Underwood: Graduate aims to help children on her reserve

- Suzanne Smith

Lila Underwood has always known that she would work with kids.

Before enrolling in the Bachelor in Child and Youth Care program, Underwood was a teaching assistant at Bayside Middle School.

“When I was a teaching assistant I found that many of my kids would come to me with social/emotional issues that were getting in the way of their ability to learn. Once I helped them with these issues they improved academically,” explains Underwood.

These experiences, along with some encouragement from the staff at Bayside, convinced Underwood to enroll in UVic’s child and youth care program. Going to UVic allowed her to continue living on the Pauquachin reserve, which was very important to her, but also sometimes difficult.

“The challenge for me was living in two different worlds. We have our own beliefs, values and customs on the reserve which sometimes clash with university culture. For example, when we have a death in the community everyone stops what they’re doing to help the family in mourning. Being a student I couldn’t always be there for my community because of deadlines and other responsibilities. This was hard for me and for my community, but I had to make sacrifices,” explains Underwood.

Despite the challenges, Underwood had very positive experiences at UVic. “I never felt uncomfortable or that I couldn’t have a voice,” she says. “I was part of a core group of students who stayed together throughout the program. We formed a real sense of community and this sense of belonging was really important to me.”

Underwood is now working as the Education Manager for the Pauquachin First Nation where she hopes to help more youth graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary education.

She is one of about 40 students graduating with the new title of Bachelor in Child and Youth Care. Until now students graduating from this program received a BA in Human and Social Development.


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Keywords: underwood, graduate, help, children

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