Demonstrating grace under pressure, patience and quick-thinking, the graduates of the Faculty of Health and Community Studies may already be in your community and helping to make the world a better place. They’re educators, health care professionals, social workers, and caregivers to people of all ages and backgrounds—and now they’re part of the Class of 2016.
Brieann Baldock Special Needs Educational Assistant
I was super excited to be in university. My counsellor at Services to Students with Disabilities said I was one of the most open students she’d had. I was very excited to do things on my own. In high school, junior high and elementary, your educational assistant talks to your teachers and tells them what they think you need. It was awesome to be in university and talk to my counsellors and teachers myself, so they got to know who I am.
I was drawn to my program because of my experience in school with educational assistants and special needs coordinators. I wanted to learn more about their role and how to deal with things properly.
Some of the processes for special needs education maybe weren’t the best when I was in school. In my program, we learned about the inclusive code in Alberta, and when I told my mom what I had learned, she said, “I helped write that.” She helped write the inclusive code! My mom is very active in my life. If I wasn’t included in something in school, she would make sure I was.
Social work is not easy. I think from the outside it may seem like we just talk about our feelings and group hug, but it is so much more than that. This program requires you to be vulnerable with your classmates and with your faculty members, and to be real with yourself about your own weaknesses. You have to get extremely familiar with your own story and then face it head-on while accepting how it continues to influence you as a person and as a professional.
I’ll remember my time at MacEwan as challenging, but also as one of the most important times of my life. I grew a lot and after two years, I’m leaving as a more empathetic, understanding and well-rounded person. I will definitely miss the people the most. I felt really lucky to have been a part of the program’s Student Advisory Committee and to work closely with the amazing faculty while advocating for my fellow classmates.
I’m returning to school in the fall to complete my Bachelor of Social Work, and then I would like to complete my Master of Social Work in Counselling at the University of Calgary.
Victoria Erickson Bachelor of Child and Youth Care
I’ve always wanted to work with kids so I had considered teaching and social work, but as soon as I discovered Child and Youth Care, I knew it was the right program for me.
Last summer, we were approached to help organize an anti-bullying awareness night with the Oil Kings. We spent months coming up with ideas to share anti-bullying messages, getting the word out about the event and selling tickets to send kids to the game for free. We ended up being able to send about 85 children and their family members to a game in February—and we tried to focus on smaller agencies with less funding.
That night, everyone was super excited. Seeing families that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to go to a game enjoying themselves, doing the wave about a million times and seeing themselves up on the Jumbotron made the core group of five of us who worked on the project feel so proud.
It’s one of many favourite memories I’ll have of my time in the program.
Jennifer Freeman Therapist Assistant: Speech Language Pathologist Assistant Major
My experience is a bit unique—I actually have an undergraduate degree in psychology and linguistics, but I wanted to pursue something in the field of speech language pathology. After graduating with my degree, I found some jobs, but they weren’t specifically related to speech and language. I began researching various programs across Canada. The one at MacEwan piqued my interest and when I looked at the differences between the roles of a speech language pathologist and a speech language pathologist assistant (SLPA), I realized that the defining feature of an SLPA was that I would be involved in direct therapy with children. That’s what most attracted me to the program.
I had my second practicum at the Child Development Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon—my hometown. The centre doesn’t have an SLPA program but upon completing my practicum, they proposed the development of a new position to the board of directors, and I have since been offered a job as an SLPA for the upcoming fall. They actually created a position for me, as a speech language pathologist assistant! I definitely never expected that to happen. I was really lucky to have the opportunity to complete my practicum at the Child Development Centre, and MacEwan is really flexible in finding field placements outside Edmonton, subsequently allowing me to connect with my hometown. I am forever grateful.
Hyemi Huh Therapist Assistant: Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist Assistant Major
I was a professional bowler in Korea for 10 years. I have 13 national wins. But after 10 years, it wasn’t my thing anymore. At that time I was 25 and I wanted to start all over again, but I needed time to think about it. So I started to travel, and I knew that English was important. I didn’t study a lot while I was bowling, because I thought that would be my whole career. But since I came here, I found that I like life in Canada and I thought this program suited me.
