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Branksome Hall News

Dr. Carolyn Mak Honoured with the 2023 School Social Work Achievement Award

Dr. Carolyn Mak, Branksome’s Director of Well-Being and School Counselling, has been honoured with the Ontario Association of Social Workers’ 2023 School Social Work Achievement Award. The award is in honour of her support in the development and delivery of social-emotional learning (SEL) content school-wide, as well as leading the school’s team of School Counsellors and Social Workers. This is Dr. Mak’s ninth year at Branksome Hall, and she spent her first seven years as the Junior School Social Worker, working closely with the Junior School teaching team to provide in-class programming for students around development of social-emotional learning skills, as well as counselling and consultation to students and their families. As Director of Well-Being and School Counselling, Carolyn holds a key role in developing and implementing school-wide well-being programs and curriculum; supervising and building expertise in our counseling and social work team; and strengthening and developing parent education.
Prior to joining Branksome, Dr. Mak served as Director of Knowledge Mobilization and Program Development at Kids Help Phone, a national charity providing online and phone counselling to young Canadians. She started her career as a social worker in children’s mental health and family service agencies, before joining the Toronto District School Board, where she used both English and Cantonese language skills to support students and families.

Dr. Mak is highly dedicated to practising through an anti-racist and decolonial lens, both in her work directly with students and her staff. She has written and published about the work she does both on the front lines and through engaging and changing larger policies and systems. Her most recent publication, Decolonizing School Social Work Practice: The Delicate Dance Around Power, Privilege and Oppression, highlights specific skills and strategies to implement at the ground level, such as speaking up when noticing inequities, while including the necessary work of critical reflection that recognizes the many harmful and unjust policies and practices that have oppressed marginalized groups.

“Dr. Carolyn Mak brings a signature combination of open-heartedness, warmth and solutions-focused collaboration to her work. It takes a unique skillset to be able to teach social-emotional well-being to students across Kindergarten to Grade 12, alongside supporting adults in the community to build their own capacity in the work,” said Amanda Kennedy, Deputy Principal.

The community was overjoyed to hear about Carolyn’s award and many gave her their well-wishes. “Congratulations! So well deserved and a testament to your passion and commitment to young people and their well-being,” said Patricia DiNicolantonio, Head, Talent Management. “How lucky are we!”

In response to the messages of congratulations she has received from her peers, Carolyn reflects, “I am very humbled, not just by the honour from my social work peers, but from my Branksome colleagues as well. It is a privilege to work with this community, and I am often in awe of how hard people at Branksome work to make it an amazing place of learning and thriving for all students.”

The community congratulates Dr. Mak on this incredible achievement, and thanks her for the dedication she puts into her work at Branksome Hall.

We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girls' education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.