Peer Helper Receives Top Convocation Award
Career Services Peer Helper Sidra Mohammed is the 2020 recipient of the W.C. Winegard Medal. The medal is the top convocation award for an undergraduate student in recognition of both academic achievement and contributions to university and community life.
Sidra, graduating from the Food Science co-op program, was a Peer Helper at the Experiential Learning Hub for two semesters. As a Peer Helper, Sidra was commended for going above and beyond in her one-to-one appointments with students and for being an eager workshop facilitator. Beyond her role as a Career Services Peer Helper, Sidra has positively contributed to the on- and off-campus community as a Crisis Text Line Volunteer, Wellness Education Peer Helper, and Orientation Week Facilitator. There is a clear theme of supporting others in all of Sidra’s volunteer commitments, as she truly embodies the University of Guelph’s mission to improve life.
We asked Sidra for her top three pieces of advice on experiential learning, and here’s what she said:
1) Getting involved on campus opened doors for me, and looking back I was surprised to see how interconnected my undergraduate career was
When I was working part-time in a winter work-study position, I never knew that I’d get the opportunity to do a summer Undergraduate Research Assistantship with the lab. When I signed up for an 8-week wellness program on campus, I never thought that I would eventually volunteer with the team that ran it – the Wellness Education Centre – as a peer helper. And when I met a UofG professor on a co-op term, I didn’t know that I would find myself completing an Undergraduate Research Project for them, 6 months later. I realized that this was a byproduct of getting involved: you are introduced to potential future opportunities that you may never have been able to connect to otherwise.
2) You don’t really know what you’re capable of doing
One of the worst things you can do is to put yourself in a box and label yourself as a certain type of person who can and cannot do certain things. I have definitely done this on multiple occasions, and missed out on a lot during my undergrad years by doing this. For example, I told myself that I was never the type of person who could give engaging presentations, and this held me back because I didn’t really progress in that area when I could have done a lot to build my oral communication skills over the years. So, when the opportunity came up at Career Services during my final year, I took it. You may say it was late, but for myself I knew I had to start somewhere. I presented to several student groups on various career preparation topics that year. Yes, my heart was beating hard during my first presentation to a whopping…4 students. But I slowly progressed, and ended up presenting to over 80 students at International Students Day, something I never thought I was capable of.
3) Be creative! There is so much value in creating opportunity
Something that I wish I knew earlier, was that I was not limited. That I could take my ideas, connect with like-minded people, conduct my own research, seek resources, and more to be able to create things with my own hands. That there wasn’t a rule book that I needed to be following. And that even if things didn’t turn out well, that I could take it as a learning experience, a stepping stone, and still be able to move forward. That I was not limited to the confines of my volunteer or job description, that there were so many other ways that I could contribute as well. Whether it be providing feedback and ideas to the team, implementing creative measures, organizing new project ideas, fundraisers and events, and much more. I learned this at one of my co-op work-terms, when I was encouraged to think outside of the box and voice my ideas. I learned that employers wanted students that were able to think critically and problem-solve, not just identify areas that needed to be improved. I think students should think about how they can contribute and create change, no matter how big or small. What can they do to contribute to the purpose of the organization, and how will it make a difference for others?
We are thrilled for Sidra on being recognized with this prestigious honour and look forward to seeing what she accomplishes next!