A sense of community: How this Social Work student is advocating for students inside and outside the classroom
Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations
The challenges Aly Hillaby has faced throughout her life have inspired her future career.
“I became interested in social work because I’m a former youth in care,” says Aly. “Throughout my life, I must’ve had over 20 social workers. During that time, I knew I wanted to become a social worker so I could provide a stable support system for other youth in care.”
Today, the Bachelor of Social Work student is not only preparing herself for a career of helping vulnerable youth at Douglas, but is already putting her skills to good use by supporting and advocating for her fellow students.
Feeling connected at Douglas
Douglas provided an ideal college environment for Aly. One which supported her desire to meaningfully connect with teachers and peers while equipping her with the skills to pursue her career. “When I was researching all the different institutions in the area, Douglas stood out to me. There were small class sizes and because it seemed like a vibrant place,” says Aly.
Not only has her initial impression held true, but in her three years at the College Aly has become an important and supportive part of the Douglas community outside the classroom. As a Student Assistant with Indigenous Student Services (ISS), Aly staffed the ISS office five days a week starting in early 2020. She hoped to provide students with a place where they could social distance, but still study and interact with their peers during the pandemic.
“The ISS room has been an integral part of my own student experience. It’s always been a place of the community. A place where students can connect with one another and talk about things going on in their lives and what is important to them,” says Aly. “Everyone was working from home during the pandemic and were more isolated than ever. I thought it was important to continue to have a space where students could work and interact safely.”
Getting involved in the campus community
In addition to pursuing her degree and working with ISS, Aly was also recently elected as the 2021-2022 Indigenous Students’ Representative at the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU).In her role, Aly helps execute the DSU’s campaigns, initiatives and events and advocates for the Indigenous student experience at the College.
“The elections process was a bit nerve-racking because I wasn’t really sure what to expect at first,” Aly expresses. “But it was a great experience to work on my public speaking skills. It also gave me an opportunity to connect with the people I was campaigning with.”
For Aly, the role with the DSU is another opportunity to foster community and provide support for students at Douglas. “The goal for the upcoming year is to not only have educational opportunities, but opportunities for self-care as well,” she explains. She also has ideas spanning from beading workshops to drum group performances.
And Aly has enjoyed the experience so far. “It’s been great. Everyone is so passionate about everything. It’s nice to be a part of the planning and bring awareness to different issues and have my opinion heard.”
As Aly continues to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker by honing her skills both inside and outside the classroom, she is also quick to offer advice for students who may need support:
“It’s really helpful for students to know about the different resources and supports available at the College,” Aly advises. “It can be a bit daunting looking at all the departments and the services they offer, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re an Indigenous student, the ISS staff are always very communicative. They can offer support if you’re going through something or need to talk things through. They’ll try to help you the best they can.”
In honour of National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, Aly wrote a blog post on the significance of the month of June and her experience at Douglas as an Indigenous student. Read her story.