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UTSC grad earns co-op student of the year honour

Valerie Aguiar.

Valerie Aguiar is not one to rest on her laurels.

In addition to being a top student who was heavily involved in numerous campus organizations she also found time to mentor fellow management co-op students. For her hard work the recent University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) graduate was awarded the 2011 Education at Work Ontario (EWO) Co-op Student of the Year award.

Aguiar, who parlayed a successful co-op work term at Nestlé Canada into a full time marketing sales position with the company, said it was satisfying to know her hard work had been recognized.

“There are so many co-op students in Ontario so I was very surprised when I got the call. But it was an honour to be chosen,” she says.

As an undergraduate she served as president of the Co-op Students’ Association, was an advisor to the Mentors in Co-op (MiC) program, finished second in the DECA U competition and was also content development coordinator for the Impact Entrepreneurship Group. She also maintained a blog and wrote articles offering students advice on how to maximize their career potential.

“It’s my personality type,” she says with a laugh. “Just going to classes wasn’t enough for me. I enjoy the feeling that I can help make a difference,” she adds.

Her advice to students looking for an ideal career is to “follow their gut” and pursue what they feel is a good fit for them. She adds the co-op program allowed her to go through a series of work terms in different industries before finding a position that felt right for her at Nestlé Canada. It’s a major reason she recommends the program to students, especially in the current economy when work experience can go a long way in securing a job after graduation.

“Valerie’s contribution to co-op education and our Management Co-op program at UTSC have been amazing and I am thrilled that she has earned this provincial award,” says Kathleen McDowell, coordinator of student development of the Management Co-op program at UTSC.

"Working closely with Valerie throughout her undergraduate degree and specifically through the planning and execution of the MiC Mentorship program, was such a privilege.  She is more than deserving of this award," adds McDowell.

The EWO hands out one college and one university co-op student of the year award annually. Also nominated in 2011 was UTSC management co-op student Prashanth Mohan.

© University of Toronto Scarborough