Augustana students connect with community through Pathways Program

Phil Nadon and Jaden de Waal’s work placements turned out to be less about hours logged and more about forging connections—even amidst a pandemic.

Tia Lalani - 09 March 2021

When Jaden de Waal asked her professor exactly what the Augustana Pathways Program was, he replied “it’s anything you want it to be.”

“Though I was skeptical that this program could truly be whatever I dreamt up...12 months later, I sit here agreeing with him,” she writes, in a blog post last September after documenting the summer working with various organizations in Camrose, including the Bethany Group’s Memory Lane, a secured dementia unit, the Camrose Public Library and the Kids Campus daycare.

At the same time, another Augustana student, Phil Nadon, lent his expertise to the Rimbey Family and Community Support Services, in a town that he had lived in for the last three years but “didn’t get a chance to know” until after his placement through the Augustana Pathways Program. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic threw both students a few curveballs, they soon turned those into opportunities that culminated in successful projects. More importantly, it created an increased sense of community and connection not just between themselves and their organizations and towns, but within the populations that these organizations serve. 

It turns out that at the crux of “anything you want it to be” is the Pathways Program’s ability to help students and new graduates imagine possibilities and careers in rural Albertan communities. And as you’ll see through their passion and projects, small towns are built on the dreams and imaginations of people like Jaden and Phil.

Read a bit more about their work below. 

Craft kits, pen pals and one magical courtyard

Although the theme of Jaden’s project was “intergenerational connections in Camrose”, she ended up getting a bit more than she bargained for when she began connecting not only children from Kids Campus and the Camrose Public Library to seniors who lived in the Bethany Group’s Memory Lane but also families who took out craft kits to do together, Memory Lane residents with their families, retired farmers with the land and the general Camrose community with...well, the general Camrose community. 

“I’ve learned this summer that every community faces challenges, but rural communities face different ones’s so incredible that the organizations that I’ve partnered with are not only good at what they do and serve their purpose, but they’re very talented in many other areas,” Jaden explained. 

Her project included making the courtyard at Memory Lane more enjoyable for the residents, which became especially important in connecting the residents with their family members during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they were only able to visit outside. 

“This courtyard is a very magical place the more time you spend in it...there are baby deer, rabbits and birds,” Jaden explained. “The connection to the land is so important to the Camrose community, so we wanted to expand on it and create an even more welcoming and exciting space for them and their loved ones to enjoy.”

Another project came to life not in spite of, but because of the pandemic. Instead of curating events where the residents of Memory Lane could interact with younger community members, Jaden created a pen pal program, encouraging intergenerational connections without the need for physical contact. 

“Some residents might be shyer and don’t like doing things in large crowds, which was an outcome I didn’t really expect when it came to this project,” Jaden explained. “It was also surprising to see how these families and kids found common ground with each other without having ever met, whether it be on pet names, or 4H experience, or gardening or love of’s incredible how it took no time to connect so many people.”

To Tena Lansing, program coordinator at Memory Lane, these connections are invaluable. “There’s nothing like seeing the face of a resident when you’ve been able to make a difference in one moment in their life,” she said, with an extra nod of appreciation to the work that Jaden had done. “I have to commend Jaden...she has been nothing but responsible, reliable, mature and thorough, especially in the way that she adapted to the challenges brought on by COVID. She has a very creative and learned way of doing things.” 

From database to user interface

While Jaden spent time in the garden, Phil’s project was more tactically rooted within computer software. However, the organizations that they each worked with had remarkably similar goals. The Rimbey Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is a nonprofit organization that is in charge of a number of community programs around Rimbey and generally seeks to make sure people are safe, secure, happy and content in their communities. 

Phil was able to work on a number of projects to help them reach these goals, including analyzing statistics involved with these programs. Phil worked on everything from statistics around home care to inventory management and smart timesheets, culminating in his largest project of the summer: the creation of a web-based app to modernize shift management at FCSS. 

Where staff previously used a whiteboard to keep track of shifts, they could now log into an online system to see if changes had been made or submit requests from home, without having to physically come into the office or call in, which managers spent a great deal of time overseeing. Ultimately, it reduced the amount of management that had to be done around staffing and taught Phil a few lessons in user-experience as well. 

“I found out that the way people use software is a lot more important than I previously thought,” said Phil. “The way people interacted with it wasn’t the way that I thought they would, so I had to really work with the end-user to make sure the site was the way that they wanted it to be, not just the way I envisioned it.”

Outside of computing, Phil got a chance to see what Rimbey FCSS does firsthand.

“Even though I worked on a lot of software projects, I got to take part in a lot of events that Rimbey FCSS ran, for example, Seniors Week. It allowed me to get to know my community which was really special to me.”

Peggy Makofka, executive director of FCSS, also expressed what a learning experience the summer was for her.

“[Phil is] such a pleasure and a delight to have on our team,” Peggy said. “He’s taught us so many things about data, collection and what technology can do for us. We gained so much knowledge and we didn’t even know we were missing it!”

Applications to the Augustana Pathways Program are now open! Interested Augustana students can apply until March 19, 2021.