Social Service Worker student aims to support Indigenous community

Jun 20, 2024
Share on social

cassandra charlesCassandra Charles says she’s drawn to hearing people’s stories.

Now in her third year studying in Sheridan’s Social Service Worker program, Charles was first inspired to pursue a career in social service work when she realized that she was often the person friends and family would turn to ask for help or advice.

“It was my mother who told me that being a social worker would fit me like a glove,” she says.

The 20-year-old has been interning with non-for-profit Home Suite Hope since January 2024, expanding her skills in case management, harm reduction training, and emotional awareness. And she has an eye towards turn her passion of listening to others into a career focused on serving and supporting the Indigenous community. 

Charles recognizes her Indigenous heritage through her dad, of the Chippewas of Georgina Island, an Anishnaabe Nation. However, she also credits her mom, who is of European decent, for being instrumental in fostering her relationship with her Indigenous identity. Her mom actively connected her with the education lead from the Chippewas of the Georgina Island, who now helps her navigate the complexities of her Indigenous identity and engages in discussions of how it relates to her studies.

Charles says that she wasn’t always proud and open about her Indigenous identity. While she has fond memories of her paternal grandma’s home, adorned with pictures of wolves and dreamcatchers, she says she did not have a lot of exposure to her culture or a connection to her community. “When I was young, I didn’t think it mattered,” she said. “A background is a background.”

However, as time passed, Charles not only became curious — she began to notice patterns and barriers in her everyday experiences as a result of her Indigenous heritage.

She would hear tiresome comments such as, “You don’t look Indigenous” and, while pursuing being legally adopted by a non-Indigenous father figure, she had to navigate the rules surrounding her rights to her Indigenous Status. She also heard, and learned, more about land acknowledgements and Indigenous history.

Charles found resources and peers through Sheridan’s Centre of Indigenous Learning and Support. “I may not have continued with my degree if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement I found at CILS,” she says. “Knowing the Centre is there gives me a sense of comfort...knowing there’s somewhere I can go if I’m struggling or just need to help accessing certain resources.”

As an intern at Home Suite Hope, Charles gets to help other families find the resources they need, and is grateful for the opportunity to work with Indigenous clients. She’s eager to learn more about her history and community, and is excited of the prospects for building a future career.

“I am all about hearing people’s stories and keeping an open mind to life’s journey,” she says.

The article above was originally published on the Home Suite Hope website. It has been republished, with minor edits, with permission from Home Suite Hope and the featured student. 

Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.