Each year, human services students put compassion into action through a community project in their leadership course.
Offered to second-year students in the child and youth care
and early learning and child care
programs, the project includes choosing a cause to support, preparing and presenting a proposal, working as a team, developing communication skills and implementing projects that make a difference.
“This course benefits communities. Students learn and grow from taking the initiative to make a difference for community members,” explains Joanne McDonald, chair of human services at Lakeland.
For the project, students support causes though fundraising, gathering donations, hosting events and other methods. They pitch their project idea to a panel of Dragon’s Den-inspired judges who help them refine both their project and their presentation skills.
This year, with the added challenges of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic making many of the traditional project activities impossible, students had to be particularly creative when choosing their project.
It also gave students different priorities for many of the projects, and they chose to focus on things like fostering connection between community and helping give people hope and reasons to smile.
Kara Mouly’s group chose to launch a pen pal program between elementary school students and seniors in lodges.
“Because of the pandemic, these two groups weren’t really seeing each other as often as they were before,” explains Mouly, a first-year child and youth care student. “We thought this would be a good way to connect them during the pandemic and bring the community together. It’s important for younger students to connect with older age groups, to have a mentor or someone to look up to, whether it’s someone in their family, the community or their pen pal.”
Mouly and her group created a video featuring their grandparents and younger relatives discussing how COVID-19 had impacted. They had virtual meetings with school classes, gathered lists of interested children and seniors, and then delivered the letters and responses.
“It went really well,” Mouly says. “The seniors were so happy and the children loved telling them about their lives and all the things they like to do. I’ve heard the school continued the program, so they must have gotten good feedback from the students as well.”
Lana Rogan, a second-year early learning and child care student, originally wanted to do a project involving athletics with a youth group but the pandemic made the logistics of that plan almost impossible.
Instead, she and her group chose to make and donate children’s activity baskets for the Interval House in North Battleford, Sask.
A large focus of their project was the pitch presentation to the panel, in which they brought in a number of objects that were significant to child development. They gave each judge a backstory with a different upbringing, and then gave the objects they had brought to the person with the most advantages in their upbringing. That judge then had all the items they needed to help with their development and had to choose how to share those resources with the others.
“We wanted to give the panel a visual of what we were trying to do,” Rogan explains. “The Interval Home is a women’s shelter, but we knew that many of the women bring their children there too. We thought it was important to support the children this way so they’d have the materials they need that were appropriate for their development, to help them keep up with their milestones no matter their backstory.”
The group made baskets filled with colouring books, crayons, flash cards, Play Doh, puzzles and more. The baskets were dropped off on March 12.
“I’m pretty proud of our project,” Rogan says. “Projects like this are important to the early learning and child care program because whatever roles we end up in later, there will always be extra money needed for activities and materials and things that will further the children’s learning and development. Fundraising is an important part of the job.”
Other groups worked on creating Hope Boxes with children in the campus daycare program to give to their parents, smile baskets for children at Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton, collecting donations for homeless shelters, and collecting pencils for teachers to give out to students who need them.
Photos: Top - Lana Rogan and her group presenting their project to the panel. Middle - Kara Mouly, whose group connected seniors and school children pen pals. Bottom - Joanne McDonald, chair of human services, participates in Lana Rogan's presentation.