By Pam Chamberlain
In a third-year criminology class at Augustana, professor Geraint Osborne invited two Wetaskiwin probation officers to talk about their vocation. Upon hearing their presentation, one of the students, Megan Patenaude, knew she had found her career path.
Megan had been interested in criminology and corrections since junior high, but until that day, she wasn’t sure where that interest would take her. Afterwards, Megan talked to professor Osborne, and he connected her with the officers. That summer, she volunteered at the Wetaskiwin Probation Office.
In her fourth year, Megan took a Community Service-Learning course, which included a practicum placement at the Wetaskiwin office, and a directed study with professor Osborne, which allowed her to continue volunteering in the program.
Today, Megan is a correctional service worker—better known as a probation officer—working for the Alberta government in Westlock. Megan supervises offenders and meets with them regularly to ensure that people are adhering to the conditions of their probation. She also refers them to counsellors or agencies as needed.
“The most rewarding part of the job is to see clients take the help we are offering and make changes in their lives,” reflects Megan. For example, one of Megan’s clients, who was once addicted to heroin, is now in a methadone program and hasn’t failed a drug test in over a year. Megan says, “Although her success is due to decisions she’s made herself, I’ve played a part in helping her to maintain this healthier lifestyle by connecting her with the supports she needs to stay clean. I am proud to be part of a program that helps people who need it and keeps communities safe.”
There are challenges, though. Small towns such as Westlock often lack the necessary resources and agencies to provide much-needed help. However, Megan is committed to working in rural communities. “Because I am from Sexsmith, which is a very small town, I am used to a rural setting and don’t want to move to a big city.”
Augustana’s neighbourly atmosphere was what first drew Megan to Camrose. “Since I’m from a small town,” she recalls, “being on a small campus felt like home. In my classes, I could be myself and I never felt lost in a crowd.”
Megan remembers how Augustana helped her on her career: “The community service-learning components of classes were especially helpful because they allowed me to gain experience in the field, which helped me get my position after graduation. The professors—like Dr Osborne—were amazing. They knew me and cared about me as an individual. They helped me tailor my studies to prepare me for my chosen field, and they helped me make the connections I needed to take me where I wanted to go in life.”