VIU Child And Youth Care Alumni Share Experiences At 2nd Annual Meet And Greet

Participants at the 2nd Annual Child and Youth Care Alumni Meet and Greet had the opportunity to meet 14 graduates of the CYC program who are currently employed in a wide range of occupations.

February 2, 2016 - 11:30am

It was set up like an evening of speed dating. At first the almost 100 people attending milled around not sure where to go - but Child and Youth Care Alumni Meet and Greet organizer, Sara Marshall, eventually managed to get everyone into groups and on their way.

The Jan. 28 event brought current Vancouver Island University (VIU) students, high school students and members of the public together to talk openly about the Child and Youth Care (CYC) program at VIU, and the work former students of the program are doing now. 

“It really worked well in that everyone who came to find out where a Child and Youth Care diploma or degree might take them got to spend equal time with participating alumni,” said Marshall, who is a fourth year student in the program. 

The groups circulated through various rooms spending seven minutes per round peppering CYC alumni with questions. The unique format anchored the event - and challenged the 14 alumni participants each step of the way.

Vancouver Island University CYC graduate Jenn Stuart works for the Haven Society, counselling children who witness abuse.  She said the questions she fielded ranged from ‘what is a typical work day like for you?’ to ‘did you enjoy getting your degree here?’ and ‘how do you not take the work home with you?’

“I love talking to students who want to be child and youth care workers,” said Stuart. “They are bright stars who have an interest in this work because they are empathetic, strong individuals. It’s great being around their energy and hearing how they want to contribute to improving the lives of children and youth.”

Other alumni participants included substance abuse outreach workers, BC Ministry of Children and Family Development social workers, and child protection workers. The occupations represented at the event supported the message the department wanted to get across – that there are a wide range of opportunities available to child and youth care graduates. 

The VIU Dean of Health and Human Services, Dr. Carol Stuart, says they were able to deliver that message thanks to the former students who came out to show their support.

“The alumni are so valuable to VIU in terms of being able to participate and share what they experienced while they were here, and what they are experiencing right now in the field,” said Stuart.

She says the success of the program has much to do with their ability to change with the times, and ensure the curriculum they’re teaching prepares students for the environments they are going into.  An adventure-based course (CYC 221), for example, challenges students to develop activities that acknowledge, embrace and incorporate the natural world into counseling and healing work. 

Stuart says keeping the curriculum fresh with courses like CYC 221 and providing students opportunities to engage with the community before they graduate is key to their success. A big part of the community engagement commitment was fulfilled when VIU established the Centre for Community Outreach and Care in 2013. The Centre works directly with the local Nanaimo community of Harewood – which is the same community VIU’s Nanaimo campus is located in. The Centre offers practical learning experiences to CYC students while providing child, youth and family focused programs to the Harewood community.

Past CYC student-run projects at the Centre include facilitating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer youth support group; working with local high schools alongside the Canadian Mental Health Association to bring awareness about depression and anxiety, and focusing attention on social justice issues.

“Over time we have seen a change in young people. They are experiencing more stress, more mental health issues, poverty and crisis. Community engagement is essential to understanding the challenges and experiences of the people who are on the ground doing the work, and to understanding the needs of the people they serve,” said Stuart. 

“What we do in the CYC program is, in many ways, pioneering. Key shifts have been taking place and we’ve been planning our curriculum accordingly. Our curriculum changes with the times. It gives our students the tools they require to be prepared and effective in what is, by all accounts, a very challenging but rewarding field of work. By talking with the alumni who are here tonight, we know that the participants will leave with a better understanding of that.”

For more information about the VIU Child and Youth Care Program go to:

Tags: Our Alumni