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Social work student wins David Kirkland Student Leadership Award

By Laura Woodford

Jeff Walsh, a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program, has won a prestigious award. The David Kirkland Student Leadership Award is presented to a graduate or undergraduate student who has made exceptional contributions to the Memorial community though his or her leadership effort during the past year and who possesses a minimum average of 65 per cent.

According to Kim Kelly, BSW student services co-ordinator who nominated Mr. Walsh for the 2012 award, he certainly embodies these qualities and has demonstrated leadership in many areas of student life. From organizing a meeting between students and the dean to discuss key student issues, to participating in many residence life activities, including the Relay for Life for four years, Mr. Walsh has led and inspired others.

His role as resident assistant included performing administrative duties and providing guidance and support on roommate issues, homesickness, and various other transitional issues, as well as identifying issues that impact student success and referring appropriately to residence life staff members or the Housing Office.

"As a social work student leader, Jeff is exemplary," said Ms. Kelly. "Not only has he led his peers by serving in formal roles but he has also volunteered generously to help fellow students transition to the school and provided suggestions on initiatives that might benefit the students."

Ms. Kelly said that Mr. Walsh, in the role of vice-president of the Class of 2012, helped lead major events such as elections, and represented the class president in her absence, and his fellow students at the Canadian Association of Social Work Educators Conference in Montreal. He also suggested topics and presenters for a new Professional Development Lunch and Learn Series and assisted with the annual Bachelor of Social Work Admissions Test, fielding questions, and helping with invigilating the exam. During orientation for the past two years Jeff has helped new students learn about the school and the social work program.

"Jeff looks for opportunities to connect and be engaged in meaningful ways. For example, he participated in a student panel for both prospective and new students," said Ms. Kelly. "He was informative, knowledgeable, resourceful, and honest in sharing his experience. He was well received by new students and I believe he also presented a realistic picture of what it is like to be a social work student."

Contacted about his award during his field placement at Humberwood Treatment Centre, the provincial inpatient addictions treatment facility, Mr. Walsh said: "When I found out I won, I was really surprised. It took a few days to really sink in. I never thought of my involvement as anything extra special, because it just felt natural to be involved with any opportunity that came along."

Mr. Walsh was offered a position with Western Health as the mental health and addictions counsellor for the Bonne Bay area even before he graduated. Upon receiving a referral, he performs initial interviews and assessments and then offers counselling to people of all age groups in the area. Based in Norris Point, Mr. Walsh also does a travelling clinic up to Cow Head once or twice a week. He also does preventative and promotional work through community events, psychoeducational groups and presentations.

At the convocation reception, he was also presented with the Christopher and Donna Cox Scholarship, which is awarded to the student who has made the greatest contribution to student and community leadership.