“Kindness and community live here.”

Lujain Alshabani is a Grade 11 student at Bluevale Collegiate Institute (BCI) who is aiming for a career in nursing or gerontology after she graduates from high school. To learn a bit more of the field, she accepted a co-op placement at Parkwood Mennonite Home, which offers long-term care and independent living for seniors in Waterloo.

Although Lujain set out to learn about senior care, she has also learned about the value of community as she begins to make Canada her home, having arrived recently from Syria.

Working with one of Parkwood’s full-time staff, Lujain spends time with residents on the retirement side of the home. One of her favourite tasks is planning, developing and leading activities and games for residents.

As much as she enjoys the work, it does come with challenges, but Lujain sees these as opportunities for growth.

“One of the things I’ve really needed to develop is patience,” said Lujain. “Sometimes I need to repeat the same instructions for the same game.”

To help support residents, Lujain has developed a method of teaching them how to play the games, without simply repeating those instructions over and over.

“I find it best to lead them along just enough for them to declare that they’ve actually figured it out on their own; that they’ve always known how to do it, they just didn’t understand what the instructions were saying,” said Lujain.

Overseeing Lujain’s co-op placement is Diane McCance, Parkwood’s Community Engagement Coordinator.

“Volunteers play a key role in delivering support for events and activities to our residents,” said McCance. “It is also important to match both the interests and skills of the volunteer with the needs and requirements of the resident programs, and Lujain’s been a great fit here.”

What makes it easier for Parkwood to find those students who fit so well is the relationship they have developed with Harry Kemperman, the Co-op Coordinator at BCI.

“We have a great relationship with Harry and the school,” said McCance. “It makes it so much easier to find the perfect students for the placements.”

At Parkwood, co-op placements are as much about building relationships as building skills for a future career.

“Interacting with older people is a life skill and having a younger volunteer is always nice for the residents,” said McCance. “It helps them feel more connected to the outside community.”

Lujain certainly does her part in building those relationships. One of the first things she did after starting was reach out to 30 to 40 residents to invite them to a games session. It was a little unsettling to reach out like that, recalls Lujain, “but the residents were so kind when I talked with them.”

Lujain is still finding her place in her new home. There’s been lots to learn, but she’s grateful for this opportunity to be part of this community.

“As challenging as it has been for me to connect with older people, I do feel comfortable at Parkwood,” Lujain said. “Kindness and community live here.”

Co-operative Education in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB)

Co-operative Education placements give students a hands-on way to explore careers in fields as diverse as child care, law, computer programming and the trades. Students, parents and caregivers can learn about these opportunities by speaking with the Guidance Counsellor at your high school.

Pathways to Success

Visit the Pathways to Success website for information on:


If you’re someone who wants to help a student explore a career in your field, contact:
Kim Keena, Experiential and Co-operative Education Lead
Waterloo Region District School Board
519-570-0003 (extension 4443)