Finding creative work as an arts student

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Beatrice O’Connell is a first-year youth and children’s studies student with a minor in English at Wilfrid Laurier University’s faculty of liberal arts. This is her first time returning to school after two years, and she said being a student again immediately opened more doors for her in the job market.

After graduating, O’Connell wants to work with youth or become an early childhood educator for children with disabilities. She is currently on the search for work opportunities at daycares and she said being a youth and children’s studies student has already helped her get more interviews than she normally would have before she was in school.

“A lot of people were very excited to have students on board,” she said, as students bring new perspectives to the workplace. She added that most employers want to hire younger people because they know tuition can be expensive.

Hasna Isase is a fourth-year English student with a minor in philosophy. In her first year at Laurier, Isase said it was difficult to find a job. But she knew three languages, French, English and Spanish, so she decided to launch her own tutoring business with a focus on the English language and she’s been running it ever since. Her students include children who want to excel in school as well as adults and immigrants looking for better job opportunities.

“A lot of it is getting to know people and knowing when to insert yourself in an opportunity when
it opens up,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t learn from my professors because a big aspect is just learning from other people and what they tell you.”

Throughout her third year at Laurier, Isase was a research assistant for associate English professor Ken Paradis. She already knew Paradis from one of her classes on American literature and talked to him about looking for a research position. That’s when he gave her this opportunity.

“If you have a good rapport, people are more willing to work with you,” said Isase, adding that the job market is much more connection-based now. “Not every professor will lend their hand out, but because you have a good rapport with them, because they know you respect the craft, because they know you’re hard-working — they will lend out the hand.”

On top of her classes, Isase is also a member of Laurier’s History Students’ Association (HSA) and English Students’ Association (ESA) since her second year in her program. She said some jobs look for community building skills, which is where volunteer experiences in student clubs play a part.

O’Connell started her courses in the winter and as a final assignment for her children’s literacy class, she was asked to create her own children’s book. That’s when she wrote Lily’s Day at the Grocery Store, a sensory book about a young girl’s experience with autism and her trip to a grocery store, along with how overstimulating that can be.

Contributed photo/Beatrice O’Connnell
Contributed photo/Beatrice O’Connell

O’Connell illustrated each picture by hand so children could feel different textures in the book. She used water colour for the backgrounds, oil pastels for the foreground and characters — and sandpaper for an itchy pair of pants to show how certain clothing can bother some children with autism. Part of the assignment was to read the finished book to children through Laurier for Literacy, a literacy program in partnership with Laurier Brantford and the Brantford Public Library, where O’Connell was already volunteering to gain experience working with children.

“Being able to creatively express myself in school is something I never thought I’d be able to get,” she said. “I just made a book and I had so much fun doing it.”

She said making the book itself has created a lot more opportunities for her, especially if she wants to go forward with publishing it.


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