Tony D'Amato Stortz
Meet Tony D'Amato Stortz
Tony D’Amato Stortz graduated from the University of Guelph in April 2020 with a degree in B.Comm majoring in Public Management, and he spent much of his time at U of G fighting for a broad range of social causes. Post-graduation, Tony has worked as an outreach worker in a homeless shelter, an instructor teaching students how to build tiny homes for people living in tent cities, and is currently employed as the Outreach Coordinator at St. Mary’s Parish in Kitchener, where he will do similar work as his instructor position. Additionally, Tony has a custom woodworking business of his own. Tony attributes his success despite the pandemic in part to his co-op experiences at U of G, which provided him with the skills and portfolio necessary for his various roles as a recent alumnus.
Tell us about your co-op experiences at U of G. What did you do in these opportunities?
“In my co-op terms I did a bit of everything, from fighting white supremacy and antisemitism online, to advocating for IV drug users in Kitchener, to building sustainable homes. It was challenging to change paths so much, but every term forced me to build a whole new set of skills and experiences in order to succeed in the role. I’m really grateful to have that broad experience now that I’m out of school and working!”
What was your favourite moment during your U of G co-op?
“My favourite moment in U of G co-op was when I used my final optional summer term to work in carpentry. It was a departure from everything else I had done, but proved incredibly valuable. The trades are fun, lucrative, and those skills are so useful. Although the job couldn’t be considered a co-op term, my Co-op Coordinator helped talk me through getting the job and his flexibility and openness allowed me to pursue that goal.”
What projects are you working on now? Did your co-op experiences at U of G help lead you to your current role(s)?
“Up until recently, I was employed as an outreach worker in a homeless shelter. Two weeks ago, I finished my job as a carpenter/instructor teaching students how to build tiny homes then delivering them to people who live in tent cities, and last week, I started a job as the Outreach Coordinator for St. Mary’s Parish in downtown Kitchener where I’ll work with community partners and the parish to serve the same community. I also run a custom woodworking business.”
“It’s a lot, and none of it would have been possible without my co-op experiences at U of G. To do this kind of work you need to be a multi-tool of a person, comfortable in an office and out on the street. By letting me explore different careers in short but immersive experiences, co-op allowed me to find the kind of work I wanted to do and equipped me with the skills to succeed in those roles.”
What has been your biggest challenge transitioning to life after graduating and how have you managed to work through that challenge?
“The biggest challenge by far has been graduating into a global pandemic. Jobs were scarce and the whole world felt like it was on hold at precisely the moment I wanted to launch my career. The way I got through it was by being adaptable and using the diverse skills gained through co-op to fit into unique roles. If I had only trained for one type of work this may have been a challenging time, but because of those wide skills I’m very happily starting my career exactly where I want to.”
What's one piece of advice you would give to current students?
“My one piece of advice would be to work in many fields! Co-op is a unique opportunity to try out a career for a few months then leave with no questions asked. Unless you already know exactly what you want to do, my advice would be do all your terms in different places with different people and different work. It’s all part of the education.”
What are your plans for the future? How did U of G prep you for those plans?
“My plans for the future are to use the skills and connections I gained at Guelph to improve life for people who use drugs, live on the street, or otherwise are marginalized in society.”
“I know great people who struggle with addictions, don’t have housing, and experience severe mental health issues. They are awesome, resilient, thoughtful individuals and deserve a far more dignity and opportunity than what they currently get. I want to work to address that, and whether that work puts me in offices, homeless shelters, or construction sites, my time at Guelph has prepared me for all of them. It was a challenging but wonderful journey and I am truly grateful to have experienced it.”