Conestoga news

May 24, 2024 3:26 PM

Conestoga community members honoured at Women of the Year awards

Outstanding women in the Conestoga community were honoured for their contributions at the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Rogers Women of the Year awards gala.

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Women from the Conestoga community were honoured at the 2024 Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Rogers Women of the Year awards gala.

More than a dozen nominations for the 2024 awards recognized women with a Conestoga connection, and four awards were received for both individual and group achievement at the event held May 23 at Bingemans conference centre in Kitchener.

Jill of All Trades received the Group Achievement award for achievements by a group of women that impact and/or improve our community or society.

Rosie Hessian, chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Brenda Gilmore, Conestoga retiree and School of Business graduate, were both honoured for the group achievement award.

Jill of All Trades (JOAT), launched in 2014 at Conestoga by Gilmore and Hessian, began as a day for local high school women to learn about opportunities available in trades-based education and careers. With the support of volunteers, partners and philanthropic supporters, JOAT is now delivered throughout Ontario, across Canada and the United States.

Neha Juwale, a School of Business graduate and Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective alumnus, was honoured in the Health & Wellness category for promoting and helping others achieve and promote mental, physical or spiritual well-being in her career or community involvement.

Empathy and compassion, combined with her personal journey, were the drivers for Juwale to create, a web-based platform facilitating connections between individuals seeking culturally appropriate care with mental health professionals who provide services in their patients’ language.

Brandi Ferenc, a graduate of the Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program, was honoured in the Skilled Trades category for exceptional contributions to the advancement of women in the trades. The recipient shattered barriers, created opportunity or excelled professionally in traditionally male-dominated trades.

Ferenc is the founder of Fair-Trades Toolbox, a licensed 313a Refrigeration Mechanic/Gas Fitter 1 Journeyperson, HVAC instructor and mentor for women in skilled trades. Ferenc represents one of less than 50 women working within this trade and holds the honour of being the first female to compete in the Skills Ontario competition within the post-secondary heating systems category.

Martha George, a volunteer at Conestoga participating on the ACET Program Advisory Committee and vice chair of the college's Board of Governors, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award, given to a woman who, for over 25 years, has been a role model, mentor and/or advocate for positive social change or has excelled in her profession.

George’s multi-decade career is an expression of personal commitment to excellence and passion for empowering others. Becoming the first female chair of Grand Valley Construction Association’s board, and progressing to President and CEO of GVCA broadened her influence. As a tireless advocate for women in trades and committed volunteer, her reach positively impacts tens of thousands of individuals.

The annual ceremony recognizing women who live or work in or whose work impacts the local community has twelve categories: Arts & Culture, Community Service, Entrepreneur (under 40), Entrepreneur (40+), Group Achievement, Health & Wellness, Lifetime Achievement, Professional (under 40), Professional (40+), Skilled Trades, STEM and Young Adult (14 - 23).

Conestoga women received more than a dozen nominations, several of them receiving more than one nomination, which are submitted by local residents, as well as community and industry leaders.

The many nominations were celebrated by Dean Bulloch, vice-president of Human Resources, Corporate Services and Secretary General to the Board.

“It is with immense pride that we honour the women of Conestoga receiving accolades at the KW Women of the Year awards. Their accomplishments echo our institutional values and spark inspiration across communities,” Bulloch said.

“Their actions, rooted in compassion and service, exemplify the impact we strive to achieve at Conestoga and showcase the diversity and vigor they bring to our community. Celebrating these women is celebrating our shared commitment to progress.”

Melissa Kelly, associate director of Alumni Experience, applauded all the Conestoga women nominated.

“These Women of the Year nominees making a positive difference in Kitchener-Waterloo are bright examples in our alumni community. They demonstrate the many ways it's possible to contribute, locally and beyond, and at different points on your journey before and after graduation.”