story - cecillia


New outlook changes student's career path

Bow Valley College experience changes student’s life.

Social workers give. That’s the nature of the profession. The learners in Bow Valley College’s Social Work Diploma are using Social Work Week 2018 in March to give back to the community. They’re also spreading the word about their chosen career. 

“The biggest goal of the program is to prepare our learners for roles on the frontlines of social work,” says Thalia Anderen, program coordinator. “They are trained in the skills they need to work directly with clients as soon as they get out of school.” That involves suicide prevention, client advocacy, non-violent crisis intervention, safe zone management, intergenerational trauma aid, providing Naloxone for people who have overdosed, and motivational interviewing, among other critical skills. 

For Cecillia Atkinson, one of about 30 learners graduating in June with the first cohort from the Social Work Diploma at the College, the program has been a life-altering experience. 

“My instructors, my personal experiences, and what I’ve learned at Bow Valley College challenged my worldview,” she says. She even chose a new career path. 

When Cecillia started the program, she wanted to continue working with seniors with dementia and their families. Now, she wants to work with men struggling with addiction, an under served population. 

She’s eager to join the workforce, but armed with her two-year Social Work Diploma from Bow Valley College, first she’ll complete her degree in social work at the University of Calgary. She’ll be able to apply the credits from her two-year Social Work Diploma to go directly into the third year of the four-year program. 

Although Cecillia is excited about the future, a part of her doesn’t want to leave the College. 

“It’s like a second home to me,” she says. “I’ve found my best friends here. We’re very close-knit, like a family.” 

Cecillia is a single parent to a six-year-old son.  Along with the challenges of being a single mom, she’s experienced her own personal challenges while studying at the College. She found a very supportive environment that helped her through it.

“The instructors knew about my chaotic personal life and they were nothing but understanding. They want you to succeed, so they work with you.” She also found a counsellor through Learner Support Services, who persuaded her not to quit when she was feeling overwhelmed. 

Cecillia also received support from the Don and Marlene Campbell Family Award to help her cover the costs of caring for her son. She also received support from the Finish Line Fund, which requires that the student has financial need, clear career goals, superior academic achievement, and a reference. Cecillia fulfilled all of them.

“I don’t think they would ever understand the difference that money made in my life and my son’s life,” she says. “The award took an enormous financial weight off my shoulders. Thank you.”

Posted March 19, 2018

Story by Anne Georg

Photo by Maximillian Krewiak




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