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Amy Whittaker

Amy Whittaker

Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies

Degree: Community Worker – Outreach and Development

Year of graduation: 2014

Fighting the good fight
Amy Whittaker on collaboration, challenges and the call for change

Community worker graduate Amy Whittaker is a passionate champion for many things: her past program at Sheridan, her current work as Community Development and Out-reach Worker Coordinator of the Peel Alternatives to Choosing Hospitalization (PATCH) and her unquenchable belief in the need for making a difference. “I take pride in my efforts as a community worker advocating for systemic change, challenging the status quo and finding root causes to vulnerable community members falling through the cracks of service providers,” she says. “I love that my job is real, and that by building relationships and trust, clients can tell me what they really need and we can see true outcomes.”

Whittaker’s drive to help others succeed is shaped by her own experiences, and she is candid about her childhood struggles. Raised in Brampton, she attended more than thirty elementary and six different high schools. After losing all her possessions in a house fire, she moved away from home at the age of 16, and struggled academically until she applied for the general education program and then the community outreach and development (CODW) program at Sheridan one year later. “I fought the idea of being a social worker because I had only had bad experiences with system failures,” she says. “I have never been one to conform: I wanted my voice to be heard. I wanted to be a part of bigger picture ideas that could truly make a difference in the lives of others.” Whittaker ended up winning both the Silver Medallist and Nelson Education Community Leadership Award.

At Sheridan, Whittaker learned to strengthen that voice, and find confidence in herself and her own agency. “The most important thing I learned in the CODW program is a way to think and to perceive power,” she says. “I have been given the power of knowledge on how to use my voice to advocate, and to recognize that a true difference can be made with open dialogue.”

Now, she gets to make that difference every day at the John Howard Society of Peel-Halton-Dufferin. “The most interesting aspect of my job is truly working side by side with agencies collectively to fill gaps of service through unique ideas in a wraparound model where clients guide the process of care,” she says. Whittaker, who has experience at multiple agencies such as a director role at PLASP Child Care Services and as frontline relief staff at the Salvation Army Wilkinson Road Shelter, finds the interagency aspect of her current role a welcome challenge. “My job is to collaborate with multiple agency front liners and ensure that everyone’s idea is heard until you create one amazing, unique idea,” she says. “I get to work with people who really care.”

Whittaker encourages community worker students to constantly ask questions to open dialogue and gain experience. “If you want to make true change on a bigger scale and a systemic change, this is the program for you,” she says. “Good intentions are not enough! Effort, determination and passion require genuine best practices that are developed, defined and researched.”

Learn more about Sheridan’s Community Worker - Outreach and Development program
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