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CYC People

Michelle Chalupa

Location

Nova Scotia, Canada

Biography

I began working in Nova Scotia as a Child and Youth Care Worker in the summer of 1999 after my graduation from Holland College in Prince Edward Island. I was fortunate to gain experience in numerous programs and roles for the organization that I worked in, long term and short term programs, male and female, leadership positions, key/primary worker roles, programming coordinator, trainer, facilitator and mentor. During my time as a Child and Youth Care worker I seemed to connect with some of the more guarded youth and social workers began to seek me out to support the young people once they moved on from the programs that I was employed at. I also had the privilege to work with a number of Indigenous young people and their families on a contractual basis through youth support work, family support work, tutoring, and respite foster care. When I reached 10 years I felt as though I wanted to make a larger impact on the field of child and youth care and began to explore the possibility of teaching part time at Nova Scotia Community College in the Child and youth Care Program. I then returned to school myself, completed my Bachelor of Arts Child and Youth Study at Mount Saint Vincent University earning the Senate Award for Highest Distinction. I am currently facilitating in the Child and Youth Care Program fulltime at NSCC Waterfront Campus.  

How I came to be in this field

I was living in Prince Edward Island and just left the University of PEI to figure out what path I wanted to embark on, after realizing that Veterinary Medicine was not the career I wanted to pursue. When I discovered that there was a field and career where I would be able to spend time with and impact the lives of children and youth I felt like life began to make complete sense. The moment I entered the classroom I realized that this was the field I wanted to center my career around and my passion to make a difference in the lives of young people grew as I continued to explore the field. In hindsight, I should have known all along as I volunteered with children my entire life. I am grateful my road led me back to where I belonged.  

A favorite saying

"Goodness is about character integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people." — Dennis Prager

A few thoughts about child and youth care

Child and Youth care has to be one of the most privileged and selfless fields that you will ever encounter. Privileged because you get to meet and spend time with some of the most resilient and amazing young people and tap into their strengths while encouraging them to honor themselves; you watch their potential journey toward healthy relationships and have the opportunity to care about them – only to say farewell while wondering how they are making out for years to follow. Selfless in the sense that you are there without expectation of a thanks, yet at times there are unexpected moments when they return to say thank you or you catch a glimpse of a mature looking young person that you once knew from afar – allowing you to understand that you made an impact and that they are doing well.

Last thing I read, watched, heard, which I would recommend to others

"The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada" – As our country embarks on a journey to support healing I believe that it is critical that we understand the depths of the hurt, abuse, and pain that our Indigenous communities had inflicted upon them while they continue to suffer the generational effects from the residential school abuse and assimilation that was imposed.

A favorite CYC experience

There are so many, I think that I could list one for almost every young person that I ever worked with. Many of them involved being outside with the youth and being engaged in “typical” program activities that allowed the young people to have fun. One of my most favorites was when I took a group of young people to our local ski hill (which turned into an annual trip). In heading to the top of the hill with some of the youth it was often their first time and watching them and their determination in learning a new skill. Watching them beam and smile in pride as they became progressively better, having them ask to have just one off run over and over, while I agreed because I knew that they didn’t want the day to be over yet. These moments were always wonderful to experience and be part of because you got to see them be children, watch their guard lower, and build the relationship just a little bit stronger. 

A few thoughts for those starting out

Be passionate about this field the young people you are working with deserve the best quality of care you can offer – passion guides us to do our very best because we love what we are doing. Be balanced and be sure to take care of yourself this is a field that requires us to be well and not burn out – this is better done as a preventative measure than a responsive measure.

A recommended child and youth care reading link 

CYC-net.org is a wonderful resource for all practitioners – new and more experienced. We all have moments when we are searching for answers or consult and this is a wonderful space to seek answer, inspiration and connection with like-minded individuals.

A writing of my own

'The Beginnings of Documentation Practices in Child and Youth Care', Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, Volume 28, Number 2, Summer 2015.

Influences on my work

I believe that to have only one influence in this field would leave us ill prepared for the work that we embark upon, for that reason I have a difficult time pin pointing any one specific influence. I can recall intentionally observing how others were interacting with the young people in our care, at times I would admire the approach a coworker was utilizing and other times I would identify that this would not be an approach that I would practice. Most importantly, I would listen to the young people because they were just as influential as my fellow child and youth care workers. So many truly influenced my practice – supervisors, mentors, leaders within the organization, leaders in the field, my upbringing, values and beliefs, etc. In fact, one of the more influential people in my career is someone I have never met in person and I hold many of her articles and books responsible for my intentional use of planned and unplanned programs on a daily basis throughout my career: Dr. Karen Vander Ven. 

Anything else

Be true to the young people and enjoy this wonderful field of Child and Youth Care!

 

Last updated October 2016

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