Experiential Brock course aims to inspire social consciousness

Cassey French is passionate about social advocacy.

The recent Hispanic and Latin American Studies graduate is turning her desire to help others into both summer employment and a full-time career.

French spent the summer of 2016 taking Brock’s SPAN 3F80 Im/migrant and Community Outreach Internship course, which promotes community engagement as a medium for linguistic fluency and cultural understanding through experiential placements with various local organizations.

However, unlike many of the course’s other students, who throughout the years have volunteered as translators at organizations such as Quest Community Health Services and the Agricultural Workers Alliance, French pursued a placement at another local organization that is making a difference — the YWCA. There, she assisted guests with any inquiries they had while also reporting to the advocates who provided support and assistance to women in need of shelter.

Though French was not able to practically use the Spanish techniques she had learned about, she was able to use the theory to gain a greater understanding of the female clients and their families that she was working alongside.

“We can learn languages in class, but until you use them, you won’t gain fluency. It’s the same with social advocacy,” she said. “It’s absolutely necessary to get out there and gain the experience.”

The expanded perspective French was able to gain from working at a women’s outreach organization, combined with the research she conducted on migrant workers in the course, resulted in a final research project that focused on female migrant workers. Those women, French said, face a “double dose” of disadvantage when working in Canada.

The lessons she learned on her placement were not solely academic.

“I gained a lot of real-world skills, while also learning a lot about injustice in our community,” French said. “It made me more focused on social justice.”

Brock is renowned for its focus on experiential education, which includes various placement opportunities with not-for-profit organizations such as the YWCA.

The advantages of such opportunities were not lost on French.

“It’s definitely made me more employable and prepared me for my career while also helping me to grow as a professional,” she said.

Though she completed the 3F80 course one year ago, French’s ongoing commitment to her community has led her back to Brock this summer to serve as the research assistant for this year’s course. In this capacity, she is currently working on a research project about migrant workers for professors Irene Blayer and Cristina Santos.

French said the professors demonstrate their passion for migrant worker advocacy through “tireless efforts to conduct a course that inspires social consciousness as well as social activism.

“They really care about making a difference in the community and providing students with diverse learning opportunities.”

The course has shown French that she can make a difference and has led her to explore how she can continue to aid the less fortunate as she heads to law school at the University of New Brunswick this fall.

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