A Niagara College program that enhances employability for students with disabilities has won a Star Award from Habitat for Humanity Niagara.
The award was announced on the evening of April 19 at Habitat Niagara’s Volunteer Dinner and Awards Ceremony in St. Catharines, in recognition of the work CICE students do at Habitat ReStore locations for their program field placements.
“Habitat Niagara works with many educational partners across the region in different ways. The CICE program is special; it’s designed to provide individuals with disabilities and other learning challenges the opportunity to experience college life and enhance their employability, academic and social skills,” said Manager, Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement, Amanda Laprise, who said she also values Habitat’s partnership with NC as a NC alumna. “This partnership is mutually beneficial, with students providing valuable assistance to the ReStores while providing an enriching educational experience for the students.”
“CICE faculty, staff and students are extremely proud of this award. The field placement partnership that has been fostered with Habitat for Humanity over the past five years has provided our CICE students with invaluable workplace experiences,” said Dean of NC’s Academic and Liberal Studies David Atherton, who attended the award ceremony. “The staff and volunteers at the Habitat for Humanity ReStores in the Niagara region truly understand and support the diverse needs of our students.
“Both staff and volunteers alike are always willing to go above and beyond to ensure our CICE students are provided with supported field placement experiences that better equip them to move on to a variety of entry-level positions after graduation from the program.”
Twenty students from NC’s Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program have completed field placements at Habitat for Humanity locations across the Niagara region for the last five years. NC’s two-year Ontario College Certificate CICE program provides individuals with disabilities and significant learning challenges the opportunity to experience college life and enhance their employability as well as their academic and social skills. It includes opportunities for students to gain work experience through field placements. Typically, students complete three field placements during their time in the program.
“Habitat has been an amazing, supportive community partner for the CICE program, and we are thrilled that they feel the same way about us,” said Jessica Berecz, Academic Portfolio Manager, CICE. “Field placements are vital to the CICE program itself and Habitat has been amazing for our CICE students; many of them come to us with little to no experience in the work world.”
When it comes to finding placements for CICE students, Field Placement Officer Aaron Russell noted the importance of finding the right match to their skills and abilities, and “not just busy work.”
Being involved with Habitat equips CICE students with real world work experience as well as an opportunity to get involved with the community. Some students have opted to continue their involvement with Habitat after completing the program.
“When they find out that Habitat builds safe, affordable homes for Niagara families in need, it gives our students a real sense of being involved with the community and giving back, and it really motivates them,” said Berecz.
CICE students who complete field placements at Habitat ReStore locations take on customer-related front-facing work such as cash and inquires, or hands-on work in the back that may include stocking shelves or helping with donated items – or a mixture of both. Field placements are generally for a few hours one day per week for CICE students.
This Winter term, Habitat welcomed four CICE students into field placements at three ReStore locations.
Second-year CICE Quinton Hoshowsky-Linhares (Welland), who attended the award ceremony, has been working at Habitat’s Fonthill ReStore during Winter term. He takes on various responsibilities such as moving furniture, ensuring that shelves are stocked and organized, and that items are priced and presentable. He also ensures that all areas of the store are clean and ready for customers.
“Quin felt the work he did was very meaningful because they truly help people in the community with the work they do building homes,” said Russell. “Quin just wanted to say thank you for an amazing experience. He expressed how much he enjoyed it.”
First-year student Andrew Mcghie (St. Catharines), who has been working at a St. Catharines ReStore during Winter term helps customers, brings in stock from the back, and makes the store floor presentable. He also moves furniture and cleans as needed.
“Andrew finds helping people especially the elderly very rewarding,” said Russell. “It is in his nature to help people, so Andrew feels a great connection to Habitat because that is their mission. He believes in the work they do full-heartedly.”
Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 9,500 students from over 80 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.