Posted in : Blog
Posted on : December 3, 2018
by Stacey Love-Jolicoeur
The Leadership and Inclusion Program at Centennial College has benefited my career beyond leaps and bounds. I graduated in December of 2016, at which time I was working as a mental health counselor for the Canadian Mental Health Association. One day my supervisor asked me if I would be willing to go to one of our prisons to assist an inmate who was struggling with his identity. I accepted the assignment with the thoughts of this being a singular request. Meeting with the client he indicated that he felt the need for LGBTQ2S Community inside the walls of the prison.
Using my newly acquired skills and knowledge from the program, I embraced this challenge fully and without fear. I had confidence of knowledge, I had empowering education on how to create and fulfil the request using my skills. Creating a request to provide a LGBTQ2S group was submitted. This program was approved after a great deal of persistent negotiations with Correctional hierarchy.
I started this group by asking for assistance from community partners – two other agencies came on board. Our first group was with 12 individuals (offenders), we are now at 29 in this facility, but word about this spread like wild fire and next thing you know, I now provide this service in nine institutions.
But it didn’t stop there, realizing the impact this group facilitation was making to the health and welfare of the participants and hearing their concerns on treatment (bigotry, discrimination, hatred, unacceptance) upon forming the group I identified the need for cultural competency training for staff. I created a workshop which I called “Creating LGBTQ2S Cultural Competency” this training has become a vital part of recruit training and I have presented this to over 3,000 current employees, including all office administration, medical dept nurses and doctors, all social workers and psychologist and psychiatrist,.
The training was working, the participants noticed acceptance and better treatment from staff. I began taking on more one to one counseling now that I had most of the external problems under control. I now have over 400 clients that I provide individualized assistance.
During this one to one counseling I started to identify other opportunities of expanding the movement even more. One person spoke about repeated incarcerations. Listening to her and what was causing this quickly became apparent that we need a program to assist individuals to be successful upon release and to not reoffend. Identifying the needs and requirements to make this happen I began a re-integration program for offenders with a set release date. Currently the success of this program has been 15 of 16 clients have not reoffended since being released.
So, what started as a simple one to one counseling session became an opportunity to create a movement and support many individuals. Making it inclusive of all allowed for better treatment, considerably less bigotry and discrimination and more acceptance for all people.
As a leader, as a transgender person, I embraced the challenge, I used the knowledge I had learned in the Leadership and Inclusion course from Centennial College. This has taken me to incredible achievements in making change.
For the first time in history, Corrections had a float in the Pride parade and which 30 LGBTQ2S employees felt safe enough to participate. This year, we celebrated Pride in nine institutions, and flew the Pride flag on the main mast while we had celebration ceremonies with everyone inside the walls.
Many articles have been published about this, I have spoken on radio for Pride week, I have been key note speaker at conferences and symposiums and education days and I am continuously being asked to book more including many supporting agencies such as crisis intervention, local hospitals, sexual assault centers, employment agencies and many more. The most recent award was being nominated and a recipient of the 2018 Women’s Leadership Award presented by our Governments House of Commons.
How does leadership work? It’s an opportunity to bring people together and work towards a common goal. It’s about being inclusive and listening to what all involved are saying. It about creating a movement that betters the business, and my business being people. It’s about gaining trust and building a resource bank that can promote and assist you in your mission.
For more information about the Centennial Certificate in Leadership and Inclusion, please visit www.ccdi.ca/centennial-certificate, and consider joining us for one of our upcoming virtual open houses, where you can learn more about the program.