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Better angels: RRC students partner with non-profit providing support to grieving families

October 21, 2019

Red River College’s ACE Project Space has been touched by an angel.

An initiative of RRC’s Applied Computer Education (ACE) department, the ACE Project Space plays host to students working in conjunction with corporations, entrepreneurs and non-profits to bring business and project ideas to reality.

This past summer, students in the interactive workshop created an application for Manitoba Angel Dresses to digitize its inventory system. Manitoba Angel Dresses is a non-profit organization that provides families who are grieving the loss of an infant with items crafted from donated bridal and bridesmaid gowns.

Diane Monkman, a spokeswoman for the organization, says the students and staff at RRC were very supportive of the project.

“The College was so helpful, so open and so accepting of the project,” Monkman says. “It can be very hard to start a conversation saying what we do, because a lot of people shy away from that, but it’s a needed service.”

“One instructor at the College, he just touched us so immensely. We had brought the items in one day so the students could see exactly what they’re doing. One of the instructors, it touched him so much that he got a little bit emotional.”

Brendan Weimer, an educational assistant with the ACE Project Space, says Manitoba Angel Dresses came to the College with a very specific problem that was perfect for students of its Business Information Technology (BIT) and Business Technology Management (BTM) programs.

“The problem that (Manitoba Angel Dresses) came to us with is that they are accepting more and more dresses and they need more and more volunteers to create these dresses, but their old way of using pieces of paper and Excel spreadsheets to track where everything is going wasn’t effective anymore,” Weimer says.

“They were spending more time on that than anything else, so we modernized their inventory system to quickly track everything, from who donated the dress to what the dress became to where it was distributed to.”

ACE Project Space team at work, Red River CollegeAccording to Weimer, the Manitoba Angel Dresses project lasted about four months and included three BIT students and one BTM student.

While the ACE Project Space is designed to be a hands-on experience for students, Weimer says it can be a hands-off experience for staff.

“We understand that running an IT (information technology) project is not easy, so at the start of term we’re pretty hands-on, talking them through what to expect when you meet with your client for the first time and how to send professional emails,” Weimer says.

“But as the term goes along, we get more and more hands-off to the point where the students are running the show. We’re just intervening when they have problems.”

ACE Project Space instructor Ralph Dueck says it’s inspiring to see how students progress through the phases of a project.

“In these projects in general, we get to see our students grow, and not only technically,” Dueck says. “For many, it’s the first time they’ve interacted with a real client. They go from being a bit scared to being comfortable interacting with them. You see their overall maturity grow over the course of a term.”

Monkman says working with ACE Project Space was a “wonderful experience.”

“I think it was a really great partnership, from start to finish,” she says. “I think the fellows (who worked on the project) are anxious to help us out further in the future if we come across any issues or we want to make changes or even just helping us wrap our minds around things.”

Manitoba Angel Dresses isn’t accepting gown donations at this time, but is accepting monetary and supply donations. For more information, visit manitobaangeldresses.com.

Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)