A program between the University of Calgary and The Boys and Girls Club Community Services is providing social work and education students with the opportunity to apply textbook principles to real-life situations.
"I learned independence through a variety of experiences," said former Boys and Girls Club Community Services practicum student Michelle Chanet. "If I had an idea, they would let me go with it if it was within reason and under good supervision. It gave me a lot of confidence"
The program typically runs for four months and allows students to occupy various positions, roles and responsibilities. Among the potential work sites are Avenue 15 (a shelter for runaways and homeless teens), a drop-in center located in Marlborough Mall and fans (Food and Nutrition in Schools), a program that feeds undernourished youths.
"As a social work student I was able to cover all fields of social work," said Chanet. "I got a taste of working with individuals, families, and community work. It really showed me what I liked and what I didn't like."
When delegating assignments, administrators try to maintain a balance of student preference, learning opportunities, and areas of need, as they hope to provide students with as diverse an encounter as possible.
According to Boys and Girls Club Communications and Volunteer Manager Diane Reid, participants benefit from the individual attention received from the students and the new perspective students offer.
"Practicum students often really focus on the participants as opposed to being side-tracked by other responsibilities," said Reid. "When you're an employee you often have a wide-range of tasks in your job description. A practicum student's main task is to focus on the client group; the kids really blossom with that attention."
Although the Boys and Girls Club Community Services provide practicum students with a volunteer position, there is room for advancement.
"We do like to promote from within so there are often opportunities for those who have done volunteer work or have held a prac-ticum position," said Reid.
Specifically designed for Social Work and Education students, Reid emphasized the universality of the program.
"We could actually use practicum students outside of what people normally see us doing," said Reid. "What a human resource system does in a company would be the same as our volunteer system, as the evaluation, recruitment, screening and the placement process are an integral component of each."
As social work is an emotionally and personally demanding career, this program must not be taken lightly. Erin Jobb, a former practicum student, considers dedication to the work a definite requirement for success in the program.
"You have to be flexible, creative, and love working with children." said Jobb.