At one time, Caitlyn Spence’s anxiety was so severe she couldn’t bear to stand up and speak in front of her class.
Today, Spence is poised and confident, coming out of her shell as a summer student working with children and teens at Truro’s Slate Youth Centre. She laughs and cracks a joke with her boss as they sell sweet treats at Slate’s ‘Snack Shack’, during the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition in Truro.
“I love Slate,” said Spence, now 19, on Aug. 24. “As I’ve dealt with mental health in my life, it’s definitely increased my capacity for understanding what some of our youth might be experiencing. It’s easy for me to empathize with them.”
Spence, from Rawdon, took a year off after High School to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and conquer her anxiety.
After working in fast food and customer service jobs, she discovered her joy of helping other people. This in turn helped bring Spence out of her shell and improve her mental wellbeing.
Last fall, Spence enrolled in a two-year child and youth care program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Truro. Now entering her second year, she will graduate next spring.
It was almost by accident she discovered Slate, through a service learning and volunteering opportunity at the NSCC, which helped land her the summer job.
At Slate, Spence helps her boss Crystal Crossan-Zak plan activities for youth and other activities like fundraisers. One such event was running the Snack Shack during the exhibition to raise money for their organization’s activities.
She also spends time with youths at Slate’s drop-in centre on 883 Prince Street, helping them with activities like arts and crafts, games, outdoor adventure trips and workplace skills training.
Spence aims to use her Slate experience and NSCC diploma to become a child and youth care practitioner and worker.
“It’s really impacted my professional self in the best way,” said Spence. “I feel more confident in myself and how I present myself professionally.”
Crossan-Zak had only good things to say about her young colleague.
“She’s a solid girl,” said Crossan-Zak. “She’ll be an awesome social worker, one hundred per cent.”
Slate’s aim is to offer a safe meeting space and constructive activities for children and youth. They organization focuses on building healthy relationships and mentorship in preparation for adult life.