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How ECS students give back to the community

ECS students pose with their finished quilt

Recently, students in the University of Guelph-Humber’s Early Childhood Studies program have volunteered their time to help the families at Ronald McDonald House Charities, to raise money for the country’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital Holland Bloorview, and to stitch together a quilt to donate to the London Children's Museum.

In each case, UofGH students volunteered with an overwhelming enthusiasm and dedication that is characteristic of the program. In fact, Early Childhood Studies Assistant Program Head Elena Merenda recalls recently encouraging the president of UofGH’s ECS Society to organize a fun event for her membership, thinking perhaps that the students might decide to plan a pub night. Instead, they decided to plan another fundraiser.

Ultimately, it seems that passion for community involvement is a trait shared by many in the program.

“Our students love giving back,” Merenda said. “I think it’s natural for people who want to work with children and families to have that nurturing and caring personality.

“They love giving back and working with children and families – much moreso than partying or playing.”

ECS students cooking at Ronald McDonald House

Caring for the community

Already this year, a team of roughly 20 UofGH students spent an afternoon and evening cooking a meal for the families at the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that provides a home in downtown Toronto for 81 families with seriously ill children undergoing treatment. In preparing that meal from scratch – a multi-course Italian dinner that included chicken parmigiana and roasted eggplant – the students also savoured the opportunity to sit down and get to know the children and families there.

Later in the semester, ECS students gathered together for a bakesale in UofGH’s atrium, with all proceeds being directed to Holland Bloorview, a renowned facility that provides care to 7,500 families every year.

Finally, 54 students in the ECS course Community Development in Early Childhood worked together to create a community quilt. Ultimately, they decided together to donate the quilt to the London Children's Museum, an inclusive space that welcomes more than 80,000 children and families every year.

Invaluable experience

These opportunities provide more than just the positive feelings that come with making a contribution to the community.

In addition to the robust field placement opportunities offered in the ECS program and all others at UofGH, these community activities give students a unique chance to boost their resumes, while at the same time acquire valuable experience working directly with vulnerable populations.

“Students are always looking for opportunities to build their resumes, so when I’m applying for a job, I can point to something that makes me unique compared to someone from another institution,” Merenda said. “I think that shows the level of professionalism we have in our student population.

“Graduating with both significant field placement experience and a resume of volunteer work really helps UofGH students stand out.”

In some of these recent community engagement efforts, ECS students have in fact volunteered so enthusiastically, some actually had to be turned away.

“For every event that we do that relates to the community or working with children and families, we have to apologize and turn people down, or we have a waitlist,” Merenda said.

“That shows how eager our students are to get involved in the community.”

ECS BakesaleECS mascot SullyThree students cooking at Ronald McDonald HouseStudents working on their quiltTwo students smile as they cookTwo students hug as they finish dinner at Ronald McDonald House