The patterns and processes of a typical high school classroom didn’t quite fit 17-year-old Maia Fecteau’s learning style or personality, and she was struggling to get the marks she needed to earn her diploma. She soon found a different path to success, however, through the Public Alternative Secondary School (P.A.S.S.) program offered through the Greater Essex County District School Board, and a co-op placement at The Village of Aspen Lake.
Shortly after she enrolled in the P.A.S.S. program, which supports students through teacher-directed and self-directed independent learning, Maia spoke to her advisor about her vision for the future. Nursing has always appealed to her, she explained, so he worked to find an appropriate place to explore her ambitions of a career in heath care.
She began spending her days at Aspen Lake in the fall of 2018, eventually earning three credits before returning to Riverside High School in late January to complete her diploma. In the process, she confirmed that nursing is a potential fit for her future and that a long-term care setting is a worthy place to spend her time and effort.
“I feel like this is really good experience and I really like the people here,” she says one day in early December as she helps decorate the Village for Christmas. “The residents, the team, everything is great.” She goes on to explain that a lot of people in the community, especially people of her generation, seem to have a misguided impression of aging and life in a long-term care setting. Her understanding is a little different, however.
Her grandmother lived with dementia and Maia was a big part of her life. “Some people, I guess, are raised differently than others and are brought up to know things that are going on in other peoples lives, and they learn how to deal with them,” she says. Empathy, it appears, came honestly to Maia through her experience with her grandmother.
Perhaps that’s why relating to the people she helps support at Aspen Lake feels natural, she says, and she’s comfortable in The Village, especially during one-on-one conversations with the neighbours. She says other young people could learn a lot about life by completing a placement in a long-term care setting.
“You get out of your shell,” she says. “You learn a lot more and you’re out there and more open to new things and new activities. The team here, they really push you to keep going and do your best.”
As she reflects on her first three months at the Village she says she believes that nursing in long-term care is a good path in life. She’d originally envisioned a hospital setting, but now she’s not so sure. Her eyes are opened up now to the great rewards and opportunities in the support of long-term care residents and the elders of our communities. A typical classroom is rarely the place where a young person discovers their passion, Maia says, and she’s grateful she discovered hers at Aspen Lake.