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February 21, 2019 2:55 PM

Conestoga's human books share unique personal stories

Conestoga student Erin Reid met with members of the college community on February 14 to share her experiences growing up in a funeral home. Reid was one of many volunteers supporting the college’s eighth annual Human Library event where college students and employees were invited to borrow a human book for a 15-minute conversation and learn from their personal story.

“People always ask me questions so I thought this was a great opportunity to make connections at the college and promote a dialogue about life and death,” explained Reid on her decision to support the event as a human book. “It’s also impacted my career choice. I grew up surrounded by death and now I want to appreciate the living.”

The Human Library is presented in partnership between Library Services and Student Engagement and takes place annually to promote acceptance, celebrate differences and encourage understanding of people who come from varied backgrounds. While meeting with a human book, college students and employees are invited to ask questions in order to help break stereotypes and gain understanding. The concept originated in Denmark to build a positive framework for conversations that challenge prejudices through dialogue.

Reid, a student in the Bachelor of Environmental Public Health program, said she had a normal childhood, but coming from a long line of funeral directors and being involved in the family business at a young age helped her develop a unique perspective on life. She believes in living life to its fullest and has taken a cue from her parents when it comes to her views on death.

“They never tried to sugar coat it," said Reid. "We knew growing up that death was a fact of life."

Reid began working in the family business when she was 14, and her experience has given her a chance to support friends who often look to her for guidance on how to dress and act at visitations and funerals. She also knows her connection to the business may draw other inquiries.

“I got some strange looks when my dad came to pick me up after school one day,” admitted Reid, smiling. “He was driving a hearse and wearing funeral attire so you can just imagine the reaction.”

Among the other human books on loan during the event were individuals who shared their experiences as immigrants to Canada, those who have overcome mental health issues or addiction, a mom of children with special needs, and a gender-variant bisexual.

Library Services works to advance and enrich student learning, contribute to teaching excellence and support research at Conestoga. Online services are available to students and employees at all Conestoga campuses, and locations at Doon, Cambridge and Waterloo also serve the college community.

Conestoga’s Student Engagement team meets the needs of students through innovative programming designed to achieve goals with learning outcomes-based initiatives including the Co-Curricular Record, Orientation, the Respect Campaign, the Connect Leadership Workshop Series, and various student volunteer and committee opportunities.

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