Skip to main content
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology
SFU Co-op Student

Andrea Bajcetic
Through working with mental health clients, I gained an increased level of comfort working with vulnerable adults in the community.

This article was originally published in the Arts co-op newsletter in Fall 2014.

Because my last Co-op position was with the federal government, I had no idea what to expect when I was hired by a non-profit. Progressive Housing Society (PHS) is an organization that works with individuals in Burnaby who suffer from mental health problems or are at-risk of homelessness. The outreach and support workers at PHS strive to find affordable housing for their clients as well as assist them in achieving personal independence by provid- ing access to community resources and training them in daily life skills. As a Community Services Assistant - part of the Community Living Support team - my job was to assist clients with their personal goals and skill development, and to help to maintain PHS’s three group homes.

This position had the perfect balance between working independently and working with others. Working as a team with mental health clients taught me to respect everyone’s working styles and allow them to complement my own, enhancing my communication skills in an interactive environment. Meanwhile, working independently allowed me to utilize organizational, analytical, and time management skills.

Prior to my Co-op term with PHS I had experience working with at-risk youth through my volunteer job with the RCMP, but this was my first time working with vulnerable adults and I didn’t know what to expect. Working with adults in the mental health field was the first practical application of my Psychology background and ultimately proved to be a very dynamic and rewarding experience. Whether we were going on walks, working outside in the yard, or teaching cooking classes – interactions with the clients required patience, understanding, and a good sense of humour!

The other part of my job consisted of planning events for the summer, including our mental health client barbeque, staff appreciation event, Annual General Meeting (AGM), and various fundraising events. Although I am used to juggling a heavy course load with multiple assignments due around the same time, this type of work created quite a different level of stress when multiple projects coincided. I had to learn to work within a budget and maintain a flexible time frame, since many of the steps involved in planning events were dependent upon businesses getting back to me and in getting approval from management.

My two biggest projects for this work term were creating the AGM report book and planning the burger and beer fundraiser to raise money for PHS’s proposed outreach and mental health resource clinic. Before this work term I had absolutely no experience with graphic design and had never planned a fundraiser before! To design the AGM book I had to figure out graphics programs on my own, which helped to develop my computer skills. When planning the fundraiser I was in charge of everything from booking the venue, printing the tickets, and managing sales, to soliciting donations for prizes, organizing the raffle, silent auctions, and games, and creating flyers and posters to advertise the event. The night was a tremendous success that I look back on with a sense of pride and increased self-confidence.

My Co-op with Progressive Housing Society therefore not only enhanced some of my previous skills, but also gave me new ones that will be transferable to future employment opportunities. Through working with various organizations in Burnaby (such as Burnaby Mental Health), I gained a better understanding of BC’s social programs. By planning multiple events concurrently I learned how to organize and manage time constraints effectively and to work within a limited budget. Through working with mental health clients, I gained an increased level of comfort working with vulnerable adults in the community. I found it is important to learn how to diffuse emotional - sometimes stressful - situations, as well as being non-judgmental and understanding. I recommend this type of position for Co-op students from all types of academic backgrounds; working for a non-profit is a humbling and illuminating experience, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity I had to work with PHS.

Beyond the Blog

SFU Co-op Student

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.


person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.


You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Steven Phan standing in front of lush green background wearing a floral shirt
SFU Co-op Leads to Silicon Valley Dream Job with Google

Steven Phan's professional journey started long before he got a prize job as an interaction designer at Google. The SFU student’s career success started after he enrolled as a SIAT student and took advantage of the school’s co-op program. 

view of town in germany
My Co-op in Germany

Hubert Tam shares about his experience in Germany working at SAP.  Hubert is a 7th year Business student who spent 3 co-op terms at SAP.

Picture of Science World and its reflection on False Creek
How Do Snakes Poop? And Other Curious Questions a Science Facilitator Co-op Student Could Ask You

For her first co-op, SFU Biology and English student Kristina Charania headed to the heart of Vancouver to work as a Science Facilitator at Science World for four months. Read all about her co-op adventures and challenges under the dome!