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Social workers welcome new learning opportunity in Brooks

March 16, 2018

For passionate people looking for a career that builds communities and changes lives, new programming at Medicine Hat College’s Brooks campus could be the answer.

Starting in Fall 2018, MHC will offer its successful social work diploma program at the local campus. Through a combination of weekend and distance delivery, the program will allow students greater flexibility to balance school with real life. In just two and a half years, students can become registered social workers and find meaningful employment opportunities close to home.

Examples of program success stories are evident at human service agencies across the city of Brooks.

Maureen Andruschak and Angela Bidyk are graduates of the college’s social work diploma program and have strong roots in the community. Bidyk also finished her social work degree offered through the University of Calgary’s Learning Circles program at MHC and recently completed a master’s degree in leadership from the same university.

Social workers in Brooks share their MHC experiences

Photo [left to right]: Angela Bidyk and Maureen Andruschak look forward to the introduction of social work at MHC's Brooks campus.

Working with SPEC, an organization that focuses on child development and family support services, they see the versatility and positive impact that comes with social work education. As demand for their agency’s services increases, so does the need for qualified staffing and both women are excited about the prospect of having this new learning opportunity at the local campus.

I have always promoted the program to people when asked what they should take,” says Andruschak, who graduated in 2000 and has fond memories of her college experience. “I was so excited when I learned the social work program is coming to Brooks. It is going to open up opportunities, not only for individuals in town wanting education, but for the agencies as well.”

It can often be a challenge for rural communities to recruit people with the right qualifications for human services. For those unfamiliar with the area, their knowledge of Brooks might stop at “oil town” or “JBS.”

Bidyk says potential employees may not appreciate the value of smaller communities and others may not stay long enough to understand what makes Brooks such a special place to live.

“When you come into the non-profit and human services sectors it is such a different perspective. The diversity in Brooks and the opportunities it presents for learning are unique. There is a sharing of culture. It’s a true melting pot,” explains Bidyk, who has lived and worked in other cities but whose love for the Brooks community has brought her home for good.

“We want people to stay here and grow here. The amount of community support and collaboration is unbelievable.”

Just a few blocks away, another MHC graduate is part of that collaborative network. Jessi Kirchner always knew she wanted to work with children but did not see herself as a teacher so she chose social work instead.

“I didn’t have any idea what it was but that was the decision I made and I stuck with it,” admits Kirchner.

“But social work ended up being just an extension of who I am. In this really weird way without knowing it, I picked something that really suited me. From there it slowly changed me, too. I became a better person.“

Jessi Kirchner, social worker

Kirchner (above) finished the MHC diploma in 2013 and, like Bidyk , continued with her degree through the Learning Circles program. She also had the opportunity to work with Bidyk previously, who connected her to her current position as a home visitation family support worker for the Best Babies and Building Blocks programs.

Generating greater awareness of these programs and developing services that make sense for the city are top of mind for Kirchner. She is also actively involved with numerous community groups to be the voice for families and children and the issues they face.

“My end goal is to be a key community player. There are lots of things that need to happen in Brooks, gaps that need to be filled. I think having the social work diploma program here is a first step for people to get started with higher education.”

Applications to the program are now being accepted. For more information about social work programming and other learning opportunities at Brooks Campus, please visit