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Students Supporting Community: The Co-op Experience at United Way WRC

Providing Unique Opportunities for Students

United Way Waterloo Region Communities’ co-op program provides a unique opportunity for students to get involved in the community where they are attending university. This past spring and summer, we had the opportunity to employ four students from the post-secondary institutions in our region: Mimika, Jeel, Jasmine, and Jeffery.

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Jeel (2021 Co-op student)

“Having an organization that fundraises to help out charities and other non-profits is very valuable as not every agency may have the resources to do that fundraising for themselves.” (Jeel)

Many of the students had only lived in the region for a couple years since beginning their degrees and were unaware of the services and programs that are available locally. This placement helped them understand the issues present here and allowed them to connect to their new community.

BUILDING A STRONGER COMMUNITY

The co-op students provided necessary support the UWWRC team by helping with a variety of roles. In addition to assisting United Way, the students had the opportunity to work directly with a few of our funded agencies. Being able to see how funded agencies use donations helps solidify the importance of all the work being done to ensure these agencies continue to get the funding they need.

“I’ve been able to actively see the results of my work” (Jeffery)

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Jeffery (2021 Co-op student)

Reflection: The Co-op Students Journey

Mimika

By supporting the application process, Mimika reviewed applications, assigned grants, and communicated with agencies to determine exactly what their needs were. She also worked directly with SPECTRUM and Peace for all Canada, interviewing groups and individuals to collect their stories and write articles.

“I think this is the first co-op where they gave me responsibility and trusted me to do things on my own and independently rather than just me sitting, waiting for tasks.”

Jeel

As a Project Coordinator, Jeel supported the Marketing and Communications team maintaining United Way’s social media presence and various other tasks such as website updates. She also worked with Food4Kids and Greenway Chaplin Community Centre where she “learned the importance of giving back to the community and how supporting local agencies can help to build a strong community”.

Jasmine

The Philanthropy Coordinator role was filled by Jasmine during her internship.  She worked with Community Engagement on volunteer coordination as well as assisting the philanthropy team with tasks as needed. When reflecting on the best part of the placement with UWWRC, she stated:

“The culture was special… I didn’t feel just like a student to them, I was an integral part of the community.”

Jeffery

Working internally, Jeffery helped process donor survey results and analyzing the data to present to the rest of the staff. He also worked externally with Food4Kids to create a database for them to consolidate their information. “Most individuals don’t know what the pressing needs are in the community”, he responded when asked about the importance of supporting United Way.

UNITED WAY THANKS STUDENTS

United Way is so proud of the co-op students and the work they completed during their placements. Without programs like this many non-profits would not have the support required to fulfill their mandates. It also allows students to gain experience they may not otherwise get in an academic setting. Truly a “win-win” for all involved.