Having struggled herself upon arriving in Niagara, Kassie Galaski (BA 22) set out to ease the transition to life in St. Catharines for prospective Brock students.
Hailing from Midland, Ontario, Galaski drew on her own experiences and creativity to create “Where Can We…? for post-secondary students and other newcomers to the region. More than just a website for finding information, the site also invites users to contribute their knowledge by participating in a Discord channel.
Galaski, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Brock’s English Language and Literature department earlier this month, was inspired to write Potawatomi author Robin Kimmerer’s essay. Serviceberry: an economy of abundancewhich she read as part of the ENGL 3V91 course Social Justice and Cultural Production taught by Associate Professor Susan Spearey.
“Kimmerer focuses on the concept of a gift economy, where you give something without expecting anything in return and create mutual benefit and deeper relationships,” says Galaski. “The idea of connection has touched me deeply, especially during COVID where we’ve lost that sense of community.”
The website focuses on students who are new to Canada or the region, helping them find resources, support and share information about living in Niagara.
“How can someone who arrives in Niagara participate in the gift economy with little money? asks Galaski. “Everyone has knowledge to share, whether it’s a recipe, a craft or advice on a secret place in the region.”
Galaski’s road to Convocation has not been easy. She began her education at Brock in the Concurrent Education Program, but after facing difficulties transitioning to life in Niagara, she found herself on school probation.
“I was new to the Niagara region and there were a lot of hurdles,” she says, like not being familiar with public transit schedules and walk-in clinics, for example.
Struggling to find employment and connect with community resources, Galaski was eventually referred to Start Me Up Niagara, a local service that provides programs, employment services and housing support to Niagara residents.
Her experience inspired her to create a place “where people can come together as a community and not be ashamed to ask questions.”
Galaski started creating the website before enrolling in the third year English course which provided a space for her to brainstorm ideas and develop the concept.
Spearey used Cathy N. Davidson’s notion of “public contribution to knowledge” to frame the terms projects and trials for ENGL 3V91.
“Basically, Davidson stipulates that large projects and assignments should not be written exclusively for the instructor or for the purpose of a grade,” says Spearey. “Students should instead choose a medium that is meaningful to them to demonstrate and apply what they have learned in its coursework, with a view to creating something that has greater social impact beyond the classroom, and that the student can advance beyond the course.”
As part of the project, Galaski prioritized accessibility, from the use of alt text to its font choices.
“Kassie modeled such generosity in the design of the website and the obvious work that went into bringing it online,” says Spearey. “While the site is still in progress, she has paid meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of her design to date.”
Galaski plans to continue the website so it can support others in the future.
“The more I got into it, the more passionate I became about it,” she says. “I intentionally left some sections blank to invite others to come talk, share and work together.”