I had three different field placements at hospitals, and there is a lot of variety in what you can do. I’d like to get experience working in a big hospital, learning as much of everything as I can and then later I will specialize.
My advice for future students is to focus on your learning and just enjoy. Times goes so fast—for me, it did. I can’t believe I’m already graduating.
I have grown up playing different team sports and that’s why I wanted to work in health care—because I knew it was about teamwork. Group work at school and being in clinical situations with your clinical team teach you a lot about teamwork and how when it goes smoothly, patients have better outcomes.
I don’t think I ever doubted my path. I knew I wanted to be a nurse and could be a very good nurse. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed with the path I chose because of the responsibility of it and because the nursing program isn’t easy. But I think it’s true that if something is worth doing, it won’t be easy. It was a long four years and there was a lot to learn, but I’m only a few weeks out of the program and I already know it was worth it.
There were definitely times when my confidence was shot. I failed my first evaluation of doing a sterile dressing change. I thought it was the end of the world, but I went in two days later and did it perfectly. Two-and-a-half years later and the process has become routine. Looking back on those moments and where I started from, it’s hard to believe how much I’ve grown. It was definitely the support and encouragement of my peers and the faculty at MacEwan who built that confidence along the way.
Whitney McGeary Disability Studies: Leadership and Community Dean's Medal for Academic Excellence
The most difficult, yet rewarding, part of being in the Disability Studies program was not only learning to accept my own diverse needs and abilities, but also learning how to be proud of the unique person that I am. When we talked about the idea of “disability pride” in class, I realized then that to me the word “disability” just meant “diversity.” The notion of “disability pride” is a way of being proud of the diverse person you are, and being proud of the fact that diversity is something that we all have in common. It unites us all.
Now that I have graduated, I plan on finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Mount Royal University and applying to do my Master’s in Leisure Studies, School Psychology and/or Disability Studies. Five years from now, I see myself being fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and facilitating yoga, dance and/or swimming classes to individuals with diverse needs and abilities.
My best advice for future students? Get to know your professors and fellow students. Try your best to stay connected with the people you become friends with. It is those connections that will provide you with the support you need.
Jennifer Pothier Bachelor of Child and Youth Care
When I was in Grade 9, I met a youth worker who was a success coach. Shortly after we met, someone threw a water bottle in the hallway and it broke my glasses. I was so upset. I just sat there and cried while she talked me through it. Eventually she told me the story of how she got into child and youth care, and right then I knew exactly what my career was going to be.
In the Winter semester of this year, I was doing a practicum with a grief program I was part of when I was in Grade 10. It felt like everything came full circle, but it hasn’t exactly been an easy road for me.
Last year I went through a really difficult time, and I had to leave my placement and my classes for a while. It was hard, but now I’m in such a different place. I’m happy, healthy, finished school and know exactly what I want to do with my life.
Facing adversity and overcoming it is what I’m most proud of. I’m living proof that things can and do get better.
Landon Turlock Social Work diploma
When I was in junior high and high school, I started volunteering at camp and I was able to support youth through a variety of things. I knew working with youth was something that brought me a lot of fulfillment and that I wanted to support people through my work. But I didn't know how. I thought it was through medicine, so I went into science for a little while. But that wasn’t what I wanted to do. After my first semester, my mentor, who's a social worker, said, “You should think about social work.”
So I went to the Social Work info session. I walked out of there so happy I was actually dancing around the bus stop with my partner, who came to support me. I said, "This is what I'm going to do.”
All of my profs knew me by name, and they knew what was going on with me if I had to ask for support or guidance. Whether it was personal, professional or academic, they were there. I never expected to have anything like that, or even a community that was built in the Social Work program. It brought back those same feelings I had at camp—it seemed like everyone was there to support each other.
I'll be going back in September and I'll be hopefully in the first graduating class of the Bachelor of Social Work at MacEwan. I'm excited to see what happens and how it goes.
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