Seven members of the Conestoga community have been recognized for their commitment to supporting mental health on campus.
The group of students and employees was selected following the Mental Health Recognition Campaign that ran in February to tie in with Bell Let’s Talk Day. The campaign was the first of its kind at the college and encouraged members of the Conestoga community to submit nominations for individuals who create positive change for mental health on campus.
“Through this campaign we wanted to help decrease the stigma of mental health and open the door to talk about the issue in a positive light,” said Conestoga’s health promotion specialist, Brayden Lisiecki. “We knew anecdotally that we have individuals on campus who already do this -- a faculty member who does deep breathing with students before class or students who are known to check in on their peers -- but we wanted to identify these leaders and learn more about the ways they create positive change. We also wanted to celebrate them and let them know their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Recognizing these ambassadors will hopefully inspire others to find ways to make a difference on our campuses and in our community as well.”
Conestoga’s mental health ambassadors include instructors and coaches who create supportive environments for students to learn and achieve, students who help their peers and volunteer as leaders in the community, and employees who take extra time to connect with colleagues and offer support during challenging times.
“We are so grateful to those who took time to nominate their peers and colleagues,” added Lisiecki. “The nominations received really demonstrate the care that our employees and students take to support each other. This is especially inspiring right now given the challenges the pandemic has created for so many. Their actions help complement the supports and services already available to students and employees through the college.”
Profiles of Conestoga’s mental health ambassadors follow. Each will receive a Certificate of Excellence.
During her 12 years at the college, Student Engagement manager Amy Baird has also worked with Accessibility Services and the Learning Commons. Most recently, she has been working with the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response office to support educational prevention programming. In each department, she has been an advocate for the holistic student experience, student voice, student sense of belonging and student success.
From the nominator: “Amy always prioritizes the student experience, and cares deeply about students being able to access the supports they need to succeed and to thrive … Amy is a leader who values holistic wellness, balance, and sustainability, and I think she creates positive impacts on the individual, team and institutional level.”
Sarah Daly works as a learning strategist with the Community Integration through Co-Operative Education (CICE) program, supporting students who are enrolled in the CICE program by modifying the course content to their learning needs, providing academic and social support, and assisting with integration into the college community.
From the nominator: “Sarah is an incredible colleague that champions attention to mental health amongst staff and students. Sarah's impact can be seen with her team of Learning Strategists in the CICE program and the students that she supports. She provides meaningful resources and referrals to students and always takes the time to check in with colleagues in times of stress, offering words of encouragement.
Office Administration Student Hannah Geauvreau-Turner is an Ambassador of Hope for the We Matter Campaign which supports awareness for Indigenous mental health. She has a passion for supporting others given her own experiences dealing with intergenerational trauma and hopes to further her education at Conestoga.
From the nominator: “She helped organize a vigil for the children found at residential schools. She is a granddaughter of a residential school survivor and is an active human rights advisor, activist and advocate for Indigenous youth mental health.”
As a Co-Curricular Record & Engagement programmer with the Student Engagement team, Carolyn Keays connects students with meaningful opportunities to develop personally and professionally and to get involved with Conestoga’s off-campus community.
From the nominator: “During these difficult times, Carolyn is a role model. She makes a difference during all meetings. Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
Amédé Lamarche is a program coordinator and professor in Conestoga’s culinary programs and feels fortunate that he is able to support students as they navigate their post-secondary experience, and for many of his students, that also includes navigating a new city as well as a new country.
From the nominator: “He makes learning so simple and fun that it takes away almost the entire stress of school work which is a reward in itself for mental health. He’s simply the best. I wish everyone had Chef Lamarche in their lives.”
Sherrice Lyons teaches in the Health Care Administration and Service Management program with the School of Workforce Development, Continuing Education & Online Learning. Sherrice believes that we all have a responsibility to positively influence those we encounter and sees her role in the classroom as not just someone who shares knowledge, but as a conduit to help each student achieve their purpose.
From the nominator: “She has such a great personality and always helped us as much as she could. During our semester she lost her son and still she came back to teach -- she is a role model for each of us.”
Alex Otzyv graduated from Conestoga in 2021 and was hired by Athletics & Recreation shortly after as an assistant coach for the varsity men's basketball team. He is a SafeTALK Suicide Alertness Ambassador and participates in the various mental health initiatives organized through Athletics and other campus groups. As a coach, he connects student-athletes with mental health resources on campus and in the community promoting a positive mental health environment.
From the nominator: “Alex is always the first person to check up on me when I arrive to practice. He asks how I’m doing both mentally and physically, and he sees if there’s anything I need. Alex is very caring and kind, and brings an amazing energy that draws people towards him.”