A T.E.A.R (Teens Ending Abusive Relationships) peer leader is this year’s recipient of the Sandy Cappadocia Memorial Volunteer Award.
Victim Services Toronto (VST) program manager Sarah Rogers and the agency’s executive director, Bonnie Levine, presented the award to Grace Guillaume at its annual general meeting at the Old Mill on December 7.
Cappadocia was a 10-year VST volunteer who succumbed to brain cancer in December 2005 at age 33.
Guillaume’s older sister, Jahssme, was a T.E.A.R youth leader.
“She joined about a year after the program started and I was inspired by what she was doing,” said Guillaume. “I couldn’t wait to reach the age requirement to become involved.”
After the initial excitement of the recognition wore off, Guillaume reflected on the significance of the honour.
“It tells me that what I am doing is impacting my community and those around me and that’s really important to me,” the Jarvis Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student said.
Guillaume attended the Wisdom2Action: From Trauma to Resilience conference in Ottawa in spring 2017.
Hosted by the Children & Youth in Challenging Contexts (CYCC) Network, in partnership with local and national partners, the event brings together a diverse group of young people involved in preventing sexual violence and supporting young people who experience it.
“Throughout the day, Grace’s professionalism, knowledge, creative ideas and advocacy for change captivated youths, adults, social workers and academics,” said Rogers. “A number of them came up to me during the conference and said they thought she was a university student because of her maturity, professionalism and articulation. She truly exemplifies the meaning of leadership and, with leaders like her, I know our future is in excellent hands.”
She’s proof that every action, big or small, has the potential to create ripples and positive change
Rogers said the teenager has made a huge impact on the agency, her peers, other volunteers, staff and the community at large.
“She’s proof that every action, big or small, has the potential to create ripples and positive change,” Rogers said. “Through the T.E.A.R program, she has been instrumental in creating awareness videos and participating in online Twitter chats on some really difficult topics, including bullying, cyber violence, gender-based violence, homophobia and healthy relationships. She has used her voice to positively engage and motivate her peers to make a change through dialogue and public speaking.”
VST provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours a day.
Supervised by crisis counsellors, volunteers provide crisis intervention and referrals, assist on the phone or attend the scene as requested. They also assist with fundraising and other community outreach initiatives, including T.E.A.R.
VST recruits youth leaders who are provided with training in leadership skills, domestic violence dynamics and public speaking.
Levine presented Leadership Excellence Awards to outgoing board chair Michael Kalmar and board member Nick Migliore.
Linda Massey was named the board of directors chair. Having lost her son, James, in May 2010, her family was supported by grief counsellors from Victim Services Toronto. She joined the VST board a year later to honour her son’s memory.
She is Education Leadership Canada’s professional learning associate director and a retired Peel District School Board administrator.