Opening Up to New Experiences
Working in Trying Times
Like many students, Melodie Downey (Honours Bachelor of Community Safety 2024 and Social Service Worker graduate 2020) is navigating a whole new world of post-secondary education. Covid-19 and distance learning has sparked a student mental health crisis, largely due to the challenges of social isolation. Virtual learning creates communication barriers with students, their classmates, and their professors. Worried about the long-term impact this would have on her, Melodie decided to push against her fears and challenge herself to say “yes” to new opportunities that came her way.
Melodie’s openness to experience helped nurture fulfilling personal and professional growth. Since the start of the school year, she’s attended numerous workshops on a diverse array of topics and facilitated student events. She took on the role of Peer Mentor and became a research assistant for the Remaking Critical Theory project. Through reading and analyzing critical theory and interpreting it into accessible visual mediums in this project, Melodie has not only immersed herself in something brand new, she has also expanded her skillset for Community Safety and Social Work.
When talking about the hurdles to working virtually, such as the new, hazy social rules of conferencing, Melodie says that she “enjoys” the things that make her uncomfortable – they’re part of a learning experience. This is the mindset that she approaches all of her work with, no matter how intimidating it may be. The respectful attitude of the Remaking Critical Theory team played a big role in this. While sharing their visual interpretations of the theory, research participants listened and acknowledged one another. “We all have to share our art, I’m usually close to the end because I’m so petrified, but people seem to respect where I’m at.”
The biggest takeaway of the research project, for the creators and readers of the zine, is the importance of critical thinking. It’s helped Melodie look at her field and her studies in a new way: she’s learned how to better approach and articulate difficult subjects by practicing critical thinking. It’s also given her a new perspective when looking at systemic issues within community safety, ranging from socioeconomic issues to the physical environment. Through critically questioning these structures, Melodie is better equipped to analyze the issues and
Making Healthy Communities
The entire team is fostering critical thinking skills through their zines. Melodie’s zine, created in partnership with Elisar Haydar, provides definitions and examples of key terms and ideas from critical theory texts. These help to make critical theory more accessible by bridging the gap of understanding and context. She hopes it will encourage students to “just stop for a second”, and to question information being presented to them.
If anyone can attest to the benefits of challenging yourself, of trying something new – it’s Melodie. She started off the school year with a goal to say “yes”. That goal has helped her work through depression and anxiety, and has brought her closer to her peers, to success, and to personal fulfillment. The most rewarding part of this experience? Despite feeling out of her depth in a new environment, with new ways of thinking and new language, she’s proud of her ability to adapt and thrive: “New experiences still give me anxiety, but I gain more from trying than staying stagnant.”