Monday, July 9, 2012

REAL Leadership Program provides real opportunities for Douglas students

Thanks to his experience with the REAL Leadership Program, Robert Prince got hired by Hoops, a basketball camp that integrates life skills with sport.    
By Toby Reeve

Two Douglas College students are taking part in a new leadership program that has exceeded all expectations for success.

Douglife’s REAL Leadership Program places students in local community programs to work with children and youth. The program is part of a partnership between Douglas College and the City of New Westminster’s Community Schools and Parks and Recreation Board.

While it just launched in January, the program is already getting rave reviews.

“The kids get an opportunity to have leaders who are enthusiastic and new and come with great ideas from Douglas College,” said Ashley Currie, a community school coordinator with the New Westminster school district who helps run the program.

“We get the opportunity to create this…community with people involved in volunteer work, and these students at Douglas College get this real work experience…that informs their careers and gets them volunteer hours.”

Before beginning his placement, Richard Sterndale-Bennett, an arts transfer student, took part in a one-day certification course along with eight other students on childhood development, which covered activity planning, and bullying and conflict. The students also receive support, supervision and training during their placements. At the end, they receive a certificate of completion from Douglas.

Richard was placed with two elementary after-school programs, where he helped staff leaders by supervising activities such as ball hockey — refereeing and keeping the kids engaged.

“You get to be pretty close with the kids,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

For one kids’ event he ran his own station and planned activities.

“I was basically doing what a rec leader would be doing, and it was completely on my own,” he said.

Robert Prince, who is completing a Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching, was placed at a lacrosse camp and at a youth centre running drop-in basketball. He says the REAL Leadership Program is helping him achieve his career goal.

“I’m very much a giver, and that’s why I’m going to become a teacher,” he said. “To encourage the youth and allow them to grow on their own.”

For Robert, there has been an additional pay-off. Based on his placement work, he has been hired to run a basketball camp for youth called Hoops, which integrates life skills with sport.

Ashley says that without volunteers such as Richard and Robert, some programs would be understaffed.

Salisha Ali, a city staffer who runs after-school drop-ins, has seen the benefits of these volunteers first-hand.

“They come with training, which helps us, and they are also already interested in working with youth,” she said.

Next year Douglife plans to have students in the REAL Leadership Program develop their own community programs in collaboration with the schools.

To find out more, visit Douglife.