When Karen Lepine-Mcfeeters decided to immerse herself in several different levels of Aurora College’s student government, she was surprised to find just how supportive and welcoming the community was.
Upon some investigation, she discovered a well-rounded batch of mental, financial and cultural programs to help students with a variety of their needs, but found many of her peers weren’t aware of what is accessible to them.
In order to create greater transparency and help students take advantage of the programming, the first-year Teacher Education Program (TEP) student took on the role of student representative for the college’s board of governors, as well as a position as class rep for the Thebacha campus student council.
“Some folks, they get so caught up with family life and student life that they don’t really get to look and see what else is there and realize there are supports available both at the school level and the community level,” she said.
The busy mom of two and part-time employee at the Fort Smith recreation centre has a history in the role; before deciding to pursue her education, she was employed as a support worker in the Vancouver school system.
“Coming from the city I was constantly looking for resourcing just because of the programming I did,” she said. “I totally make use of everything and anything I can just because it will help me do better, and obviously being new in the community you want to know what’s available.”
As of January, Lepine-Mcfeeters officially accepted her position on the board of governors, where she is proud to advocate for students spanning Aurora’s three campuses. She was not allowed to disclose any current negotiations while speaking to The Journal, but assures students’ voices are being heard.
“I want it to be a meaningful experience for myself but also a meaningful contribution for the students,” she said of her work with the board. “In their next newsletter, we’re going to talk about what this role is so that people can get information…so students know what this position is, who I am and what I’m here for. If you need to, let’s communicate.”
In her second role as a class rep, she finds the discussions are very similar to the ones on the board of governors, but on a micro, campus-specific level.
“We have students who are all ages,” she said. “A lot of people are dealing with being away from families, people realizing that (school) is a lot more work than they originally may have thought.”
She also gets questions about financial issues, resources for child care and programs that help with quality of life.
While she expects this month’s Aurora College Week to be a nice break for students to get out and enjoy the community, Lepine-Mcfeeters hopes to help facilitate similar programming on a regular basis.
“One of the things we’d love to see is to bring in monthly family events that we can do because a number of our students are parents,” she said. “Even if they aren’t, a lot of them are feeling homesick.”
As Lepine-Mcfeeters prepares for her next board of governors meeting in Yellowknife next month, she hopes to hear from the student body she serves.
“We want you to be successful,” she said. “(School) is new to a lot of folks so if you’re finding it challenging, the fact that you’re open and willing to try and find extra help is all the better for you.”