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July 2, 2019 3:57 PM

Community Action Day supports local initiatives

Conestoga’s Student Engagement and Security Services teams hosted Community Action Day on June 26, which provided an opportunity for students to get involved and give back to the community.

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Conestoga students supported local non-profit rare Charitable Research Reserve on Community Action Day by removing invasive species and supporting efforts in the Springbank Food Bank Gardens.

Held over Student Success Week each semester, Community Action Day invites students to volunteer at local non-profit organizations. This semester, 16 students supported rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge -- an urban land trust dedicated to conservation, research and education.

“The day provides students with a service-learning opportunity to build on their leadership skills outside the classroom,” said Jennifer Durst, Student Engagement programmer - community development. “It’s also an opportunity for students to learn about local community organizations to gain better awareness of the amazing initiatives that exist in our region and the services they have access to.”

Students spent the day assisting rare’s land management team by removing non-native invasive species, as well as supporting efforts in the Springbank Food Bank Gardens -- a 15,000 square foot plot within the organization’s community gardens space dedicated to growing organic produce for local food banks.

“The Springbank Food Bank Gardens thrive with the help of community volunteers,” said rare’s gardens coordinator Taryn Jarvis. “Last year we counted over 1,400 volunteer hours for this project alone, enabling us to deliver 8,000 pounds of fresh produce to those most in need within our community.”

Students in the gardens worked alongside rare staff as well as volunteers and employees from the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank to maintain the plot by pulling weeds and planting seeds, including beets, rutabagas and various herbs.  

For Mahsa Mojahed, an international student from Iran in the Enhanced Nursing Practice - Clinical and Critical Care program, the day provided an opportunity for her to try something new. She participates in Student Engagement events often, finding the programming offered exciting as well as providing an opportunity to complement her studies.

“As a student in a nursing program, I really enjoy helping others,” said Mojahed. “Community Action Day lets me give back in a way that is different to my program, and I was eager to join today to experience working in a garden.”

The reserve’s community gardens space is also home to Minjimendan, a sustainable Indigenous food garden and knowledge project founded by Andrew Judge, coordinator of Indigenous studies at Conestoga. The garden was created using Indigenous principles and, in addition to creating an engaging educational forum for the community, will also serve as a living classroom for future courses at the college that focus on Indigenous land management practices.

“This marks the third time rare has hosted us on Community Action Day,” said Durst. “Many of our students are drawn to the land stewardship initiatives and opportunities that the organization provides, and it is wonderful to witness those new connections as they develop.”

Other Community Action Day events have supported Community Support Connections, The Working Centre and House of Friendship.

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.

Conestoga’s Security Services team works with the college community to provide a safe and secure work and learning environment, promote partnerships with the college community and local organizations and enhance personal safety through prevention, education and compliance.

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