Serving others through personal growth

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Danielle Otermat (BA CYC ’22) did not always connect confidently with people.

Throughout most of high school, she tended to keep to herself. But the course of Danielle’s life was changed when a Child and Youth in Care practicum student from UFV came to her school.

“They came in with their big, extroverted energy and sat right next to me; they bumped right into me,” says Danielle. “I thought, who is this person getting right into my space?”

Danielle soon realized that the person generally cared about her wellbeing, even outside of their role as a practicum student. And that sense of caring unlocked something for Danielle. After graduating from high school, she realized she might be able to do the same for others.

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“It shaped my perspective.” She thought, “I want to do that too. I want to create genuine connections with people where they feel like they matter and feel accepted.”

Dainelle attended UFV where she completed a Bachelor of Child and Youth Care (CYC) degree, graduating in 2022. She now works for Chilliwack Restorative Justice, and she is thriving.

“What I love about my work is it’s growing me as a person. I look at where I was when I first started with Restorative Justice, to where I am now, and it’s a very different place.”

Danielle’s work puts her back in the school system, conducting support work with students, and supporting parents, and teachers across the Chilliwack School District. The hope of Chilliwack Restorative Justice is to build healthier communities and capacity in conflict resolution within the classroom. This is often done through Peace Circles, which teach an entire class of students a variety of interpersonal skills, including conflict management and how to give a sincere apology.

“These are all things that we as adults are still learning to master,” says Danielle. “So, I find when we’re facilitating the circles, we’re also learning from the kids’ reflections.”

Danielle focuses on classrooms with particularly challenging classroom dynamics, where the teacher may be struggling with conflict or divisions in the classroom. She will collaborate with the teacher to form a plan, and together, they will then embark on a series of community building exercises and interactive activities to support the class in problem solving challenges.

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“What we like about circles is that it’s not just the teacher standing in front of the classroom and directing the class. We’re sitting as a community. We’re really trying to gather an impact from everybody, to see how things are affecting them, and what they want to see out of this.”

Reflecting on her journey as a graduate and worker in Child and Youth in Care, Danielle acknowledges the significant distance she has traveled from her days as a timid high school student. She also recognizes the transformative impact of both UFV faculty and the children she now works with, who have played pivotal roles in shaping her growth. “A lot of the faculty at UFV are genuinely amazing people,” says Danielle. “I had quite a few challenging times through the degree program, but they were always supportive of me, especially in how they modeled the practices they were teaching.

“It made me reflect on how I can bring that into my own practice.”