Meet Western Ambassador Cole
For all their different personalities and varied life experiences, thousands of post-secondary students across Canada share one thing in common: a small-town upbringing.
Cole Young is a case in point.
Raised in Langton in southwestern Ontario, the Western University student arrived at the sprawling campus in London, Ontario from the small Norfolk County town and was immediately confronted by thousands of new faces in a hectic setting. In simple terms, he was a stranger in an even stranger land.
Now in the third year of the Health Sciences program, Cole has adapted well but that initial culture shock remains fresh in his mind.
“I came to Western from a very small place, so coming here was a big change for me. Adjusting to city life and the university was overwhelming,” says Cole.
But adjust Cole did. When the opportunity to become involved with Cam’s Kids arose, he jumped fully on board as an Ambassador, a role he has been in for just more than a year now, helping his adjustment process along.
“One of my very close hometown friends who I went to high school with is the current Team Lead for Cam’s kids (at Western)…he invited me to join.”
“It’s nice being with a group of people that have a similar mindset,” says Cole, referencing each team member’s staunch commitment to the mental wellbeing of their peers.
Cole’s volunteerism with Cam’s Kids is an extension of volunteer work he did in Langton. He mentions the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event as one example of his involvement. Still, not unlike quite a number of Cam’s Kids Ambassadors, another motivation for getting involved is rooted in personal experience.
“Mental health is something that’s very important to me as it has affected my family,” notes Cole.
“One of my very close cousins had a manic episode and my grandma has had bipolar issues. This is another opportunity to learn about that more and help spread awareness.”
Over the past year, Cole has talked to a lot of students who arrived at Western from a small town or from out of the province. Because he has walked that walk, he’s able to better relate to any struggles they’re having.
“I let anyone seeking help know that I’m available to talk about stuff,” he says.
“That’s the best way to ensure you’re not pushing them too much. I empathize with what they’re going through. Normally I open up about my own experience so they know they’re not alone in terms of what they’re feeling.”
Describing the Cam’s Kids team at Western as “pretty big,” Cole notes, due to pandemic-related restrictions, most of the their initiatives were held virtually over the past year. That challenge aside, the team found a way to make it work.
“We posted a lot of awareness-related graphics on Instagram, especially during exam time which is a high stress period. We also did a live stream. One of the Ambassadors has a friend who’s a chef, so he did a thing on easy prep meals during exam time. That went super well.”
Acknowledging that his Ambassador experience has “made me a better listener,” Cole says he’d welcome the opportunity to meet Ambassadors from other schools and perhaps collaborate on initiatives at some point.
“It’s super important to have this type of an organization so people know there are resources available that will help them. It’s kind of crazy to think [Cam’s Kids] didn’t exist at one time.”