Georgian community members honoured with Newcomer Recognition Awards

Georgian College is proud of its diverse community and the incredible accomplishments of students, employees and alumni. Seven members of the Georgian community were recently honoured at the 11th annual Simcoe County Newcomer Recognition Awards.

County of Simcoe Newcomer Recognition Award winners at the 11th annual event. Nine people standing on a stage with clear awards.
Photo courtesy of Simcoe County. Far left back row; Laura Crawford-Awrey, far right back row; Dmytro Garbovskyi, far left front row; Chetna Sangar, far right front row; Kseniia Tymchenko.

Laura Crawford-Awrey

Laura creates opportunities for immigrants every day through her work as an Employment Services Consultant with Georgian’s Career and Employment Community Services team. She received the Service Excellence award, recognized for her work in fostering growth, innovation and customer service.


  • Worked with a local employer to give jobs to three Ukrainians. She also coordinated health and safety training to be delivered with an interpreter to help newcomers move into employment they wouldn’t have been able to achieve on their own.
  • Created a resource document with programs and services to assist Ukrainians arriving in Canada.
  • Organized a local employer and community partner survey to find community connections that spoke Slovak languages and polled available employment opportunities.

“Laura greets each newcomer with a listening ear and open heart to help them to the best of her ability,” says Melissa Fletcher, Newcomer Employment Services Coordinator at Georgian College. “Without Laura’s involvement, many newcomers would be lost and struggling without the job opportunities Laura has created for them.”

Dmytro Garbovskyi

Dmytro is an accomplished singer, specializing in opera, from Ukraine and a participant in Georgian’s Job Finding Club for Immigrants. He received the Immigrant Artist award for his dedication to supporting and uplifting the immigrant community in Simcoe County. In the midst of the conflict in Ukraine, Dmytro relocated to Canada. Although that meant leaving behind his artistic career, he excelled through the challenges and started work in construction to support his family.


  • Organized several fundraising events to help those affected by the conflict in Ukraine. He helped raise $1,200 CAD per day to provide laptops for children facing challenges in accessing remote education.
  • Founded the Facebook group, “Ukrainian Men in Barrie” to help foster connections and provide support for Ukrainian men navigating immigration. This platform is a valuable resource hub, and a space to connect and share experiences throughout the immigration journey.
  • Volunteered his singing talents at cultural events including Holodomor Memorial Day and Independence Day of Ukraine.

Kseniia Tymchenko

Kseniia is currently completing the Occupation-specific Language Training courses at Georgian, and is a participant in the Job Finding Club for Immigrants. She was honoured with the Immigrant Mentor award. Despite facing personal challenges as a Ukrainian refugee, Kseniia immediately became an active member of the Ukrainian community in Canada.


  • Created targeted advertising campaigns using her marketing background to ensure that every Ukrainian individual arriving in Simcoe County was aware of the local community group.
  • Established a Telegram channel (a popular messenger app in Ukraine) which currently has 500 local Ukrainian participants. Kseniia posts job opportunities with translations while building a sense of belonging within the community.
  • Fostered connections with local partners to help newcomers in need, including working with the Food Bank to coordinate monthly deliveries to Ukrainian families.
  • Secured free consultations with an immigration lawyer for 500 Ukrainians across Simcoe County, helping several families successfully gain permanent residency status.

AGEMA Work – Michael Agema

Michael is a Georgian alumnus, class of 1988, 1989 and 1993. He was a student in the Hotel and Resort Operations and Hotel and Resort Administration programs (now Hospitality – Hotel and Resort Operations Management) and Teaching and Training Adults micro-certificate. Michael also worked at Georgian for close to 30 years as an administrator, educator, program coordinator and internationalization lead. Now, he invests his time connecting people with work, and work with people as Founder and CEO at AGEMA Work. His company was given the Culturally Diverse Workforce award.


  • Helped international students and immigrants settle in Simcoe County through employment opportunities in various industries and roles.
  • Modeled equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging through workshops, seminars, cultural diversity training programs and networking events.
  • Bridged the gap between newcomers and the local job market, offering valuable guidance, training and placement services tailored to their specific needs.
  • Actively engaged with the Barrie community and beyond through volunteering with the Local Immigration Partnership Committee, Simcoe Tourism and the Busby Centre.

Catherine Vellinga

Catherine is a professor in the Liberal Arts department at Georgian College. She was presented with the Multiculturalism through Education – Educator award for being a champion in cultural competency training and curriculum development in her role as Internationalization Lead.


  • Developed a first-of-its-kind micro-credential and over 100 customized intercultural development training sessions for students, employees and faculty at Georgian and abroad to partner institutions in Latin America and East Asia.
  • Worked with newcomers to decrease barriers and promote multiculturalism through many events including Georgian’s #ITSTARTS campaign and annual Come Together Week.
  • Secured sponsorship to support Georgian’s first ever student refugee in 2022. Through her advocacy efforts, Catherine took on completing an intent to sponsorship application to eventually prepare to welcome Elaf, from Jordan.

Chetna Sangar

Chetna is a Georgian alumna of the Fitness and Health Promotion diploma program (class of 2020). She won the Youth Community Champion award for her efforts to strengthen community awareness about, and advocate for, newcomer equity and the celebration of cultural diversity in Sim​coe County. Chetna shared, “This award is a reminder that regardless of our origins, we all have the capacity to be champions for our community.”


  • Dedicated Committee member of the Barrie Indian Association, actively contributing to community and cultural initiatives.
  • Small business owner at Henna Designs. Chetna brings a blend of tradition and innovation to her henna designs for weddings, festivals and more.


FenceSource, an employer partner with Georgian’s Career and Employment Community Services team, won the Welcoming Work Environment award. They were approached by Georgian and asked about their willingness to hire newcomers who may struggle with English. Immediately, FenceSource was interested in developing training plans to help newcomers, specifically from Ukraine, gain employment.


  • Accessed the support of a Ukrainian interpreter to assist with interviews and tours of their worksite. This helped everyone to feel comfortable working together, despite the language barriers.
  • Recognized the positive impact newcomers have in our community and the beneficial contributions they make to our local labour market.
  • They’ve been extremely vocal about sharing this insight with their network and hope to inspire other employers to open their doors to immigrant employees.

Chris O’Hara from FenceSource was thrilled at the opportunity to hire newcomers and help them settle in a new community. “Firstly, what a Canadian thing to do. Our country is built on immigrants and if [we really think about the impact immigrants have on our community, we see that] they bring us world culture, culinary delights, community pride, festivals, unique skill sets and more,” he says. “Our leaders have opened the door for a country torn apart by war. We as employers must respond accordingly, and we did.”

Congratulations to all the winners and a big shout-out to all the nominees. You’ve all made the Georgian community proud!

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