Camp work terms reshape co-op grad’s career

When Kyra Maher (BA ’23) began her time at Brock, she didn’t know the University’s co-op options would change the course of her career journey.

Now pursuing a Master of Applied Disability Studies at Brock, Maher crossed the stage on Friday, Oct. 13 to receive her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology during the University’s 114th Convocation.

“I’m excited,” she said. “It feels so great to be wrapping up this part of my studies while already getting started on my master’s — and it’s all thanks to co-op.”

Maher originally enrolled in the Psychology program hoping to pursue a career in social work. However, a decision to complete a co-op work term at the Shadow Lake Centre in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., would redirect her vocational aspirations.

She went on to spend three summer co-op work terms at the camp, working with some of the 500 campers with intellectual disabilities who visit Shadow Lake each week. During that time, Maher enjoyed seeing the impact her job could have.

“The camp was so positive,” she said. “I loved helping to create an environment where people could really be themselves and it made me begin to think about pursuing a career working with people who have disabilities.”

While at the camp, Maher led campfires, dances, talent shows and beach parties, all of which gave her a glimpse into her potential new career path.

She said the change in her long-term goals could not have happened without the assistance of those in Brock’s  Co-op, Career and Experiential Education office.

“I wouldn’t have known Shadow Lake even existed without the co-op staff putting it on my radar, and that helped me get out of my comfort zone,” she said. “While I was there, I got to expand my knowledge and solidify my career goals.”

She also said the support she received during her studies helped give her the confidence to explore different work terms than she had initially envisioned.

“It was always so easy to communicate with the co-op office,” she said. “They helped me find a work term I really enjoyed and then partnered with me to ensure I could continue going back to learn more about a field I plan to work in full time.”

After working for two summers as a counsellor at the camp, Maher spent the past summer as a Counselling Co-ordinator, a role she says helped to prepare her for her next steps.

“The last summer was more challenging, and I had to take on more of a leadership role,” she said. “But I loved gaining the lasting connections with campers, especially when they recognize me from previous years.”

Maher began her graduate program in September and is preparing to become a board-certified behavioural analyst.

Having learned so much from her own work terms, Maher hopes other Brock students will work with co-op to get a head start on their careers as well.

“It helps to give you the drive and experience to succeed in your career,” she said. “The co-op staff prepared me to succeed, and there’s no better place than a work term to show how valuable it can be while learning exactly what you’re most passionate about. It certainly worked for me.”

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