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Profile of a Practicum Student

June 17, 2019

JACKSON ECKES

Written by: Andleeb Azad

Jackson Eckes is a recent graduate, with a Criminal Justice degree, who hopes to one day have a career helping youth. He first heard about the Elizabeth Fry Society during his post-secondary education and became involved with the Society in June 2018, when he started with the Youth Mentorship program. He has worked with this program both as a volunteer and a practicum student. Attracted to the Elizabeth Fry Society because it helped him make a positive difference in someone’s life, Jackson supports clients in court matters by providing them with the necessary legal information and knowledge of court processes, as well as building positive relationships with at-risk youth to provide emotional support and encouragement in while they work to stay out of trouble and reintegrate into the community.

What has working with the Elizabeth Fry Society taught you, both in your personal and professional life?

My perspective has opened up more than anything. Working with The Elizabeth Fry Society during my practicum has given me the chance to get a feel of what it was like to get some experience in the field of legal work. I learned a lot about the legal system, court processes, communication skills, time management, patience and logical reasoning during my practicum.

Why do you believe the Elizabeth Fry Society is important for our community?

The Elizabeth Fry Society offers many resources and programs that support rehabilitation and reintegration into society of individuals involved with the legal system.

How has your role with the Elizabeth Fry Society changed you as a person? How do you think it has changed or impacted those who’ve come to its doors seeking help?

It is rewarding to know we are making a difference in someone else’s life by showing them court is not as serious or intimidating as it might appear and to offer referrals for people who need it (legal representation, counselling, disclosure, etc). I always felt like I was making a difference no matter what I was doing. The role was important for me because it was not only required for me to graduate, it gave me the experience I need to help me out with my future career.

 


Volunteer Profile: Jessica Zuk

April 8, 2019

Written by: Andleeb Azad

Jessica Zuk is an undergraduate student, currently enrolled at Royal Roads University in Victoria in the Justice Studies degree. Upon completion of her degree, Jessica wishes to work as a probation officer, hopefully for an organization similar to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary. She began to volunteering with the organization in the Youth Mentorship and Legal Advocacy Program in March 2018.

Jessica became a volunteer because she wanted to help others who have not had the same chances she has had in life.  She wished to gain hands on experience working in a justice-related non-profit organization, and wanted to familiarize herself with the field.

Jessica explains that her role with the organization has allowed her to make significant change in the lives of the youths she has worked with.  “I strongly believe in the mission and purpose. I understand that those who become involved with the justice system are not ‘bad’ people. In fact, they are often victims of circumstances beyond their control. We all need to be aware of the role poverty plays in our criminal justice system, and without organizations like the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary, we would not be working towards breaking the cycle of poverty.”

What has working with the Elizabeth Fry Society taught you, both in your personal and professional life?

Through volunteering with the society, Jessica believes that she has developed patience. “Dealing with youth forces you to become patient, which is a weakness for me, so I have been fortunate to develop that trait during my time with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary,” she asserts. Furthermore, her listening skills have developed. “I have always been a strong listener, but I would also add that being a good listener is a really important skill to have when working with youth.”

Why do you believe the community should be supporting the Elizabeth Fry Society?

Jessica recommends volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary: “Definitely do it! It’s incredibly rewarding and inspiring. It is also a great way to challenge your biases and perceptions about young offenders and the criminal justice system in general.” Specifically on the area she is volunteering in, Jessica comments “I think it’s very important because young offenders so often become adult offenders, thus early intervention and support is so critical… I think it’s incredibly important to mentor youth. When youth become involved with the justice system, they are more likely to become imprisoned as adults, thus it is important to have a program that promotes pro-social behavior for these young people.”

There are other ways to support the Society (donating, for example) and Jessica explains why support is vital: “The work is really important. This may not be a flashy multi-million dollar company, but the impact the organization has on peoples’ lives is something that should be celebrated and recognized. It’s the people behind non-profit organizations like the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary that are making the greatest social impact in our communities and changing the world for the better.” To those who need help and may be hesitant, she advises “You can’t go wrong getting involved in a program like this. The volunteers and staff at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary are incredible people who are very dedicated to what they do. They will do everything in their power to support you and help change your life for the better.”

How has your role with the Elizabeth Fry Society changed you as a person? How do you think it has changed or impacted those who’ve come to its doors seeking help?

“I love volunteering. I believe one cannot live a fulfilling life without giving back to others,” Jessica says. “I am very proud of what I am doing and the organization that I volunteer for.” She also believes it has left a lasting impression on her life, as well as those who she has helped: “I hope to leave a positive impression on my mentee because I know she has certainly had a positive impact on me…I do feel that I am making a difference. Every volunteer is making a difference simply by donating their time and spending time with the clients. Even if my relationship with my mentee positively impacts her life in the most minor way, I still feel that my time was well spent.”


Volunteer profile: Cole Buchanan

April 7, 2019

Written by: Selwynne Hawkins

“Volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary has really shown me how the justice system can have much greater effects on disadvantaged groups, and it has really humanized the concept of a ‘systematic issue.’ ”

Cole Buchanan, a student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary, is a recent addition to the Adult Criminal Court Program on the Case Management Office floor. He started volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary in January 2019, but the organization has been in the back of his mind since grade school—when his social studies teacher mentioned the organization as part of the Calgary non-profit landscape.

