Laine Young’s sense of adventure, empathy for others, and passion for social justice has led her down many paths.
During her 10-year career, the alumna of Medicine Hat College’s social work program has worked with children living with disabilities and people experiencing chronic homelessness. She has continued her education through graduate programs and educated others through experiential learning. She has studied food assets and examined urban sustainability. She has presented her work to an agency of the United Nations.
But her journey started here. Growing up in Medicine Hat, Young always had an interest in social issues and was happy to find a related program close to home. The close-knit relationships that developed between students and instructors created a safe and supportive learning environment.
“My experience at MHC taught me what it takes to succeed in post-secondary education. It gave me stepping stones of knowledge that stuck with me throughout my education and into the workforce,” says Young, who went on to pursue an undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria and a Masters of Social Work at York University.
The next step for Young was Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) where she is working on a PhD in geography and environmental studies.
“My master’s research focused on food insecurity at an individual level. Now I am looking at the food system more holistically and researching what changes we need to make at a higher level to ensure food security and social inclusion for those living in poverty.”
Her current work explores gendered experiences of urban agriculture in the Global South. Women in this region often have less access to resources, land, decision-making power, financial assistance and education which can make urban agriculture much more challenging, explains Young.
To support her research, she plans to complete two case studies, likely in Latin America, where she will interview government representatives and staff of urban agriculture.
“I am arguing for gender equality and women's empowerment within policy and programs that support urban agriculture. I hope to analyze the gendered experiences of urban agriculture in each city and to see what we can learn and implement on a larger scale.”
Because of the nature of her work, Young became involved with a research and knowledge sharing partnership located at WLU known as FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded Globally Engaged).
It was her connection to FLEdGE that provided an opportunity to share her work on a global scale last summer. Young accompanied her supervisor and principle investigator of FLEdGE to Rome, Italy for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There she presented her work as an intern with the City of Toronto Food Strategy and the Toronto Food Policy Council. The project, Food by Ward, examines food assets and opportunities to solve city problems.
“I was definitely nervous,” says Young. “Luckily the audience was really engaged in the material and asked a lot of questions. It was one of those experiences where I learned that I didn't need to be as nervous as I was. When you are sharing things you are passionate about, it comes out in how you present it. The audience can feel your dedication to the subject and are able to share in your excitement.”
That passion can also be felt in the classroom. As a teaching assistant at WLU with the Capstone Urban Sustainability Project, she was pushed out of her comfort zone and into a new and rewarding opportunity.
“I quickly learned that there were many things I could transfer from my social work education to this experience. The class uses experiential learning and gives students skills they can take forward into employment after they graduate. Being a teaching assistant is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my PhD program.”
Teaching is something she hopes to continue after she completes her PhD, likely in 2020, along with doing food system work at an NGO or policy development for the government.
Young credits the support of her family and other role models for the direction her life has taken and shares some valuable advice for future MHC students.
“Make sure you take the time to build relationships with your instructors. They are going to give you a wealth of knowledge,” says Young.
“Kallie Lavoie was an instructor of mine at MHC and we have kept in touch since I graduated. I would not have become the social worker I am today without her guidance.”
Photo courtesy of Amy Dietrich.