ran into a student who told him how much everyone missed him. He was very touched to hear this as he did not expect it.