Academic News

Step Out of Your Box: Winners for 2019

September 5, 2019

Each year, the Step Out of Your Box (SOYB) committee reviews the application pieces and selects four students to receive one of the four awards of $500 each.

SOYB program gives students the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in our community while enhancing their interpersonal, communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills.

Students who participate in this program explore a dimension of diversity that is different from themselves by volunteering at a community organization. After seven hours (minimum), they create a “leave-behind” project that showcases their abilities and benefits a local volunteer organization. As part of their reflection document, students describe what they did, how this experience impacted them, and how they will carry this experience forward in their personal and professional lives.

This year, four Nursing students were selected to receive the awards:

L to R: Mallory, Cassie, Thi
Not Pictured: Danielle

Thi Nguyen:
Volunteer Organization: Main Street Project: Men’s Detoxification and Stabilization Unit
Dimension(s) of Focus: Males and addictions
Leave-Behind project: Halloween themed Bingo night

Thi’s concluding Thoughts:
It helped me stand out my comfort zone to open with others; especially men…. Challenging myself is necessary to be successful. Volunteering at Men’s detox helped me gain my experiences when contacting with men. I saw how staff communicated and treated to men. I saw different angles of the way of thinking, how they expressed their emotion, feeling and their goals of life. The most important thing is I can overcome my fear while being among men. I was able to play cards with them comfortably. My heart was melted and touched after listening to their stories. Being among men gave me an opportunity to understand more about myself. I received immense support from staff and a volunteer coordinator, and although I was shy at first, I quickly learned that people were there to help me in any way they could. Diversity is greatly valued and each individual has a voice. I have consistently felt that my ideas were valued and credited; in the long term, this has helped me build confidence.

Mallory Shewfelt:
Volunteer Organization: Main Street Project: Men’s Detoxification and Stabilization Unit
Dimension(s) of Focus: Males and addictions
Leave-Behind project: Halloween themed Bingo night

Mallory’s concluding thoughts:
I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try to gain new perspective for people facing addiction, many homeless who live on the streets of Winnipeg…This experience will greatly impact my practice as a future nurse. I will no longer see people who are homeless as lazy addicts who would rather spend their time asking for money rather than going to find a job. Now what I will see is people who have had some difficult life experiences, many dealing with painful trauma and struggle with the disease of addiction….I now believe there is no difference in emotional ability for either female or males. I will use the same therapeutic communication techniques regardless of sex or gender. This experience has also sparked my interest in possibly wanting to help individuals who struggle with addiction as a registered nurse. For the time being, I plan to still volunteer at Main Street Project while I finish my Bachelor’s degree of nursing, which is not something I anticipated prior to the Step Out of Your Box Program.

Prizes from Bingo Night

Danielle Rasmussen:
Volunteer Organization: Sunshine House
Dimension(s) of Focus: Transgender community
Leave-Behind project: Family Christmas party

Danielle’s concluding thoughts:
Before this experience I would just try to ignore or avoid the fact that someone was transgender in hopes to avoid offending anyone if I had said the wrong thing. This experience has taught me that it is okay to ask questions if I am confused or unsure of something. Clarification is better than making assumptions about someone. After talking to this individual, I was able to feel comfortable socializing with some of the other people visiting the drop-in center… As a nurse I can reflect on this experience remembering the struggles that someone who is transitioning goes through, so that I can be compassionate to their feelings and have empathy for them in the process…

Having a culturally sensitive and diverse nursing workforce allows patients to seek help with their health issues without the fear of being judged or rejected. It is a common human feeling that when we think someone will be judging us we often want to tweak our stories so that they don’t sound as bad. I believe that in order for this to happen, though, it needs to be a team effort with all of the medical staff. When all the staff are working together on the same team caring for patients, patient care will go much more smoothly.

Cassie Oliver:
Volunteer Organization: Sunshine House
Dimension(s) of Focus: Transgender and non-binary persons
Leave-Behind project: Family Christmas party

Cassie’s concluding thoughts:
Originally, my lack of experience and understanding of transgender individuals led to negative views, but now I realize that it does not matter how people identify. It does not affect me personally. I learned that, as I am not transgender or non-binary, it would be difficult to understand the struggles that transgender people face, however, that does not mean I need to add to the struggles. I am accepting of all individuals regardless of my understanding of their background and circumstances now….Prior to this experience I was also afraid of misgendering someone, however it was quite easy to avoid. When faced with someone who was of ambiguous gender, I used the person’s name, until they self-identified as trans. I learned it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be, and most people are quite forgiving if you make an honest effort.

The healthcare system can be invalidating and traumatic for these people, and nurses should work to minimize the harm done. This can be done by advocating for the patient, making sure they are addressed by their preferred name, pronouns and gender.

I have realized that nonbinary individuals struggle immensely with the healthcare system, through my conversations at Sunshine House and do not want to contribute to this. After hearing the stories of misgendering, and how traumatic it is to be faced with the biologic sex identifiers, as well as having health professionals address them as their sex at birth, I think advocacy will also be important. It is important that the nursing workforce is sensitive to culture and is diverse to meet patient needs as no two patients are alike. As nurses, we serve patients across all cultures, genders, and sexual orientations. We must be aware of cultural and social differences to treat the patient holistically. …Validating and accepting patients for who they wish to be is an important aspect in holistic care.

Christmas Party

Congratulations to all the students who participated in this program! Your contributions to these community organizations are immeasurable.

Instructors – If you’re looking for an alternative to the research paper or test, want to add new insights and dimensions to class discussions, reduce stereotypes, and facilitate cultural and racial understanding, consider incorporating this program into your course. For more information, contact the Mentorship Program Coordinator at or 204.632.3847 or visit

Post written by Vera Godavari – Mentorship Program Coordinator