Almonte Country Haven hosts surprise ceremony for two PSW graduates

Debbie Burke and Rebecca Smith are the first team members to graduate from a PSW program ACH is involved with. When their graduation ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic, the home stepped up and organized a special event to honour their achievement

Almonte Country Haven PSWs Debbie Burke (left) and Rebecca Smith (right) pose in their caps and gowns at a ceremony their colleagues at the Lanark County long-term care home organized for them.

When Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta learned that two graduates of a personal support worker (PSW) program the home is involved with were unable to have a graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and the rest of the home’s staff made sure their accomplishments were honoured.

In October, Debbie Burke and Rebecca Smith became the first team members at the Lanark County long-term care home to complete training through a PSW program offered by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA).

Almonte Country Haven is a long-term care home in the region partnering with this CDSBEO-CCA collaboration.

Given that Debbie and Rebecca graduating from the program was an important milestone, Carolyn wanted to ensure their achievement was celebrated at Almonte Country Haven, so she planned a surprise ceremony for the two PSWs.

“I went on Amazon and found graduation gowns and caps, as well as some fun and affordable decorations, (and) we quietly planned a surprise, safe graduation ceremony – everyone wore masks and we all social-distanced,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

Debbie and Rebecca joined the Almonte Country Haven team in early 2020. Carolyn characterizes Debbie and Rebecca as “truly amazing PSWs – we are blessed to have them as part of our team.”

Carolyn adds that Debbie and Rebecca worked full time during the COVID-19 outbreak that impacted Almonte Country Haven in the spring, while taking classes and managing their family lives.

“I am amazed by what they have accomplished,” she says.

On the day of their graduation ceremony, Debbie and Rebecca were called to a “staff meeting” and were “completely surprised” when they walked into the meeting last (Carolyn had made sure of this) to be met with lots of fanfare from their co-workers.

There was music playing and staff members handed Debbie and Rebecca their caps and gowns to wear.

“All the staff cheered them on and congratulated them,” Carolyn says. “We are so proud of them, as they both are amazingly kind and compassionate PSWs and they embody OMNI’s mission, vision and values.”

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