By Kara Blizzard
Community Service Learning (CSL) has expanded over the past two years at Augustana. More and more students are taking courses that involve volunteer placements with local organizations or projects that help the community in some way.
One of these students is Kaitlyn Ganser, a fourth year psychology major with an interdisciplinary minor in the field of global and development studies. Kaitlyn has been involved in several placements in Camrose. She continues to take courses with CSL components, because “you get to connect with so many more people than you would if you just did regular studies.”
Last year she took a psychology course in language development. As part of her studies she got to volunteer for Parent Link, a local centre that provides support to parents and children. Kaitlyn said her experience has helped her to get more involved with the community: “Now that I’ve spent time with Parent Link, I really am connected with what the organization does. You just become so involved in what you’re doing, and then you can make those connections to what you’re learning.” CSL placements can also lead to other volunteer and work opportunities. Kaitlyn said, “When I was working at Parent Link I connected really well with one of the organizers, and she got me involved with another program called the OSCAR program, and she also mentioned summer work programs. It just helps you decide—is this something I want to do in the future?”
This semester, Kaitlyn is volunteering at the Open Door’s Café Connections as part of an applied social psychology course. So far she has learned that the Open Door’s café “helps at-risk youth get on their feet and learn skills like getting a drivers license, writing a resume, working a till and working with customers. The youth learn skills they can take and use in another job.” Kaitlyn works as a supervisor at the Café, and she talks with employees and gives them support.
To get a CSL certificate at Augustana, a student must complete an independent research project. Kaitlyn’s project is with Sahakarini, an organization that provides support to people in developing countries. Kaitlyn described her experience with Sahakarini as “eye-opening. I had no idea it existed in Camrose until I got involved with it.” She is a board member, and her responsibilities include attending meetings and helping with programs.
As for career goals, Kaitlyn said she used to want to be a speech pathologist. “But after working with Parentlink and the Community Centre, I was fascinated about what they do and the support they provide the community. So I’m leaning toward working with an organization like that where you actually get involved with the community in maybe more than one way. But I’m not really sure what that means yet.”