By Rachel Foster
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Bernadette Gismonde is working on expanding the Garden State Pathways program at Camden County College.
Garden State Pathways works with students with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. The students attend college and work toward a certificate in post-secondary studies. Gismonde explains the students are “given the opportunity to come to college as a traditional student would, interact with peers of their own age, and be in a least restrictive environment while working towards a certificate, but are also building social skills, self-esteem and self-determination.”
In expanding the program, Gismonde hopes to allow in not only those who meet an intellectually disabled criterion, but she hopes to open up the program to students with autism. Gismonde plans to have students take the placement test in the improved Garden State Pathways. This year, Gismonde allowed students to take classes at a part-time level, which previously could not be done.
Gismonde has been working at Camden County College for three years but has had numerous jobs before this one, such as working with drug and alcohol treatment for children, adoption and a job at Bancroft. Gismonde always wanted to work in social work, but after she worked at a DYFS-like organization in Pennsylvania, she knew working with abused children would be too hard on her. She moved back to New Jersey and started working in the disabilities field and has been working in the field ever since.
Not only is Gismonde an adjunct at Camden County College, she also works at Salem Community College. As a part-time job, Gismonde is a counselor for juvenile sex offenders.
Gismonde graduated from Gloucester Catholic High School in 1981. After high school, Gismonde got her bachelor’s degree in social and human services at Duquesne University, although she did not declare her major until her last semester there. “My adviser did not like me, but I did not declare it, because I wasn’t sure.” Gismonde proceeded to get her master’s degree in counseling at Rowan University. She is working on getting her doctorate in educational leadership.
Gismonde’s secretary, Bernadette Stettler, says her boss is very knowledgeable. She is “willing to answer all kinds of questions for not just her students, but anyone with disabilities, and because she is so knowledgeable, I’ve learned a lot from her.”
Outside of work, Gismonde enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her recently retired husband, but her school work tends to take up a lot of her time.