Cole is a globally-minded citizen: he loves to travel and is fascinated by international affairs. When he’s at home in Alberta, he feeds his travel bug with visits to the Rockies. After completing his Bachelor of Arts, he hopes to pursue a Master’s in Political Science. His dream job is a position with the United Nations.

What have you learned by volunteering for Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary?

I think the biggest thing I’ve gained from volunteering with the organization is a deeper understanding of the justice system’s interactions with regular, everyday people. I study Political Science in university, which has given me a lot of “academic” perspective, which is often very theoretical and, honestly, sometimes a bit pretentious. Being able to see how real, ordinary people deal with the justice system and the government and how it all functions in real time as a whole is truly fascinating for me.

Volunteering has really shown me how the justice system can have a much greater effect on disadvantaged groups, and it has really humanized the concept of a “systematic issue.” Seeing the difference between someone who can afford to send in a lawyer […] versus some of the clients who fear being unable to pay their rent or afford groceries because they’ve had to miss work for a court date, or seeing some clients who struggle with English […] It really starts to make clear what it means to be at a disadvantage in society.

What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering for the organization?

Do it! The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary is a wonderful organization that carries out extremely important work in our community. Volunteering has been a really positive experience, and as an organization they really care about their volunteers and offer a lot of training and support.

 

How does your role with the organization make you feel?

I value my volunteer position immensely, because I actually witness the difference I make every time I’m on the court floor. While I’m not single-handedly reforming the entire justice system, I think a majority of clients I speak to learn something that makes their court experience easier on them. Whether that be an opportunity to find free legal representation for low income accused, diversionary measures that can avoid permanent criminal records, or something as simple as where to go next in the court house, I think I’m able to make a difference in individual peoples’ lives every time I’m volunteering.


Volunteer Profile: Alexandra Champagne

Written by: Natalie Jovanic

Alexandra Champagne supported the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary as a Calgary Traffic & Bylaw Court volunteer from March 2018 to March 2019. She learned about the volunteer program through a friend. Alexandra decided to join because she wanted to support people who belong to vulnerable communities and who are involved in a court environment. Through volunteering for the organization, she made a genuine and palpable positive impact.

Before joining the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary, Alexandra volunteered for the University of Calgary’s Into the Streets volunteer program. She likes to paint, read, try new recipes, and garden. She has high ambitions for her future and will be starting law school this coming September.

“Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary has been my most fulfilling volunteer experience to date.”

Empathy is priceless

Alexandra learned that empathy is an invaluable tool in her work as a volunteer. By listening to the concerns of clients and offering sympathy, she helped to ease any apprehensions they had about the court process. She also learned how to most effectively approach others and offer her support. Furthermore, she gained a great deal of knowledge about the legal system and learned how many people are involved in it.

Volunteering for EFry offers many benefits

Alexandra considers volunteering for the organization as a great opportunity to become acquainted with the court environment and justice system. People in the courthouse found her work impressive and wanted to know more about it. She feels she made a difference by providing stressed individuals with the information they needed to make decisions that were right for them.

Her work nurtures connections

Alexandra felt especially touched each time a client told her that they genuinely appreciated her assistance or that her advice really helped them. Volunteering for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary has taught her that for each individual in the court system, there is an equally unique story behind it. However, volunteering also has some surprises: one time, a man asked her to marry his son (while he was standing beside him). Obviously, Alexandra was unable to accommodate his request, but nevertheless appreciated his enthusiasm.


Volunteer profile: Serena Sajan

Written by: Selwynne Hawkins

Serena Sajan has been a Traffic and Bylaw Court volunteer since December 2018. Like many volunteers at Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary, Serena is a student at the University of Calgary.  She first learned about the organization while searching for volunteer positions in the legal system, and she hopes to continue on to law school after completing her undergraduate degree.

Between studying and volunteering—for Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary and the University of Calgary Business Career Centre—Serena keeps busy, but she saves time and space for the things that bring her joy. A self-described mocha fanatic, she finds happiness in fitness, Netflix, and new makeup.

What have you learned in your time with Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary?

I have really improved my communication skills, as I regularly explain complex processes to individuals in a simplistic way so that others can understand.

Being emotionally stable is very important as a volunteer. It is so beneficial if you remain calm and patient with those you help, because they can be very expressive. Volunteers cannot take things personally, and having a strong backbone is a skill I have learned so far.

What would you say to someone seeking help from you in Traffic and Bylaw Court?

The greatest insight I have gained from volunteering is that there are no judgements while helping others. You keep your biases to yourself. It’s all about helping other people at the end of the day.

Volunteers are not experts and may not know everything to help you, but we can equip you in the best way we know how to face your matters with ease. We can help guide you through the process and support you, because we know it can be hard being at court, but just give us an opportunity to help you.

How meaningful is your role with Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary—both for you and for clients?

I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and constantly pushing myself to do the best I can. As a court volunteer, I am doing this. It is a bonus that I am learning more about the law and its processes.

I do feel like I am making a difference in the community, since I can see that my help is benefitting others. I have received great feedback; clients that I have helped come up to me after they are finished with the court process and express how thankful they are for my help. Sometimes when you volunteer, you often cannot see if you are making a difference, but volunteering with Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary has definitely shown me that my contribution matters.