Conestoga news

July 6, 2020 6:09 AM

Conestoga counsellor honoured with provincial award

Shawna Bernard, a counsellor with Conestoga’s Counselling Services team, has been honoured with the 2020 Ontario College Counsellors (OCC) Leadership Award.

Conestoga counsellor Shawna Bernard has been honoured with the 2020 Ontario College Counsellors Leadership Award.

The annual award was established to honour and recognize counsellors in the Ontario college system who have made outstanding contributions and demonstrated exceptional leadership to counselling services at the post-secondary level.

“I have aspired to do my best when serving our students and the college community and this award means a lot. I was not expecting this. I greatly valued learning from my mentors when I started working in Student Services in the college system, and feel it is an honour to give back to the college community by serving students, our colleagues and Conestoga,” said Bernard. “I was very grateful to my colleagues who nominated me, and that the nomination was endorsed by a provincial committee was very meaningful.”

Bernard has worked with the college for more than 20 years, providing dedicated guidance and mentorship to faculty and students with a strong focus on community building. She has facilitated countless professional development workshops and worked with campus service providers to support best practices and improvements to mental health services for students and enhancing support for front line staff. She has also been pivotal to the safeTALK movement within the post-secondary environment by dedicating infinite hours to increasing training and delivery of this suicide prevention program. 

She has facilitated safeTALK training to approximately 540 participants annually since 2011 and has trained others to facilitate even more sessions resulting in relevant and positive contributions to the college system.

Bernard is also a key Up-Stander facilitator, helping students develop the knowledge and skills to identify risky situations and build confidence to intervene safely. Her participation in the program and her work to help other colleges adapt it serve as another example of her innovation and dedication to the development of future student leaders.

Bernard continues to demonstrate her leadership through continuous work to support the college’s LGBTQ2+ community and Truth and Reconciliation events. She has also supported implementation of the college’s Co-Curricular Record, participated in health and wellness committees and is a member of the Carol Gregory Award committee which selects and honours a Conestoga student who has made a positive difference to the college community.

At the regional and provincial levels, Bernard has served as a regional representative and executive member with OCC for several years. She also liaises with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and special provincial committees where she has helped raise awareness and promote the importance of counselling services to students within the entire college system.

“I absolutely love the feeling of satisfaction in helping students succeed. When students access our services, they are often experiencing many barriers and to help them realize their strengths, goals and success is very rewarding. I have also been very proud of the work our Counselling Services department does at the college. As a member of OCC, I have been able to have a provincial context and genuinely feel our counselling services at Conestoga are on par with other Ontario post-secondary institutions,” said Bernard. “When I worked as the coordinator of Counselling Services, I was proud of the synergy created by a professional team to do excellent work in providing services to students. I've also been very proud of what we have done with the safeTALK workshops; the number of safeTALK trainings we have offered at Conestoga has been high for a post-secondary environment, and we have literally trained hundreds of students and staff members over the past several years.”

The 2020 OCC awards were announced at the OCC Annual General Meeting held June 9 through a virtual ceremony.

Conestoga students have access to student wellness supports and services that include counselling services, a medical care clinic, and self-help and peer support programs. Visit Student Success Services for more information.