As the Winter Term comes to a close, many students are reflecting on not only what they learned in the classroom this academic year, but what they gained from volunteering on and off campus.
Volunteering is a great way to make your university experience more meaningful. It allows you to give back to and connect with your community while developing skills that will be useful no matter where you go or what you do after graduation – skills like communication, collaboration, problem-solving, empathy and leadership.
Even though September might seem far away, many volunteer programs and opportunities are now accepting applications – and some of those deadlines are approaching fast! – for the 2020/21 academic year. Here are just a few of the opportunities coming up this fall, and what our student volunteers had to say about them.
As the name suggests, ambassadors represent MacEwan – and its positive spirit – by volunteering their time and service to causes and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, Black History Month and Bell Let’s Talk. MacEwan ambassadors also play a role in welcoming and helping new and prospective students at events like Open House and New Student Orientation.
Elise Gouin, a former ambassador who now works as the student coordinator for the program, says the variety of volunteer opportunities were particularly meaningful to her, and that giving back had a positive impact on many areas of her university experience.
“When I started university I thought I would go there, study, get my degree and be finished, but once I volunteered with ambassadors I felt so much more comfortable at MacEwan,” she says. “I made friends and connections with faculty, staff and students. It helped round out my educational experience by participating and having the chance to give back.”
How to get involved: Applications are currently being accepted through the Ambassador website.
Champions of Diversity and Equity (C.O.D.E.) – a training program offered through MacEwan’s Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity – focuses on creating a space and culture for dialogue, learning, reflection and action on human rights. C.O.D.E participants explore the theory and practice of human rights and gain skills in facilitating dialogue and conversations on critical human rights issues. They also volunteer 20 to 30 hours per semester by participating in presentations, organizing awareness events, leading peer dialogue sessions and supporting campus and community outreach initiatives.
“When I signed up for the C.O.D.E. program, I wanted to get involved with the university, to learn more about our students and human rights. It was a huge opportunity for me,” says Jose Estrada, a C.O.D.E. volunteer. “I got to meet students from different backgrounds and different faculties. I learned about residential schools and about the Canadian justice system, the way to approach police officers, about human rights and how to be an example for others.”
The MacEwan Anti-Violence Education Network (MAVEN) Peer Education Program provides comprehensive training on sexual violence prevention, under the guidance of the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention, Education and Response. Students who complete the training become peer educators, and work toward creating a culture of consent at MacEwan by facilitating workshops and assisting with outreach activities.
Students gain leadership skills, develop the tools to become agents of positive social change and learn how to navigate conversations around a challenging topic. “We go through 40-plus hours of training to prepare us for creating a safe space to talk about all forms of sexual violence as well as boundaries and consent,” says Samantha Hay, a fourth-year Social Work student and MAVEN volunteer. “A major goal is to create spaces where we can have an open dialogue around sexual violence education and prevention. People will have different perspectives, attitudes and beliefs — not everyone is going to agree, and that’s okay. We want to respond in a way that validates their questions, without judgment or shame, while coming from a place of compassion as we dispel the commonly held myths within our culture.”
The Peer Health Education Team (PHET) is a volunteer program that strives to build a healthier campus through peer-to-peer education, advocacy, and collaboration with campus and community members. The PHET encourages students to make healthy life choices in support of their academic and personal goals.
Psychology major Ashlyn Demers found that her experience as part of the team wasn’t just an extracurricular activity – it was interwoven into her academic experience. “I've been able to apply knowledge I've gained in different courses to the PHET, as well as use things I've learned on the PHET in different classes,” she says. “I'd say it was a major reason I got into grad school for counselling psychology. It helped me to gain direct, hands-on experience with things like health promotion and education, which are definitely aspects of the field I'm interested in working in.”
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