I have a treat for anyone interested in the Child and Youth Care program! I sat down with my friend and fellow Ryerson student, Hali Cartmel, to learn more about her University experience. She just completed her fourth-year in the Child and Youth Care program, and I’ll save the rest for you to learn in the interview below!
How would you describe the Child and Youth Care Program?
“The Child and Youth Care (CYC) Program is for individuals who want to work with children between the ages of 5 to 18. Graduates of the program get to work with children in schools, hospitals, community centres, group homes, and shelters. CYC Practitioners are placed in these infrastructures to council groups of children on various topics including drug or alcohol addiction, family abuse, eating disorders, mental health, and other topics depending on the infrastructure. For example, CYC Practitioners in schools often promote healthy living and eating. Certain situations may require counselling session with children and families, but the focus is still on the child. Overall, the program gives students the skills they need to promote a positive environment for children.”
Why did you choose the Child and Youth Care Program?
“Since the age of 12 I have worked with kids, and I’ve always been drawn to helping kids, and learning more about who they are as people. I had a co-op placement in high school in a developmentally delayed class, and that was probably the most fun I had during high school. I had the opportunity to run programs for them and teach them. This experience made me realize that I love teaching and that I want to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to teach kids because I always loved being in their presence. They always have this sparkle of hope and positivity in their eyes. I love giving kids validation and attention because that’s all that kids want. Through this program and career, I hope to help children become the best person they can be.”
Is it what you expected?
“Yes! The campus is not overly large, and my classes aren’t huge either. The smaller class sizes allow me to have a personal experience with all of my professors, and I actually get to know them. My program does not have classes with 1500 students where professors know two to five students. The largest class I’ve ever been
in had around 200 students, and that was an elective. The largest CYC class I was in had 90 students, and I still made a connection with my professor in that class. The smallest class I’ve been in had about 15 students, and I really got to know the instructor personally, and they got to know me as well. Smaller class sizes allow for professors to cater to students’ interests better. Sometimes professors email positions to us that they think we should apply to because they know us so well. Other faculty members also provide us with opportunities to succeed. They want to create an environment where we can grow and do what we want to do.
I also love that Ryerson allowed me to work in my field while studying. I’ve had two internships as a CYC Practitioners. One placement was in my second year, and one in my fourth year. It got me to try new things and it gave me a taste of the field before I step into it. I really enjoy the program and what it offers.”
Can we hear a little more about your placement experience?
“Of course! The first placement was at the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs.
In the first year of the program, I was required to take the course Ready for Practice, and during the lab, I got to know people in my program and learn more about the career opportunities available for CYC Practitioners. The instructors provided all students with a form with information about where we were planning to live in the next year, and we got to pick our top five areas that we wanted to work in from the listed options. The program tries to choose from the students’ top three options.
I chose to work in a community centre, and I got placed in the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club where I ran programs for kids after school. I enjoyed it a lot, and a supervisor from another location offered me a job for the summer. I now work at a smaller location, and I work with children between the ages of five to 11 with most of them being between eight and 11. I love working with the kids there, and if I’m having a bad day they always brighten up my day. It just goes back to how glad I am that I am working in a field I love.
During my third year in the program I filled out the same form and I went through the interview process and ended up with a paid position as a Counselor Coordinator at a summer camp called Ryerson Camp (not affiliated with Ryerson University). I was lucky getting a paid position as most internships are unpaid but the unpaid positions can lead to paid positions. So far every internship I have had, I have been hired on.”
What’s a common misconception about your program?
“A lot of people confuse us with social workers. Social workers usually work one on one with family and parents, whereas CYC Practitioners usually work in a group setting. CYC Practitioners can also be misinterpreted in the workplace in their own job. We don’t babysit children, we provide care for children and allow them to live their best life. We are not there to do things for them, but we are there to do things with them. In other words, we work with the kids, and we don’t work for them.”
What are you involved with outside of class at Ryerson?
“I am a part of LifeLine which is the Ryerson Christian group, and they run events every Tuesday and Thursday. This group is important to me because being a Christian is a part of my individuality and who I am as a person. I also go to the health and wellness events that Ryerson runs because I get to connect with other students in my program. The events also teach us different ways to cope and deal with our stress. This also allows me to learn new strategies for helping others deal with stress, which is pretty awesome.”
How would you describe Ryerson to someone who was thinking of coming here?
“In high school, a lot of people have trouble with self-identity, self-image and just trying to fit in. One of the best things about university is you get to be who you want to be. You create your own self-image and can be
your own person. You don’t have to follow the rules that have evolved around social norms, and this is especially true in a city so widely diverse like Toronto. There is not even one person alike. The diversity of the people here is fantastic, and there are so many opportunities to put yourself out there. You can join a student group centered around religion, LGBTQ, sports or a variety of other topics. Ryerson offers a wide range of things for students to do. So, if you’re willing, and you want to do it, go for it as Ryerson has it. Put your foot out, and step forward as there is something out there for you to do.”
What do you wish you knew about Ryerson before your first year?
“In my first year, I didn’t know the simple logistics of the university, such as how classes run, and it was a lot to take in. You get put into classes and you’re expected to know what to do. For example, I didn’t know about Ryerson time which is the fact that Ryerson classes start 10 minutes after the hour so students have time to get to their next class. Also, in my first lecture, I was unsure if I should ask to go to the washroom. I noticed other people get up and walk out, and that was when I realized the freedom we have as university students.”
What’s next for you after graduation?
“I decided to take my time and finish one course over the summer and I will be graduating in the fall. This summer, I hope to work in the same position at Ryerson Camp. Afterwards, I hope to find a job in Toronto in a school, hopefully as an Education Assistant or a Child and Youth Care Practitioner. I plan to work for about a year or two and then go back to school, as I would like to become a special education teacher! I’m excited to utilize all my skills, knowledge and connections that I’ve made, and apply it to work, life, and doing what I want to do.”