Co-op for Community program gives Waterloo students opportunity to help non-profit sector
Unique program gives students a potential “stepping stone” to future careers.
Unique program gives students a potential “stepping stone” to future careers.By Namish Modi Co-operative and Experiential Education
Megan Logan was excited when she secured a co-op work term with the United Way Waterloo Region Communities — a region she now calls home.
The second-year Arts and Business student from Burlington wanted to find a first co-op work term where she could get to know the area she lives and studies in and feel like she was doing work that mattered. She found that opportunity through the University of Waterloo’s Co-op for Community program.
Co-op for Community is a unique partnership between United Way Waterloo Region Communities and the University. The donor-funded program creates meaningful co-op jobs for Waterloo students from all disciplines to work at local non-profits that are affiliated with the United Way and need talent. Donations to the program go directly to support Waterloo co-op students.
The goal is to eventually expand the program to include other major cities in Canada.
“The next generation of talent wants to see their contributions affect their organization in meaningful ways. Co-op for Community provides opportunities for students to take their skills and energy and apply them in a way where they can see real impact,” says Norah McRae, Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education. “Regardless of a student’s career path, having the opportunity to work in a not-for-profit can be life-changing and help to develop key competencies for the world of work.”
Logan and Jusleen Dhaliwal, a second-year Arts student, were among five students who recently completed co-op terms at United Way as part of the Co-op for Community program.
“I thought this was the perfect opportunity to learn about local issues but to also be a part of the process of helping individuals in our community, especially with the pandemic and everything going on,” Logan says.
“It’s a program that benefits so many different people. For students, it helps us gain opportunities and it is a stepping stone to our full-time careers,” says Dhaliwal. “I know it helps organizations, and the people that work with me have said that they appreciate what I’m doing. It helps them to have a fresh set of eyes from students. Then, in turn, it helps the greater community.”
Since the Co-op for Community program began in winter 2021, it has funded employment for more than a dozen students.
In her role as project coordinator at United Way, Logan uses social media to help promote donations to the organization. She also helps draft emails and newsletters that United Way sends to donors.
MEGAN LOGAN, Arts and Business co-op student
When you donate to the Co-op for Community program, you’re supporting students like me and giving us the opportunity to build skillsets, learn more about the nonprofit sector and help others.
Beyond becoming more familiar with the Waterloo community, Logan believes working in the non-profit sector has helped her to learn about prevalent social issues.
The Co-op for Community program also gives students the unique opportunity to work at multiple nonprofits during a single work term.
As this is her first work term, Logan appreciates the benefits she’s gained at United Way while also contributing to one of the agencies it funds, Interfaith Counselling Centre (ICC).
ICC helps match people in need with registered professional counselors and therapists. In her role, Logan assists ICC with marketing and branding to create flyers, presentations and brochures. She has learned a lot from the experience of contributing to a small charitable organization and looks for opportunities to apply the principles she is learning in her Psychology classes to practical situations at work.
“I thought this was the perfect opportunity to give back since I am the type of person who always enjoys helping others,” Logan says.
When Dhaliwal landed her first work term role at United Way Waterloo Region Communities, she felt a sense of purpose and motivation to do her best to help others. “I just feel like I’ve done something that actually helps people,” she says. “It’s really a mix of getting opportunities and having that mental boost.”
Like Logan, Dhaliwal is a project coordinator for United Way, but works as part of the community investment team mainly focused on grant applications. Dhaliwal reviews applications for completeness and overall quality and makes recommendations.
JUSLEEN DHALIWAL, Arts co-op student
Working for a non-profit is really rewarding, because each day I wake up and remember that what I’m doing helps the community. It’s rewarding for both the student, the organization and the community.
Through her role with the United Way, Dhaliwal is also working with the Canadian Arab Women’s Association (CAWA), a nonprofit organization that works to connect, support and empower Arab women in Waterloo Region and Guelph. In her role at CAWA, Dhaliwal supports market research to help determine community needs. This opportunity allowed her to apply the research skills she learned in her Sociology classes to a real-life research initiative.
"The whole point is to give back,” she says. “Each and every day, I think about how my work helps the community and what the greater purpose of my work is. I feel like this combination of soft skills has really helped me, and I know I can take that to any job.”
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within our Office of Indigenous Relations.