Some days she’s more extroverted, and some days she’s more introverted, but Rachel Schneider spends every day helping Collingwood kids learn.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Schneider, 24, supervisor at the Collingwood Youth Centre and project manager and instructor at Elephant Thoughts.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I’m from the super small town of New Lowell. In my 20s, my parents moved to Barrie. I kind of move between living in Collingwood, and sometimes I stay at my parents’ place on the weekends.
I went to New Lowell Central Public School, and I went to Jean Vanier in Collingwood (now Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School), and later Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School in Angus.
Q: Where did life take you after that?
A: I started post-secondary in pre-health. I kind of knew I wanted to be in the health field. I did one semester of nursing but decided it wasn’t for me.
Then, I went into international development. I started at Georgian College and then switched to Humber College to get a bachelor’s degree there. I had a passion for travelling overseas and helping people, and I was able to focus on the social aspects.
With international development, there are so many fields you can go into.
In 2019, I worked with Elephant Thoughts doing their summer camps. I travelled across Ontario and Canada and taught science to kids in Indigenous communities. I was dipping my toes into the water of the non-profit sector. I did different projects with them like virtual camps during COVID-19, and camps here and in Quebec.
They were also looking for staff for the Collingwood Youth Centre. At the end of my schooling, I started full-time here running programming, like the digital internships and working with the youth council.
Then I was brought on to run the centre in January. I had moved to Collingwood in September so I could be closer. I also teach technology at the youth centre in Saugeen First Nation.
It’s pretty busy, but I enjoy it.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to work with youth?
A: No. Not at the start. I have always loved kids, but I didn’t think I would go into it as a job. When I started doing summer camps, I found I really enjoyed teaching kids in a fun way when it’s not like school, and is more hands-on.
I enjoy teaching all ages. With Elephant Thoughts and the Environment Network, I get to work with both younger kids and teenagers.
Q: Is there anything you’ve found in your work at the youth centre so far that has surprised you?
A: There’s a lot of background work that I think people don’t recognize.
I didn’t realize how much needs to happen to run a centre like this. Like, maintenance of the building, making sure policies are up to date, being organized in a way that makes things easier for the kids. When we have volunteers, I make sure they have their vulnerable sector checks, or managing donations. It’s a learning curve for me, but I’m lucky I have managers that are helping me through the transition.
The main thing with my position is it’s a learning opportunity. I can’t really train in this position because each person could do it differently.
Q: What do you bring to the table, or are there initiatives you want to bring in?
A: For me, it’s more structure. We are a drop-in centre but it can be hard to run a drop-in centre when most of our funding comes from grants that are for teaching kids skills.
I want to see more skill development here, that kids actually need.
I’m still young, but what I want from a centre would be different from what kids might want from a centre. I’m always asking kids, ‘What do you want to do?’
I want to make the centre for them as much as possible.
There’s a new program I’ll be leading called ‘Girl with a Plan,’ to help girls get into the field of technology. We have a coding program on Mondays. In the summer, I’m hoping to do more collaborations with the Rainbow Club and the Collingwood Public Library.
Q: What are your other hobbies?
A: My main hobby right now is, I have a puppy. He’s a two-year-old Miniature Schnauzer named Oscar. He takes up most of my free time.
Aside from that, I love to skate. I love hiking and being outdoors.
I’m also into embroidery. Some people think that’s an old thing to do, but I like it.
Spending time with my family is a priority.
Q: Is there anything else you want people in Collingwood to know about you?
A: If people want to come in and meet me, I’m always open to chatting with people. I would say I’m an extrovert/introvert, so I’m usually talkative but then I’ll have moments where I just like to listen.
Kids who want a safe space to just hang out, they’re always welcome here. We’re an open space. Everything we have at our centre is completely free.
It can be hard growing up in a community where income brackets are so spread apart. There are high-income (areas), but sometimes people don’t see the lower half. That’s who we serve, a lot of times.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we speak with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature runs on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].