Meet Nipissing University's Ambassador Julianna Vieveen
Of the many benefits derived from being a Cam’s Kids Ambassador, and there are several, a pension plan based on length of service isn’t among them.
For Julianna Vieveen, who is now in her fourth school year as a Cam’s Kids co-team lead at Nipissing University in North Bay, such a provision would provide a nice little pay-off, especially considering she’ll continue her studies there after she graduates this June. When all is said and done, the Beaverton native will have dedicated six years to the foundation and its formidable footprint at Nipissing. That’s lengthy service by any standard.
Julianna says the values espoused by Cam’s Kids, “sit close” to her heart, negating the need for any other reward. Now, long after she and Noah Cornish were asked to take the helm, the Nipissing Cam’s Kids team has 21 Ambassadors and counting – a far cry from the one member it had when they came into the fold.
“We went from being regular students to having to keep the club ratified, recruit members and keep up with events to help spread the mission of Cam’s Kids,” recalls Julianna of that hectic first year in a strange place.
“I make it sound pretty stressful, but it has actually been a blast. Cam’s Kids has not only been a great opportunity to try new things, but it has also helped me branch out in my experiences and excel.”
As it was then, it remains impressive that Julianna finds any time at all to give to Cam’s Kids. Majoring in Child and Family Studies while also completing her certificates in Applied Behavioural Analysis and Autism Spectrum Disorders, her role as club president – Noah serves as her vice – this demands much attention and energy.
The pandemic produced a formidable challenge from the get-go, but Julianna and Noah were up to the task.
“We (a.k.a. Cam’s Kids) hosted virtual bingo, a virtual paint night with a Nipissing art student, an American Sign Language (ASL) learning event which I co-hosted and translated with one of my friends who is deaf, and we also organized a pen pal program for new students to meet other students,” recounts Julianna.
“This year has been a great year for member recruitment due to our in-person presence. Now we’re planning to host an in-person bingo event with some really cool prizes, another paint night and a few other big events.”
What Julianna takes the most pride in, and rightly so, is her team “being able to come together and promote the positive aspects of mental health, and bring awareness to the symptoms of anxiety.” She certainly relates to the stress her fellow students experience, particularly those of the first-year variety.
“I went to a high school (Brock High School in Cannington) that was very small,” says Julianna.
“Oh yeah, I was nervous (when I arrived at Nipissing). I struggled with anxiety. This (going away for school) is probably the biggest thing people go through at this point in their lives. Moving away from home (to attend school) is definitely anxiety-provoking.”
“Hearing from us that they’re not the only ones struggling means a lot to a lot of students. We pass out messages of kindness and bring everyone’s mood up. My hope is students feel less alone knowing that there is a club here that, potentially, can directly support them or even just validate the way they feel.”
Julianna will complete her undergrad in June, but, as mentioned, her time at Nipissing will continue as she returns to attain her Bachelor of Education, hoping to one day be a teacher. Also, on her already full plate will be searching for her Cam’s Kids successor.
“I’m going to find someone and mentor him or her to take over so they’re more prepared than I was. In my second year, that person can take over, and I’ll be there to help them. Who knows? We might have to reach out to someone on Instagram just like someone did to recruit us.”
Wherever life takes her beyond university, Julianna is sure of one thing: her Cam’s Kids involvement has made her life richer, and she remains grateful for that.
“I’ve always been a pretty empathetic person, but it has made me listen to people’s stories. It has opened me up to other people’s experiences and helped me connect to them on another level.”