Continuing her commitment to community through University
Skylar (centre) with her friends in New Orleans
Skylar, community service is important to you. Was this from attending YHS?
One of the reasons I decided to attend YHS was because of the high value placed on community service. As far back as I can recall I’ve always taken the time to volunteer, so attending YHS really instilled this emphasis on community engagement in me. Community service has allowed me to take an active role in my community, and has given me the opportunity to acquire knowledge and life skills while providing service to those who need it most.
Please tell us about your involvement with Habitat for Humanity?
I joined Western University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program during my freshman year. The program is designed to provide students with “Community Engaged Learning” by holding workshops throughout the year on intercultural communication, persistent social issues, and what we as students at a Canadian university can do about it. The program culminates into a both a local and global part of service learning.
For the global portion, I travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana during my Reading Week in 2015 to work with Habitat for Humanity on a few build sites. I was drawn to Habitat for Humanity because their business model engages both volunteers and the people who benefit from the housing projects. Volunteers are trained on how to work tools and residents of Habitat houses must dedicate hours of their own service into building the house.
I chose to work in New Orleans because I wanted to see the progress that the city had made in rebuilding itself during the ten years post Hurricane Katrina. I was surprised when I arrived in New Orleans: some wards I visited only contained empty lots and unpaved streets where vibrant houses and communities used to be. Districts that once were home to eight elementary schools now relied on only one because there weren’t enough funds to rebuild the rest. I found my experience so impactful in first year that I decided I wanted to develop the ASB program further, so during my second year I became one of the team leaders of the program. I helped to lead the workshops and organize the program, and in February of 2016 I led 40 students back to New Orleans to work on more house builds. The year that I led the New Orleans program was especially rewarding because I was able to help other students enjoy the same positive experience that I had from the year before.
Here’s a video that my co-leader made of the trip (I think I have a short cameo at the 11 second mark and a couple other places).
How did you find out about it?
Shortly into my first year of university, I started to feel overwhelmed. I was taking some lecture-based courses in which more than 550 students were enrolled and my university residence building housed over 1,000 students. Combined with living across the country and away from my family, I was exhausted from trying to keep up in school and get enough sleep and stay in touch with my friends. I realized that I really missed the feeling of fulfillment that I had from volunteering and working on community projects at YHS and the network of like-minded people I met through it. I felt disconnected from the very city I was living in (we call it the “Western University bubble” because the school acts as its own community): I couldn’t even name the major streets that were off campus. I decided to look for opportunities to involve myself in the London community and discovered the ASB program, offered through Western.
Do you see yourself continuing your community service after graduation?
Absolutely. Giving time to my community is important to me and I can’t imagine it not extending beyond my graduation.
What are you studying and what do you see yourself doing after graduation?
I study business at the Ivey Business School, at Western University. I hope to work in health sector innovation after I graduate, possibly doing quality improvement projects in hospitals. I see myself at the intersection between healthcare and business – working to improve quality of life through improved healthcare. In this respect, I see myself managing projects to improve the quality of processes and care in hospitals (in a business operations or analytics capacity). I am also interested in how to incentivize profit-seeking medical device and pharmaceutical companies to invest in better healthcare innovation, while keeping the products of this innovation affordable to patients.
Any advice to new grads heading to Western this September?
Keep in touch with other Yorkies at your university! They know what you’re going through better than anyone.
You’ll learn just as much, if not more, outside of classes as you will in them, so be open to new opportunities and get involved with clubs, sports, and causes that you’re passionate about.
Buy a good quality winter jacket and snow boots (we had snow into April this year)!