By Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)
One of Red River College’s newest counsellors is a long-standing pillar in the local LGBT* community – and now his involvement and support has been recognized with an award from Manitoba’s LGBT* Chamber of Commerce.
Chad Smith, who joined Red River College in late August, was given the Community Leader Award during the LGBT* Chamber’s Annual Business Awards in late October. The award recognizes an individual, business or organization that has made a significant, long-term contribution to Manitoba’s LGBT* communities.
“It was amazing,” Smith says of the award. “It’s very nice to be recognized for the work and the contributions you do because that’s not why we do it. We don’t do it to be awarded, so to have something like that happen is very flattering and honouring and humbling.”
Prior to joining RRC, Smith spent four years as executive director with Rainbow Resource Centre, a not-for-profit providing support, education, programming and resources to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-spirit communities of Manitoba and North Western Ontario.
Smith’s involvement with the Resource Centre goes back a lot further than his four years as executive director; he first became involved in the late 1990s when he completed his Bachelor of Social Work placement at the Centre. Since then he has assumed a variety of volunteer and paid positions, including providing counselling support and completing research projects, as well as serving on the Board of Directors.
Although Smith loved his work at the Resource Centre, he missed working directly with people in a counselling capacity.
“Providing direct service is something that I really love to do. I love being a therapist, I love working with people, I love supporting them, and [allowing] them to create change in their own lives.”
Smith sees RRC as a tight-knit community and is eager to provide students with the vital counselling support required.
“To be able to give students the supports while they’re at school is going to ensure their success, and from my point of view there’s an ethical responsibility to make sure students are successful,” he says, noting there are a variety of reasons students may seek out support.
“People think that when you go see a counsellor at a post-secondary institution you’re [seeing them about] studying and stress or things like that. But we also see students around a myriad of presenting issues that any person experiences: domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, negative coping such as drinking or drug use.”
RRC’s Counselling Services department has the added advantage of combining the counselling and accessibility departments in one.
“It’s one stop for students to come to,” Smith says. “At both of the universities counselling and disability [services] are separate departments. As someone that worked at the University of Manitoba in the counselling department … I can really see the benefits of having the two combined.”
That’s not the only way RRC demonstrates its commitment to students’ well being, says Smith.
“The instructors are so incredibly supportive of their students. At the university, you’re one of 300 people in a class and if you don’t go to class nobody necessarily notices … When you’re at RRC, the instructors notice. We will have instructors contact us and let us know that they’re referring a student. We will have instructors who bring their students over to us.”