As the cold weather begins to set in, life gets particularly hard for the homeless. Meet a George Brown grad who knows that first hand, but in just six years, has gone from living on the street to becoming a college graduate and a leader in the field of social services.
“In speaking to others in the field, George Brown has a really strong reputation…When I work with people who graduated from social service worker programs at other colleges, I feel like I got so much more out of my program. It really is an amazing school.” - Jolene Stowell, Social Service Worker graduate.
Graduates of the School of Social and Community Services have found fulfilling roles across all sectors of society as coaches, counsellors, educators, support workers, and advocates. Many of our alumni say that their positive contributions today are a direct result of their learning at George Brown.
Graduate 2000, Community Worker
Overcoming major obstacles in her own life, social activist Susan Gapka now fights for the rights of other vulnerable members of society. She successfully lobbied to: amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to prohibit transgender discrimination; change the Vital Statistics Act to allow transgender people to change their birth registration; and restore funding for sex reassignment surgery. Homeless for 10 years previously, Gapka credits college for building her self-esteem and helping her gain the courage to come out as a transgender woman in 2000. In 2015, Gapka was named LGBTQ Person of the Year by the Toronto Inspire Awards.
Gapka says her work placements with the Social Planning Council of Toronto and in Councillor Olivia Chow's political office gave her valuable experience for her future role as a political organizer and social justice activist.
Four decades of community relations
The School of Social and Community Services has been around for over 40 years. That’s a long time to build strong relationships and solidify a reputation as the place to go for social services education or a Career and Work counsellor diploma.
George Brown has over 1,000 relationships with community agencies, which is one of the top reasons why graduates are so well prepared for their dream jobs. They gain valuable practical experience through field placements which are a component of all programs. It’s not just learning that happens through these placements. Students network for employment at the same time. In fact, many alumni work for the employers who gave them their initial start as students.
In small town Nova Scotia, where Monica Melanson grew up, rarely does someone go missing or spend weeks at a time alone in their homes, ill or dying. This is not the case in her adopted city of Toronto where sometimes people do get lost. Her George Brown education gave her the skills to bring them back into the fold.
Involved in the arts from a young age, Nicole Hamilton has worked as a performer, and facilitator, earning a teacher’s certification under the Canadian Dance Masters of America. Her extensive volunteer work with women and children, however, had made her determined to pursue a career as a counsellor.