Staff Profile: Lori Chenger
Hi Lori! Thanks so much for speaking with me today. Can you tell us your name and what you do?
Thanks for interviewing me today! My name’s Lori Chenger and I am one of the Addictions and Community Support Worker instructors here at Willis College.
Thank you! Can you describe what the ACSW program entails?
It’s a great program that is bringing together both addictions and community support work. It’s very highly looked at right now because there are so many individuals who are in that realm of an addiction. And for me, I like to tell my students that addiction starts in the mind. It’s a belief that we are addicted to that leads us to that gateway behavior of an addiction. So this program will help you find confidence in yourself and your beliefs and where you came from and how you can use that to empower your future clients. So there are careers within rehabilitation sectors, addictions, working with children and youth, working with seniors. There’s a lot of creativity to this course. You will unpack a lot.
Great, and what will students taking this program learn?
ACSW stands for ‘Addictions and Community Support Worker’. You’ll have an accelerated diploma and you’ll be able to work both within the addictions field or the community support worker field. So it’s a really good culmination of both areas for students to grow into. I like to tell my students that addictions starts in the mind. It’s a thought process and we become addicted to a particular thought or story that you’re telling yourself and that can lead to a gateway behavior. So the Addictions and Community Support Worker program, or what we refer to it as Willis as ACSW, covers a whole lot of different courses such as mental health, how to write really good program designs, a lot of different pharmacology courses. It’s very in depth and you unpack a lot about yourself.
It sounds interesting for sure. What kind of opportunities are available to graduates?
Graduates of the ACSW program will be able to find very rewarding careers in working with youth in schools, working with seniors in the area of community support, helping people to go through their own recovery process. And recovery is not just recovery from an addiction, recovery is also recovering from the shame that you had, the guilt that you had, losing a house, losing family. And so it’s really culminating the support of what we think we’ve lost and how to turn that into a gift for ourselves.
So as a student who’s graduated, you’ll be such a key person to be able to help people move forward. You can help them find houses, you can work in social services, you can work in schools, you can work in group homes for youth, in places for adults. There’s just a huge possibility of potential and a lot of that potential is, what do you bring to the program with your lived experience that makes people want to reach out to you?
And why should someone take this program at Willis College?
Willis College offers you an opportunity to come back as a learner from a period of time in your life that maybe you were not as successful as what you had wanted to be. And so this is a really good opportunity to get your foot back in the door, into the industry, to unlearn old habits and to really identify how much growth that you’ve had.
And this is why Willis College is excellent in helping learners who didn’t have the opportunity because of specific events in their life or their own addictions to successfully make it through school. But we have to identify on our own terms what is success for us. And this is what Willis College helps individuals to do.
Fantastic! Do you have any student success stories?
The students that we see that have the most success are people who have had a lived experience and are talking about their life from the other side of it. And so they really worked on themselves, they understand where their clients are at and they know how to motivate them to pull them through the muddy parts of their life. So those are the best students, the students who really bring their own life experiences and are open to vulnerability. Vulnerability is a gift. And to have that voice and to share it with others gives you the edge in this field.
What is the demand like for ACSWs?
There is a high demand for ACSW graduates and some of that comes from COVID and the experiences that people have had where they’ve had to be shut back up. And so we need to motivate people to think healthier, to come back out into the society. So there is a lot of work within the addictions field with being able to help people with their mindset and to be able to help change the story from being a victim to having victory.
What kind of person is best suited for this program?
I’ve taught this program for 10 years now, both on campuses and online and I hear this the most from students: “Lori, it’s not the fact that we had to practice time management, it’s not the exams, it’s not the assignments. But what I learned the most was the unpacking of myself and realizing who I was in that journey and that there are better versions of who I can be. And once I learned that, it really helped with the academic studies even more. Then I realized and made sense of why am I here and why do I need that baseline of solid information that the curriculum teaches in order to help me move others forward as well.”
Finally, what would you say to anyone considering taking the ACSW program?
If you are considering reaching out to Willis College to be a student within the ACSW program, I would say to you, one, congratulations because you are looking at your life in a way that, “I’m sorry that this happened to me and now I want to help others have a better experience.” So things that I would tell you to do would be, be very committed to who you are, remember your why, and don’t let other people lead you down a path of your past. Keep your footing moving forward.
There’s been a lot of successful students that have come through this program and I really wish that they could really see inside themselves as to how far that they’ve come. I have had people who have been in this program, who have been in it while they’re in the middle of their addiction. And it’s given them that why that we need, why am I doing this? Why am I moving forward? I’ve had students who have healed parts of their lives. I’ve had one particular recent success story that stands out in my mind was an individual who had a lot of different traumas in their life, didn’t think they should be in this program or could ever do anything important in their life. And two months after graduation, they reached out to me saying that they now had a business card, they had an office and more importantly, they were making a connection with people who used to be versions of who they were.
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