"I've always wanted to be a teacher," Sarah Simpson explains. "I've been volunteering in classrooms since I was in Grade 7."
Sarah is in a concurrent program at Lakehead Orillia and after completing her Honours Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in May 2020, she’s returned to campus this fall to begin her education degree.
“My ultimate goal is to be a special education teacher and help students with exceptionalities. It could be children with behavioural issues or with conditions such as autism or Down syndrome,” she says.
Sarah’s compassion for others is clear from the outreach activities she’s taken on since arriving in Orillia from her hometown of Cambridge, Ontario. She’s been a campus tour guide and she’s excited about beginning her third year as a residence assistant.
“It’s been wonderful helping students with their transition to university,” she says.
In 2018, Sarah and Jessica Dinner, a friend and 2020 social work grad, co-founded the Orillia chapter of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) – a global organization that provides educational, economic, and empowerment opportunities for youth around the world.
“I love that WUSC advocates for young people in other countries and gives them opportunities to share their viewpoints and knowledge,” she says.
Sarah expanded her international experience in 2019 when the MITACS research organization hired her as a Globalink Mentor to two Brazilian interns who spent the summer at Lakehead Orillia conducting research.
“I helped them adjust to campus and deal with any problems that arose. I also organized social activities for them, including exploring downtown Orillia.”
For the past two years, Sarah has been using her natural rapport with children as a crisis responder with the Kids’ Help Phone crisis text line. Young people from across Canada are able to send text messages to this anonymous online portal and get support from Sarah and hundreds of other trained volunteers.
“Kids will text in because they’re having a bad day at school or it might a longer-running issue like bullying at school, family abuse, and mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.”
She says the biggest takeaway from the mental health work she’s done is that you don’t always have to give advice. “Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them so they can begin their journey of discovering what they can do to help themselves.”
Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them so they can begin their journey of discovering what they can do to help themselves.
This willingness to be there for those in need prompted Jessica to nominate Sarah for a 2019 County of Simcoe Youth Community Champion Award, which she received.
“It was amazing to be recognized for my efforts and to have people from the Lakehead community at the awards ceremony,” Sarah says.
But she doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on herself, her thoughts quickly turn back to the young people she enjoys mentoring.
“Kids are so open to trying new things and moving forward – they always hope for better things to come. I would love to be an educator who helps people, whatever their background or culture, achieve anything they put their mind to.”