Selkirk College Connects Students to Resources with Web App Aiming to Support Wellbeing
A playful and comprehensive online resource mapping wellbeing resources in the West Kootenay is live at you.selkirk.ca
The interactive website designed for mobile devices aims to lead students to mental health support services in the community with a simple click. It was created in collaboration between Selkirk College Digital Arts & New Media Program students, Nursing Program students and Selkirk College employees.
The project was made possible through funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education in the Province of British Columbia as part of a commitment to ensuring people with disabilities can access education and training that will enable them to secure meaningful employment.
The responsive site asks students lively questions on sometimes serious subject matter – “Hungry? Apparently you can’t download food, what now?” – and then points them toward services right on Selkirk College campuses along with agencies and resources in the greater community. There are also links to carefully selected websites, TED Talks and blogs that offer further knowledge about health and well-being.
Selkirk College Instructional Dean Kate Pelletier explains the roots of the project.
“We learned from students and staff that there was a lack of information about where to find mental health resources in the community and where to turn on campus. We wanted to help students find what they need,” she says. “Students are more than just the books that they are studying. It’s important for us to take a holistic approach, understanding that if students are stressed out and not coping well in their general life; they aren’t going to be successful in their studies.”
Former Selkirk College Counsellor Robbin Higgins was involved in the early stages. She engaged with students to learn how this need could be met and planted the seed for the now complete project which will be shared with other institutions that will adapt it for their students.
“I’m delighted the idea is coming to fruition.” says Higgins who now works in Kyrgyzstan at the new University of Central Asia offering weekly classes on health and wellbeing. “I look forward to accessing the web resource from here.”
Key to Higgin’s concept was a by-student-for-students approach.
Pelletier explains, “Students have insight as to what will appeal to their peers and what resources will speak to them. They also used skills gained during their studies here at Selkirk College in a real work situation undertaken with guidance and support.”
Teamwork on this project came from Selkirk College students-turned-alumni Thomas Nowaczynski, Samantha Alvarado, Colby Dunlop, and Alicia Abrosimoff under the supervision of Instructor Shane Hainsworth with the guidance of local web developer and former Digital Arts student Denis Leblanc.
“This project gave us serious real-world experience at a grand scale,” says Nowaczynski, team lead. “Developing this resource was an adventurous, determined, and sometimes scary insight into the world of web design. We got to experience everything from intense, joyous breakthroughs to shameful failure and repeated iterations, before we landed where we did.”
Nowaczynski says the project reinforces the concept that “content is king,” meaning any media is worthless without having “good, unique content.”
Selkirk College Nursing Program student David Felton and Matty Hillman, graduate student and new instructor in the Human Services Program, aggregated the list of support services, and sought out information relevant to the student experience.
“My practice as a child and youth care worker in the West Kootenay over the last eight years has provided me with a strong awareness of community and online resources,” says Hillman. “And, as an educator and student myself, I have an interest and desire to see that students feel supported, respected and valued.”
Since the launch of B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, the Ministry of Advanced Education has provided almost $2.8 million to 20 public post-secondary institutions to develop programs to give people with disabilities skills to succeed in training aligned with in-demand jobs.
Funding through this program is being used to develop a number of resources for Selkirk College staff and students including the creation of a video called “What I Wish They Knew” featuring students sharing their experiences with mental health challenges.