Key Learnings From My CEL Experience

Written and created by: Nidhi Patel, MMASc Candidate 

As a part of my Master of Management of Applied Science curriculum, I had the pleasure of taking Project Management with professor Jason Reed and engaging in the CEL project. I had the joy of managing a project with three of my classmates that was proposed by our project sponsor, Brad McGhie. Brad explained to us that mental illness and seeking help has been stigmatized for way too long and that he wanted to develop a program at Medway High School that aims to help struggling students who may be scared to ask for help, with the support of peer leaders. With immense support from our project sponsor, my team and I worked to create a peer support model that promotes positive mental health and prevents problematic substance us within the teen population. From this, we built a 12-Week program consisting of relevant topics related to self-care, substance use, how to help someone who is struggling, healthy relationships, career planning, personal development, and food impacting mood. Additionally, we drafted requirements for peer leaders to ensure that they are recognized as strong leaders by the other students. Our goal was to create a curriculum that can be incorporated not only at Medway High School but hopefully across other school districts as well.

Key Values of CEL Project

Hands-On Experience:

With this hands-on experience, I was able to apply the knowledge learned through course content into a real-life application which was very beneficial. It allowed me to work with my team to think of best practices and learn through trial and error. As well, it provided an opportunity to practice navigating through obstacles by using critical thinking, also leading to increased retention in key lessons.

Strengthening Skills:

The CEL project helped me strengthen many skills including communication, responsibility, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration skills. Not only was I able to build strong relationships with my peers, I was able to refine many skills that help me grow into a stronger leader. This project helped me draw from my previous experience in peer support and allowed me to remember the power of teen imagination when it is challenged to do great things and work to make the world a better place.

Contribution to the Community:

Participating in this project helped me recognize how addressing community problems with innovative thinking can help make positive and lasting impacts. The CEL project provides great opportunities for students like us with differing backgrounds to work together to improve community outcomes. This experience made me appreciate the power of non-profit organizations to change the well-being of a community and help make long-lasting positive changes.

Expanding Network:

With CEL, I was able to expand my network and connect with respectful individuals who have left a lasting impact on me. For one, my project sponsor Brad is a very optimistic and supportive individual who has taught me to never give up. Through the process of this project, I am thankful to have learned many valuable lessons that I can implement in my life as I move forward.

Through this CEL x Project Management experience, I was able to learn so much. I think it is definitely a great way to apply the knowledge learned throughout the course content to a real-life application in which many skills were developed and strengthened. It was astonishing to see how this hands-on experience worked to not only develop new skills but also gave me a chance to recognize problems existing in the community that require more attention and gave me an opportunity to expand my network with meaningful connections that I will use to further grow in my career. Overall I am so thankful for this experience and can honestly say that I will be implementing the key lessons learned throughout this process as I work to move forward in my career!

Check out Nidhi's Infographics!

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Community Engaged Learning and Its Benefits

  1. Hands on Experience
    1. CEL projects allow you to apply the knowledge learned through course content to a real-world project
  2. Develop and Strengthen Skills
    1. Great opportunity to develop and refine skills including communication, collaboration, and responsibility
  3. Contribute to Your Community
    1. Increases community engagement to address existing problems with innovative solutions
  4. Expand Your Network
    1. Helps find new opportunities to excel in your career through making strong connections

All of these points offer ‘Valuable Life Learnings and Lessons’, that help you gain meaningful insights that can be implemented into your life, now and forever!

Key Learnings

  1. Communication Skills
    1. Received first-hand experience on how effective communication works to minimize conflict and increase trust and collaboration amongst a team
    2. Effective communication within the team & with the project sponsor helped solve all confusion
  2. Collaboration Skills
    1. Strengthened my collaboration skills by working openly with my team & witnessed how this helped our goals become more aligned while increasing motivation
    2. Learned how to integrate different perspectives and ideas to reach a common goal
  3. Flexibility
    1. Just like most things in life, the project did not go 100% as planned, however, I learned that it can still be successful with flexibility and honesty with the team to make adjustments as necessary while still ensuring critical milestone dates are met
  4. Life-Long Learning
    1. Through the obstacles and successes of the project, I developed many learnings that can be implemented into my future endeavors to make me a stronger leader and motivated me to contribute more to my community

Read more blogs about students' experiences with CEL:

Clare's CEL Experience with Participation House

Clare shares her experience in the CEL course, Sociology of Deviance.

My Experience With CEL

Rebecca shares what she learned during her CEL experience.

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