English grad’s website aims to ease new Brock students into Niagara life

Having struggled herself upon arriving in Niagara, Kassie Galaski (BA ’22) has set out to make the transition to life in St. Catharines easier for future Brock students.

Originally from Midland, Ont., Galaski drew on her own experiences and creativity to build ‘Where can we…?’ for post-secondary students and other newcomers to the region. More than just a website to find information, the site also invites users to contribute their knowledge through participation in a Discord channel.

Galaski, who graduated from the University earlier this month with her Bachelor of Arts from Brock’s Department of English Language and Literature, was inspired by the writing of Potawatomi author Robin Kimmerer’s essay The Serviceberry: An Economy of Abundance, which she read as part of ENGL 3V91 Social Justice and Cultural Production taught by Associate Professor Susan Spearey.

“Kimmerer focuses on the concept of a gift economy, where you give something without expecting anything in return and create a mutual benefit and deeper relationships,” says Galaski. “The idea of connection hit deep for me, especially during COVID where we’ve lost that sense of community.”

The website focuses on students who are new to Canada or the region, helping them to locate resources and support and share information about life in Niagara.

“How can someone coming into Niagara participate in the gift economy with few funds?” Galaski asks. “Everyone has some kind of knowledge they can share, whether it’s a recipe, a craft or a tip about a secret spot in the region.”

Galaski’s road to Convocation hasn’t been an easy one.  She started her studies at Brock in the Concurrent Education program, but, after facing difficulties transitioning to life in Niagara, she found herself on academic probation.

“I was new to the Niagara region and there were a lot of hurdles,” she says, such as being unfamiliar with transit schedules and walk-in clinics, for example.

Struggling to find a job and connect with community resources, Galaski was eventually referred to Start Me Up Niagara, a local service that provides programming, employment services and housing support to Niagara residents.

Her experience inspired her to create a place “where people can come together as a community and not feel ashamed to ask questions.”

Galaski began creating the website before enrolling in the third-year English course that provided her space to workshop her ideas and develop the concept.

Spearey used Cathy N. Davidson’s notion of “Public Contribution to Knowledge” to frame the term projects and essays for ENGL 3V91.

“Basically, Davidson stipulates that large projects and assignments should not be written exclusively for the instructor or for the purpose of a grade,” says Spearey. “Rather, students should choose a medium that is meaningful to them to demonstrate and apply what they have learned in her courses, with a view to create something that has a larger social impact beyond the classroom, and that the student can take forward beyond the course.”

As part of the project, Galaski prioritized accessibility, from using alt text to her font choices.

“Kassie has modelled such generosity in the website design and the obvious labour that has gone into bringing it online,” says Spearey. “While the site is still in progress, she has paid meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of its design to date.”

Galaski plans to continue the website so it can support others well into the future.

“The more I got into it, the more passionate I got about it,” she says. “I purposely left some sections blank as an invitation to others to come talk, share and work together.”

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