When Dr. Ozlem Cankaya decided to replace an essay in her ECCS 360: Families in a Global Context course with a project in partnership with C5 Northeast Hub, she had no idea the impact it would have on her students and the community.

“I knew that they would take something away from writing a paper, but I also knew that working on real projects that real people in the community can use would be even better,” says the assistant professor in the Bachelor of Early Childhood Curriculum Studies program. “C5 is doing amazing work to eliminate the barriers families experience when they must continually express their need for services over and over. When you meet families at C5, you can see that they feel embraced and supported.”

So Dr. Cankaya asked if C5 Edmonton, a consortium of five leading Edmonton agencies (Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Boyle Street Community Services, Terra Centre, EMCN and Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre), had projects her students could help complete. 

Over the Fall 2022 term, students teamed up, gained some insight and tips from the university’s Careers and Experience office and got to work on six projects – from helping newcomers use the city’s transit system and compiling mental health resources to researching food security. 

Four students sit on a sofa beside a table that holds a brochure they created Students Jerika–Ann Primero, Caren Eclarin, Iris Baguinon and Klebshiela Raven Dante developed information for newcomers on how to use Edmontons’ transit system.

Kiana Krueger, Ghadear Matroud, Mariam Hajar and Alex Frolick, students in the Bachelor of Early Childhood Curriculum Studies program, chose to work on a community outreach survey to assess the needs of families in northeast Edmonton. They carefully crafted a set of survey questions in consultation with their community partner and Dr. Cankaya. Then, they set out to ask them – connecting with families online, by phone and in person at C5’s Community Market (which provides food for over 700 families struggling with food security.) 

“This project showed me the importance of reaching out to families about their needs and strengthened my passion for learning about families’ successes and capabilities and advocating for high-quality child care,” says Krueger.  

“It’s so encouraging to see professors and researchers looking to find ways to give back to the community and make an impact in the world.”
Hannah Storvold

As C5 Director of Strategy and Advocacy Hannah Storvold and Director of Operations Mohamed Elsaghir visited Dr. Cankaya’s classes, they introduced their organizations, provided feedback on projects and offered a strength-based view of their work. 

“It was important for students to see that the families who are the focus of these projects have many strengths that people often forget about – they bring a wealth of knowledge and are incredibly resilient,” says Dr. Cankaya. “I am so proud of my students’ passion and knowledge.”

That passion translated into projects that filled an essential need for C5.

“We got so many great resources from this partnership that were all on our staffing team’s wish list – these are not projects that will just sit on a shelf gathering dust,” says Storvold. “In the non-profit sector, we are stretched thin – there are never enough hours in the day, money or resources – so it is great to be able to access this untapped potential that students have to offer.”

C5 hopes to continue working with Dr. Cankaya into the future.

“These projects with Dr. Cankaya have launched the beginning of a really exciting partnership that I know all five agencies that make up C5 are eager to continue,” says Storvold. “It’s so encouraging to see professors and researchers looking to find ways to give back to the community and make an impact in the world.”

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