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A Day in the Life of…Michelle Collins, Nova Coordinator at CDI

Michelle Quinn Nova Coordinator

Meet Michelle Collins, Nova Coordinator

What is Nova?The Nova programme is one of CDI’s pilot programmes, entering its second year of a three-year phase. Nova is a Youth Mental Health Programme. The name ‘Nova’ means new star, and it was born out of an idea from the project’s Youth Advisory Group. The Nova programme examines and develops a multi-layered approach to working with Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA). EBSA is a term used for young people who may have challenges attending school due to negative feelings (such as anxiety).

What’s your job here, and what do you do on a regular day?

As the Nova Coordinator at CDI (Childhood Development Initiative), I oversee CDI’s Youth Mental Health programme, Nova, collaborating with primary and secondary schools in Dublin 24. My role involves developing interventions for Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) in partnership with organisations like Tusla’s Education Support Services (TESS) and Trinity College Dublin. My responsibilities include building relationships with schools, facilitating a Youth Advisory Group, and navigating the dynamic challenges and opportunities in the role. Every day brings new tasks and the chance to contribute to innovative initiatives in the sector.

Walk us through a typical workday working for CDI from start to finish, a snapshot

No two days in CDI look the same. CDI allows some hybrid working, so on the days that I am in the office; I would try and squeeze in as many meetings as I can. Typically, I arrive at 9am, grab a coffee, and check emails. Staff usually trickled in around this time, so we would say hello to one another and check-in. Even though there are distinct programmes in CDI, some staff work across a few different programmes and so this is the time I might try to check in with them about pending tasks, too.

Sometimes if a meeting was organised with a school, I would head straight to a school in the morning and start my day there. After a meeting with a school, there would often be several follow-up tasks to get through so I would make a start on these after getting back to the office. Trying to be organised helps in this role. I constantly switch between thinking about short-term tasks and having longer-term tasks in the back of my mind.

The afternoon is usually quieter as I work with schools, so the optimal time to contact them is the morning. I find the afternoons are when I will concentrate on some of the tasks I need to get through within my role. I often conduct home visits to meet families and young people in the afternoon during the Meitheal process. If I am in the office, I could start on a piece of work that might include reviewing survey responses, planning meetings, following up on actions from meetings, or making important phone calls with the partners that Nova works with.

Usually to finish my day out I will send some emails and review the calendar for the following day, making a mental note of my day and I’m out the gap then!

Nova Youth Mental Health Programme participants develop the Nova logo
Nova Youth Mental Health Programme participants develop the Nova logo

What do you find most fulfilling and rewarding?

The little ping that the ‘To Do’ list makes when I tick off a task!! (Thank you Jonathon!). The rewards in this job are very different than other jobs that I have been in, so I am still adjusting to this, but in saying that, they are equally as fulfilling. I am grateful to be able to maintain some contact work with families and young people which helps me stay connected to the work that the Nova programme carries out. It also allows me to see the programme’s impact on the ground. It is also incredibly rewarding to work for a well-known and pioneering organisation. Anytime I have attended external meetings, CDI’s work is widely recognised.

What makes your job easier?

The expertise of the staff and management! Working as part of a highly qualified and skilled team makes my life a lot easier when it comes to getting things done. Everyone who works for CDI is so passionate and knowledgeable about their programmes and this work ethic does rub off on new staff.

How do you juggle your tasks and stay on top of things?

With a lot of coffee!! It is bold to assume I am on top of things…but regular supervisions greatly help. When I started in CDI, the Nova programme was already well underway, and so in a situation like this, you rely a lot on getting up to speed from the staff that are already working on the programme. There are a lot of internal systems to help with your organisation that are already in place in CDI. Having experienced staff alongside newer staff ensures that there is always someone on site for guidance, too. There are a lot of different coordinators in CDI so if you need assistance with a specific piece of work i.e. creating programme materials there is support from Pauline, or if you need support with Data, there is support from Lauren. My manager has a background in interagency working, which helps a lot when I need guidance and support or know the next steps. I think I am eventually getting to the point where I’m not hearing new words or terminology when it comes to Nova so getting to this point has been a relief.

What are the common challenges you face and how you tackle them?

I think one of the challenges I face in my role is being mindful that the academic year is shorter than CDI’s working year so you are trying to work off both calendars for deadlines. I think the other common challenge are just trying to drive home in rush hour traffic!

What’s the best part of your job?

Nova is in the implementation phase now, so there haven’t been any evaluations of interventions yet, but I am looking forward to seeing the results from all the hard work of schools and CDI. I think for me the most exciting part is learning new skills on the job and working with so many highly skilled professionals. I have learned so much in the short space of time that I’ve been in CDI.

Working with young people is something that I love, so being able to do this still while also being involved in the behind the scenes for programmes involving young people has been a great balance for me.

The highlight of my day was the pre-work meetings Lauren and I had while on the M50 on the way into CDI! These chats could involve anything from discussing TikToks to how it is best to obtain parental consent for an intervention in Nova. I also love hearing the regular updates on George’s skincare recommendations or Alexandra’s cats.

In terms of heartwarming moments with families/young people, seeing the young people from the YAG want to come back for a second meeting was a high point (the free pizza might have been the deciding factor!).

Any top tips or favourite quotes for our readers ?

I‘m afraid I don’t have any tips myself for readers but if anyone wants to send me advice my emails are always open!
Find out more about Nova 
Michelle Collins