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Resilience propels change

Q&A with 2020 Outstanding Community Service Award recipient

By Heidi Wicks

From her time as an observation subject for psychology students as an infant, to going to summer camps as a child, to a degree and post-graduate certificate, Memorial University has always been a part of Courtney Clarke’s (BA’12, MIPGC’15) life.

She successfully moved past a trauma she experienced three years ago at the age of 27, and is now using it as an empowerment tool for others who have lived through similar experiences.

This translates into great strides in community services and violence prevention. Helping others is in her very nature.

In this Q&A, Memorial’s 2020 Outstanding Community Service Alumni Tribute Award recipient talks of finding her career path as part of Enactus Memorial (by way of a trip to China!), the very good advice she has for current students (“find mentors”) and breaking down systemic barriers.

HW: Is there a particular memory or experience that stands out from your time at Memorial?

CC: My time with Enactus Memorial.

In 2014 I was looking for new opportunities to help the community and had just started my BBA, not knowing anybody in the program. I remember feeling so nervous, walking into my first meeting by myself.

Will I fit in? Do I have enough knowledge or skills to make a difference? What if I mess something up? All of those questions went through my head.

Four months later I was in China, representing Memorial in an international competition.

Two months after that, I became a project manager for one of their biggest projects, Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur. Enactus allowed me to meet some of the greatest people, who are now lifelong friends.

“The work we were doing in Enactus became the foundation of the work I continue to do in the community, six years later.”

I learned so much through hands-on experience, which in turn helped me better succeed academically. I gained my first real “career” position, thanks to the network I created through Enactus.

The work we were doing in Enactus became the foundation of the work I continue to do in the community, six years later.

Most importantly, we have made a huge difference in our local community, as well as nationally and internationally.

HW: What advice would you give to a current student at Memorial?

CC: You already have everything you need within you to make a difference. Take advantage of the many free development opportunities Memorial provides.

Reach out to people you respect in the community to have a conversation. People love to give advice.

Find mentors, and talk to people who have had different life experiences or upbringings from yourself. Join social groups that align with your values, and do more than just go to class.

If you wait until you feel 100 per cent ready to go for what you want, you’ll likely never go for it.

Your voice matters, your experiences and feelings are valid, and your ideas deserve to be heard. The community needs you!

HW: How does it feel to receive this award?

CC: I am grateful beyond words. Three years ago, I experienced trauma that I never thought I’d be able to move past.

There were times when I was so low that I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the day.

Thankfully, having already been involved in the community, I knew what resources existed and I had a network of supporters to help me get my life back on track.

“I have since devoted my life to breaking down systematic barriers by using trauma-informed, intersectional approaches.”

Although I have experienced gender-based violence/oppression and struggled to navigate my way through our complex mental health system, I recognize that my cis-gendered, heterosexual, Caucasian privilege allowed me to receive help quicker and easier than those of more vulnerable groups.

Going through what I went through highlighted so many gaps that I didn’t see from the community helper perspective. I now see from a trauma-informed, lived experience, perspective.

It forever changed and shaped my approach to community work.

I have since devoted my life to breaking down systemic barriers by using trauma-informed, intersectional approaches, both in my profession and community work.

To receive this award reminds me that I’m on the right track, and to continue doing what I am doing.

The 2020 Alumni Tribute Awards take place on Oct. 26 at Signal Hill Campus and will be live-streamed.

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