After years of working various retail jobs and then staying home to raise her three kids, Amanda Gauthier decided it was time to get some career training.
She had no post-secondary education and was nervous about going back to school in her 30s. She also struggled with “mom guilt” for taking on this new challenge while her children were still very little. Her youngest was not even school age yet.
But she was passionate about helping people and ready to pursue a new path. So she took the plunge and enrolled in the Community Services Worker program at Herzing College.
It was a decision that changed her life.
We spoke with Amanda recently to learn about her experience with the course, the instructor, and the internship.
Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Q. What inspired you to choose the Community Services Worker program?
Amanda: While I was at home with my children, I was running an online accountability group helping women who wanted to start a health and fitness journey. I really loved what I was doing, but it wasn’t very lucrative.
I decided that I needed something that would be more financially sustainable for myself and my family.
One of the things that led me to the CSW program was my own lived experience. I struggled with addiction in my early 20s, and the addiction side of the program really appealed to me.
I knew that I wanted to work with at-risk populations.
Q. What made you choose Herzing?
Amanda: The one-year condensed program at Herzing is really appealing, especially for those like myself who are a little bit older and maybe don’t want to spend two to four years in college or university to get a diploma.
Q. What was the toughest part of the program?
Amanda: I think that overall, the toughest part of the program is one of the most appealing parts of it as well: that it’s a condensed course. There’s a lot of information that you’re learning in a very short amount of time. We had weekly exams, and it could be very stressful.
But the teacher really made a huge difference.
Q. Tell us about your experience with the instructor.
Amanda: We all loved Bryan Coker. He’s so personable and he has such a huge heart. And the way that he instructs you through the course, it’s almost like you’re counselling yourself through all of these things.
He really makes you live through it all. You’re dealing with all of your own stuff as you’re working through the course. It makes you aware of your own triggers and stuff for when you get into the field.
I think most people who go into this program are there because they have their own lived experience, so I think that was one of the best parts of the course.
Q. What was your internship like?
Amanda: When I first went into the program, I was very set on wanting to work specifically in addictions, because like I said, that was my own lived experience. And I remember Bryan telling us that everybody comes in here with an idea of what their internship looks like, but sometimes you have to take what’s there to gain your experience.
He said a lot of times people come back and say wow, I’m so glad I took that internship.
So that’s kind of my story. Joseph Perera, the career development director, told me about an internship with Mary Homes. It’s a group home for at-risk youth who have been apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).
I wasn’t completely sure that was where I wanted to be, but it ended up being the internship that I took.
There’s so much experience to be gained within the group home setting. You’re dealing with addictions and youth with extensive trauma.
It’s very hands on. From the first day I walked in there I really felt like I was part of the staff team. And I grew so much into that role, I loved it. I remember coming home within that first week and telling my husband I absolutely love, love this internship.
Q. What kind of hands-on stuff do interns do?
Amanda: At Mary Homes, you’re a child and youth counsellor, so you’re front line. All of the youth are apprehended by CAS, so they’re coming out of some of the worst situations. You’re helping them to recognize triggers and develop coping strategies.
The first week was more observing, and then they put you out there and you’re just like the rest of the staff. You’re completing documentation, assisting in writing plans of care, meeting with the youth. So you’re really hands on throughout the entire eight weeks.
And they kept me on afterward. I’m still there now as the program supervisor for the care homes.
Q. How has your role changed now?
Amanda: I’m still front line in the home five days a week. My role is also in assisting the staff team. I have a team of 19 people that I’m managing as well as the eight youth who are in the home.
Q. Are you using the skills you learned at Herzing? Was the training relevant to your work now?
Amanda: Yes, absolutely. You learn the background of marginalized populations. I work with a lot of indigenous youth and a lot of indigenous organizations. I remember that as being a pretty big piece of our population at risk course.
We also went through a lot of stuff that I use directly in my job: case managing and that kind of thing.
I work with a lot of multiple diagnoses, so the abnormal psychology was very applicable to what I’m doing now.
I did find all of the material very relevant.
Q. How did you feel about the overall Herzing experience?
Amanda: It was great. I was so sad when it was time to go. If I could have continued, I would have. I’ve even looked into the mental health course that Herzing offers online through Kompass Professional Development.
I loved my experience at Herzing and I wouldn’t change it at all.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CSW PROGRAM
The accelerated Community Services Worker program at Herzing College Ottawa is 12 months long.
Students get comprehensive training in psychology, addictions, mental health, counselling techniques, and more. They also complete an eight-week internship at a local community organization.
Click below to get complete program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!