The knowledge, dedication and commitment of Cassidy Lake’s multi-disciplinary staff team of teachers, clinicians, nurses and paraprofessionals, is one of Portage Atlantic’s strongest assets.  Every year, members of the staff team select one of their colleagues for the Portage Atlantic Staff of the Year Award, based on their work ethic and character.  

This year’s recipient is Brett Gibson.  For the past year and a half, he has been a counsellor at Cassidy Lake.  Brett says what really drew him to Portage were its principals, values and its treatment of people.  “It creates a healing environment for everyone to grow and make positive changes.  I fell in love with this as soon as I was on my first shift.  I’ve seen a lot of people become sober and live sober lives because of the Portage program, so I believe in its principles”.

Despite the challenges due to COVID 19, Portage is able to continue to welcome youth thanks to the 14 day Induction Program.  Brett is currently working in the induction program where new youth reside for 2 weeks before moving into the main facility.  Brett explains, “New youth go through their first orientation group to learn about the program”. There has been positive feedback during the six months since the trailers have been on-site at Cassidy Lake.  Brett mentions that the induction program has developed into an entity of its own. “The entrance into Portage has been fine-tuned so that youth can grasp the system and the therapeutic community”. The therapeutic community involves youth sharing their daily lives with a group of people who are experiencing similar struggles, helping each other to identify the causes of their problems, develop the social competencies that will help them face these issues, and carry out the necessary strategies to overcome them. “Youth have mandates and responsibilities and the entire day has a structure to it that matches real life”.

Brett says that the most rewarding part of his job is helping youth develop sentiment, empathy and understanding of their peers. For new residents coming to Cassidy Lake, Brett shares his advice “be open to sharing with each other, change and open yourself to have new positive goals and allow yourself to have dreams and wishes that you may have put on the backburner.”

He says that Portage has helped him develop as a counsellor “The leadership in the organization is incredible. Things are done to honour and respect people and it’s wonderful to grow within that type of organization”.

On behalf of the Portage family, congratulations Brett Gibson!

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