How Work-Integrated Learning supports and gives back to community: Emele Neufeld’s story

Emele Neufeld is a graduate of MacEwan University’s Bachelor of Child and Youth Care program, where he completed three work placements (also known as Work-Integrated Learning) as part of his program. 

Work-Integrated Learning or work placement opportunities not only allows students to enhance their resumes but also provides an opportunity for students to support and discover causes they care about by giving back to their local community. 

One placement he completed was as a Facilitator, Supervisor, and Counsellor at Old Strathcona Youth Society, and another placement was as a Facilitator, Supervisor, Counsellor, and Cook at Ben Calf Robe Society. 

Uplifting youth in the Edmonton community through Work-Integrated Learning

Both placements provided Emele an opportunity to work directly with and mentor youth, which supported and gave back to the Edmonton community. 

Using his 10+ years’ experience as a professional cook and the theoretical knowledge from his degree, Emele mentored and taught young people invaluable life skills such as cooking, meal planning, budgeting, coping mechanisms, and emotional regulation.

“Through cooking with children and youth, it gives them confidence and the opportunity to feel good about themselves,” said Emele. “You’re empowering them to try and learn something new and providing a safe space to make mistakes.”

During his work placements, Emele has also worked with a lot of Indigenous youth – a very personal and important cause for him. 

“It’s about helping young people to reframe their own narrative such as the negative things going on in their lives. It’s helping them to see the strength within themselves through their own story and seeing for themselves that they have the ability to overcome obstacles. It’s all about perseverance. It’s one of the most important things I’ve tried doing when working with them.”

As a result of Emele’s mentorship, a lot of youth started to express love for cooking and some have even pursued it as a job or career.

“My favourite part of my work placements would be creating moments with youth that possibly helped them in their life journey. One of my best experiences was just cooking with the kids and creating things like lit-zils (hot dogs wrapped in a soft pretzel). My youth named them and enjoyed eating them, so that was my favourite moment.” 

Work-Integrated Learning supports communities by bolstering students’ skills and preparing them for the workforce

Through Work-Integrated Learning, Emele like many students was able to apply classroom theory to real-life situations. Emele says that if it wasn’t for that work experience, he wouldn’t have developed a deeper understanding of what theory actually looked like in practice. 

“Only through that experience can you relate theory to practice. What does it look like in real-time? What can the kid actually learn? And how you can make it so they can get to where they need to be, and what support you can provide at different stages. It’s knowing and doing, and eventually, you can start being – it’s all practice in the end.”

Emele also says as a result of his work placements, he felt better prepared for future work opportunities, like his current role as Indigenous Liaison at the Rural Development Network. 

“Doing a practicum allows for a safe space to develop your problem-solving skills on-site. I got the opportunity to learn from any mistakes during my education in a productive way. I know that experiential learning is a great methodology in connecting minds to tasks for advanced learning outcomes.”

Emele’s story is just one example of the far-reaching impact that Work-Integrated Learning can have on communities – opportunities to get on the ground level and support important causes while simultaneously bolstering students’ skills and resumes, better preparing them for the realities of integrating into the workforce upon graduation. 

How to get involved

Want to learn more about Work-Integrated Learning? Check out our Rural Roots: Work-Integrated Learning Program

About Emele Neufeld

Champion male traditional dancer hailing from the east coast, Emele is a member of the Mi'kmaq peoples of Chapel Island Potlotek. He comes from the Moose clan of Marshall’s that gave him his love of the Mowi’omi or pow-wow which shaped his culture and world views. Emele has been an Indigenous ambassador since age seven, making him the ultimate fit for his role as Indigenous Liaison at RDN.

The theoretical developmental knowledge he gained from his degree in Child & Youth Care from MacEwan University informed a more in-depth understanding of barriers inhibiting Indigenous Peoples through intergenerational trauma. Emele aspires to connect the stories of Indigenous Peoples to the actions we take, and hopes to create healing within communities by sharing this narrative.

Emele enjoys narrative-based role-playing games such as D&D for its therapeutic benefits and cooking for friends and family with his 10+ years’ experience as a professional cook. His favourite meals to cook include pasta, homemade ravioli, and focaccia bread with jalapeno.