Students create valuable community projects through Community Engaged Learning Practicum

21 Feb 2022

Fourth-year sociology student and varsity football captain Dan Francis loves working with youth. He spent the past two summers as a camp counsellor in Boston, MA and Amherst, NS and this past summer, as Co-President of The Varsity Project, he helped run an athletic summer camp for kids. He has spent time volunteering in local schools throughout his degree. He aspires to be an educator and eventually a guidance counsellor. This term, in his Community Engaged Learning Practicum course, Francis combined his passion for sports and working with youth to develop an online speaker series called Elite Athletics Series for Aspiring Athletes, beginning Feb. 24.

Fourth-year sociology student and varsity football captain Dan Francis.

“I love working with youth and using sports as a guidance for it,” says Francis. “Sports gave me mentorship and discipline and I believe youth can thrive from that. There were lots of things I wish I knew as a young athlete trying to make it to the next level and that’s why I decided to do this as my community project.”

Community Engaged Learning was recently introduced at Mount Allison as an undergraduate certificate and then a minor. The interdisciplinary program provides opportunities for service learning and helps students build on expertise developed in their main area of study. The capstone course of the minor is the Community Engaged Learning Practicum, where students develop a project in co-operation with a community partner.

Associate professor Sacha Dewolfe says this course allows students to actualize their passions and to develop skills outside the classroom.

“I look at it as a beautiful space to learn in, outside the four walls of a building,” says Dewolfe. “It’s the idea of looking at assets in the community and how they can lead learning.”

Francis partnered with alumnus Bill Kierstead (’82,’85,’87) of Authentic Education Consulting for his athletics speaker series project.

“Bill was an amazing leader in this,” says Dewolfe. “He has such a vast knowledge in so many areas. It’s important that students find a community partner like Bill.”

Francis agrees.

“Bill has been a super big supporter with this and I couldn’t have done it without him,” he says.

The online speaker series Elite Athletics Series for Aspiring Athletes is for all ages and is intended to provide an opportunity for aspiring athletes to learn from and interact with elite athletes, coaches, and other team officials through seven live sessions. Topics will revolve around the information that athletes need to know as they move to the elite level. The first session — What it takes to be an athlete — is on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Participants can join any or all of the Zoom presentations live to participate and ask questions, or view the archived sessions at any time.

“I will take a lot away from this experience and engagement with the community,” says Francis. “I am getting great work experience and I feel joy in giving back to youth.”

The other student projects in the practicum include a virtual theatre performance for children through Sackville’s Live Bait Theatre (Quinn Waylaing); creating sustainability for an initiative called Community Connect, which pairs students with isolated seniors to help combat social isolation and food insecurity (Hannah Crouse); and developing communal outdoor spaces on campus through gardening (Brooke Mazurkewich).

To learn more about Community Engaged Learning, visit mta.ca/programs/cenl.



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