Manon is (okay, I am, so if there’s a lot of horn-tootin’ now you know) a lifelong learner and happy camper studying Outdoor and Experiential Education at Queen’s University. She has volunteered at Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning in Ottawa, Ontario for one and a half years, worked in outdoor education for five, and studied thinks and feels formally (‘Bachelors of Cognitive Science, Specialization in Psychology’).
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Name: Manon van Mil
Do you consider yourself an advocate for mental health?
Yes! I am a mental/health advocate under construction. (Constantly under construction, like the domain I supposedly own but better.) I try to be involved with initiatives that directly and indirectly promote mental health and stay up-to-date on qualifications such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).
How did you get involved with Compass?
I met André Morson, my neighbour and a co-founder and -director at Compass, on our shared porch in November 2013. After an informal informational interview, I began volunteering in January 2014.
How has working with Compass changed your outlook on life?
Compass has completely changed my perspective on education; I now know that there are alternatives to conventional and even compulsory education that allow young people to thrive.
It has also changed my perspective on the role of environment and education in mental/health. Young people at Compass clearly benefit from being more in control of their lives! Read teens’ stories at http://www.compassteens.org to learn more.
Finally (well, for the sake of your time, my fingers, and this interview), I have become more self-directed and self-disciplined being around young people who embody these strengths. :-)
What is your favourite thing about Compass?
One of my favourite things about Compass is its value system, which includes autonomy, equality, and inclusivity.
I also love classes. I have taught six at Compass and each has been an incredible adventure in its own right. These classes are conceptualized throughout each week based on teens’ requests and feedback, then they transform before our eyes to take each participant’s knowledge, experience, and perspective into account.
Why do you like working with youth?
I like being surprised.
Who is your role model?
As I get older, taller, and (hopefully a little bit) wiser I look up to more people, but one role model who has stuck with me is Pippi Longstocking.
What do you do on your own time for self care?
I walk. Lift up weights that are heavier than me. Stretch, dance, move (a lot). Eat (a lot). (Try to) sleep (enough). I reflect, kiss my reflection, read, and write.
How do you make the world a better place?
Thank you for asking how I do, not how I will, make the world a better place! Firm believer that everybody already counts, here. :-)
I try hard, for myself and others, every day. I act inclusively and try to be mindful of the impact my actions have on people, other animals, the environment–and myself. And I am part of a movement that empowers young/people to create meaningful lives for themselves.
What would you like to see happen in 2015 in Canada? Globally?
There is so much that I would like to see happen in Canada and globally in 2015. To paint in broad stokes, I want education options for Canadian young/people to diversify. I want our education and healthcare systems to adopt new protocols that reflect mental/health research (e.g. to include screenings for Adverse Childhood Experiences ala Nadine Burke Harris). Globally, I want great strides made towards accessible education for all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or not.
If you had to define yourself as one word, what would it be?
What advice would you give to any young person looking to start self-directed learning?
It is not easy to be in charge of your own education; to be an effective self-directed learner you must be intrinsically motivated. You can practice that.