This Child and Youth Care student overcame personal challenges and now wants to help young people

Having experienced hardship and personal struggle in her youth, Marie-Patrice Cusson decided to enrol in the Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care program to learn how to provide children and young people with the emotional support she wishes she’d had when she was younger. Now a second-year student, Marie reflects on the challenges she overcame while growing up, how her experience made her more empathetic and how Douglas is helping her prepare for a career supporting young people to heal, grow and thrive.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What was life like growing up?

My name is Marie-Patrice, I’m 20 years old and a second-year Child and Youth Care student at Douglas College. I was born in Vancouver but currently live in Port Coquitlam. My younger brother and I grew up with parents who divorced when I was six years old. I also have a physical disability (two dislocated hips). My life wasn’t always stable; I had doctors’ appointments, conflict at home, we didn’t have a lot of money and we moved around a lot. When I was three years old I joined choir and did that for 15 years – I love musicals and singing. Every Monday I had choir for three hours and I felt it was the only steady part of my life. My conductor was always compassionate and comforting, offering me snacks when there wasn’t enough food at home. Although I had some support from family, friends and choir growing up, I always wished I had more emotional support at school from 8-16 years old. So, I looked for ways to use my personal experiences to help others.

What motivated you to enroll in the Child and Youth Care (CYC) program at Douglas?

Marie-Patrice Cusson

Ever since I was young, I have wanted to help people. I lacked the support I needed in school and didn’t have someone who understood what I was going through, so I thought my emotions didn’t matter. I was happy, coped well, and was grateful for the people who helped my family, but I needed someone to talk to about what I was feeling. So now, I want to validate what kids are going through. I want to help them understand that what they are feeling is okay and provide them with emotional resources, and Douglas is helping me do that.

What are you enjoying about learning at Douglas?

It has been the most reflective experience I have ever had. Douglas is such an open-minded and accepting environment. It provides inclusive and creative learning that focuses on helping students clearly understand the material. The instructors are very easy to talk to and are always willing to help.

Have you done any work or volunteering relevant to your program?

I did a lot of volunteering in high school with the City of Port Coquitlam as a camp leader for their kindergarteners and musical theatre camps. It was great helping kids socialize and interact with each other. I was also able to help them when they felt down or lonely by giving them a trusting relationship. Until recently, I was volunteering with the Signal Hill Value Project. They choose five students from various high schools and take them on a retreat for three days, where they learn that each individual is unique and has innate value.

What are you most proud of in your life so far – challenges you have overcome or accomplishments you have made?

I am proud that, despite everything in my childhood and with my disability, I have always had goals. I was the ambassador for the Centre for Child Development, which focuses on physiotherapy for kids with disabilities. I am proud of all of the service trips I went on in high school. I went to New York in Grade 12 to help underprivileged children in the Bronx, where we provided help with schoolwork. I also went to Los Angeles to help the homeless community on Skid Row. Some people may think if you have a disability or struggle financially that you can’t achieve as much in life, but I’ve worked hard and persevered, and I am proving that it is possible.  

What are your career goals after graduation?

After I finish my BA, I want to be a youth worker and help develop programs for kids to learn how to care for their mental and emotional health. I also want to get a master’s degree in either child and youth counselling or social work.

What advice would you give students considering the Child and Youth Care program at Douglas College?

If you want to have a reflective and enriched learning experience with people who will change your life through kindness, you should absolutely do it.

Interested in our Child and Youth Care program? Attend an upcoming info session to learn more.

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