Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) child and youth care program has adapted its practicums to meet COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
“Field experience is an integral part of the program, but COVID-19 put a halt to in-person practicum opportunities, where students gain workplace skills,” said Cheryl Cameron, child and youth care practicum coordinator.
“The students grappled with the loss of those unique personal involvements, but they came together and found ways to mobilize and make things happen despite the pandemic.”
Working alongside community agencies across Vancouver Island, six teams consisting of five students each turned their ideas into a variety of activities and initiatives tailored to the specific needs of the organizations and the people they support.
Fourth-year student Alexis Comeau said the transition to an online learning format and practicum has been difficult and often left her feeling exhausted and somewhat defeated.
“Despite my initial resistance and frustration, being able to engage weekly with each other over Zoom has been rewarding in a very different way than I was expecting,” said Comeau. “It created a broader support network among our groups and with our mentors and it forced us to be creative in our efforts to make a difference in the lives of the youth these programs support.”
Comeau said she was able to connect a youth being supported by Nanaimo and Area Resource Services for Families (NARSF) with an individual who taught them how to create music in a studio setting.
“We were able to present them with an opportunity they may not otherwise have had and it helped them with making goals and feeling successful,” she said.
Despite the challenges for engagement this past year, collaborations with the child and youth care practicum team have provided program development for youth programs, such as the transitions substance use skills based day program, according to Cara May, NARSF program manager
“Thanks to the knowledge and resources shared by students, we were able to incorporate their ideas for weekly outdoor programming, music workshops, Indigenous teachings, art activities and much more,” she said. “We provide space for the implementation of theory to practice and we are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside students as they find real-world applications of best practices.”