Story by: Justin Lasich, Loyalist College Child and Youth Worker student and 2011 University of Guelph graduate, Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Neuroscience and Psychology
Professors of the Child and Youth Worker program at Loyalist College took a new approach to student orientation and team-building activities this fall semester. They took their group of approximately 75 students to Ganaraska Park for a day of treetop trekking.
Loyalist College students in the Child and Youth Worker program enjoy team building activities during an orientation session at Ganaraska Park. Establishing trust through organized activities is typical of what Child and Youth Counselors do with children in care.
For new students, particularly those with a fear of heights, the idea of navigating across aerial courses from a height of 30 feet was terrifying. The harnesses and other safety gear did little to dissipate angst about traveling across everything from suspension bridges and zip lines to cables and nets. However, by the time the teams had finished the first course, students were excited and able to enjoy spectacular views from the canopy.
While they started the day off as strangers, students were soon laughing and challenging each other to push their limits. When they emerged from the forest, there was a strong foundation of camaraderie to build on.
“Teamwork and trust in one another is essential,” explained Lorne Thompson, Coordinator of the three-year Ontario College Advanced Child and Youth Worker Diploma program. “Team-building activities like this are typical of what Child and Youth Workers do with children in care. Our profession, and therefore our program, is built upon developing cooperative and collegial working relationships.”
While students’ perspectives and career goals differ, they were united by a passion for the program. The education will prepare them to work in positions that promote optimal development of children, youth and their families. As part of a multi-disciplinary team, Child and Youth Counselors work in a variety of settings, including schools, child welfare and protection environments, residential treatment settings, children’s mental health programs, youth outreach centres, hospital-based services, and juvenile justice programs.
During my final year of university, I decided to apply to the program in order to acquire practical training before going on to grad school for counseling or social work. Loyalist was my first choice because it’s well-reputed, in my home community, and provides a strong balance of in-class learning and four different placements.
Having joined the second year of the program through advanced standing, I first met a number of classmates in Ganaraska Park. The experience was all about being open to new opportunities, seeing the world in new ways, and discovering what can be achieved when limits are challenged. For me, it was also about overcoming a childhood fear of heights.
The treetop trekking adventure serves as a metaphor for how Child and Youth Worker students should conduct themselves in the program – and life in general.