Press Release / Community

EMSB recognizes Volunteers of Distinction and presents Lifetime Achievement Award

Montreal - Wednesday, May 1, 2024

On the occasion of National Volunteer Week, which was marked April 21 to 27 at schools and centres, the English Montreal School Board held a special reception and ceremony to honour three Volunteers of Distinction, as well as the presentation of the first Lifetime Achievement Award. Aalia Adam from Global News Montreal served as the emcee.

The program took place at the St. Pius X Career Centre in Ahuntsic on April 30, where the honourees, their families, EMSB commissioners, management, in-school administrators and Parents Committee executive members were treated to a delicious buffet dinner catered by the culinary students. This was followed by an awards ceremony which was streamed live on the EMSB website.

You can watch the ceremony here: It starts at the 5:05 mark.

The Volunteers of Distinction are:  Samantha Patel from Merton Elementary School in Côte Saint-Luc and Vanessa Chimienti and Mariasabrina Mangione from John Caboto Academy in Ahuntsic. EMSB Chair Joe Ortona was delighted to announce that the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Bernard Praw. Mr. Praw volunteered as a parent of three EMSB students and then went on to serve as a commissioner for 29 years. During this time he helped establish the English Montreal Student Advisory Committee (EMSAC).

Bernard Praw

Mr. Praw was a school teacher by profession. He started his career at Chambly County High School in St. Lambert as a math and Moral and Religious Education teacher and then became a guidance counsellor. At the same time, he was a vice-president of the local teachers union. He was the head of the math department for years until assuming the role of principal in 2000 and stayed in that position until his retirement in 2005. At the former Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal (PSBGM) and then the EMSB Mr. Praw was on the governing boards of Gardenview Elementary and Sir Winston Churchill High (now LaurenHill). He chaired the Central Parents Committee and became a parent commissioner. In 1998 he was elected to the Council of Commissioners when the EMSB was established, representing St. Laurent. After stepping down in 2014, he ran in a by-election for Côte Saint-Luc-Hampstead a year later after the passing of Syd Wise.

Over the last few years, Mr. Praw has continued to stay involved in education, doing consulting work for the Ministry of Education as well as working as a student teacher supervisor at McGill University. He and his wife of 56 years Annie, who spent more than three decades as a daycare worker at Gardenview, like to travel. They have visited 54 countries thus far. Their three sons, now married and parents of their own, each went to Gardenview, Sir Winston Churchill and LaurenHill. Jason is head of Canadian research for Mintel; Mitchell is brand director for the Canadian Cancer Society; and Robbie is vice-president of stand-up comedy for Netflix. The Praws have seven grandchildren and one more on the way.

Samantha Patel

Ms. Patel's journey as a dedicated volunteer traces back to her upbringing in a foster home, where she found inspiration in her foster mom, who instilled in her the value of helping others. She firmly believes in the profound impact that one person can have on the world and derives immense joy from assisting every child who seeks help at the Home and School Association.

As a proud single-mother of four daughters, aged 10, 13, 16 and 22, Ms. Patel sets an example for all the students at Merton. Her volunteerism began at a young age, doing so in churches, camps and community initiatives starting at 14. She actively participated in youth classes, soup kitchens, and community library activities, driven by a sense of giving back. Professionally, Ms. Patel gained valuable skills in event planning and program creation working with various charities within the US and Canada, corporate training and within educational institutions.

Vanessa Chimienti and Mariasabrina Mangione

Vanessa Chimienti and Mariasabrina Mangione have volunteered at John Caboto Academy for 12 years. During this time they have been an integral part of the school community. Throughout the years they have selflessly organized fun day events, corn roasts, reading weeks, graduations, teacher appreciation weeks, Terry Fox runs, Science and community fairs, various fundraisers and much more.

Ms. Chimienti is the chair of the Governing Board and Ms. Mangione chairs the Parent Participation Organization (PPO).

Their involvement goes beyond the activities organized in school. They have also been strong advocates for the special needs/closed classes and donated to the underprivileged families within the community. They seek grants from the local borough to help students in the ASD classes with extra services, sports equipment, classroom furniture and manipulatives.

Other examples of their dedication to the school is the continuous support they give to the teaching staff. Together they organize special lunches, snacks and special events to remind them that they are appreciated and valued.

Program Sponsor

Beneva ( continues to serve as the title sponsor for the EMSB’s recognition efforts for volunteers. The company offers a wide range of products and services that are designed to simplify financial choices for members working in the public and para-public sectors in over 900 public and para-public institutions across the province. These services include: personal financial advice, savings, investments and funds; individual life and health insurance; mortgages and personal loans; insurance for automobiles, recreational vehicles, home, travel and legal access; commercial insurance; and group insurance.  

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 73 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at


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