At CSI, we’re in the business of helping people who are making the world a better place. We launched the 2011 Agents of Change: Youth Competition last spring to find 20 outstanding youth who were making a difference in their communities and across the city.
This is an annual contest that awards winners with free workspace and exclusive programming opportunities.
Meet the 2011 Agents of Change: Youth
Andre Vashist is an advocate of neighbourhood renewal projects and believes in community-based planning as a framework for effective community development. Andre has been a senior executive at University of Toronto at Scarborough’ s Student Union, represented MADD Canada as a national youth spokesperson, and managed a federally funded program for newcomer youth in Toronto for the YMCA of Greater Toronto. Inspired by the work of United Way’s Action for Neighbourhood Change initiative, Andre created Butterfly Communities to serve neighbourhoods not identified as a priority by the city and that had the desire to improve their quality of life.
Antonius Clarke is a resident of Jane Finch. Growing up in this community, he was faced with many challenges and oppression, issues within the education system, over policing and poverty. He used his experiences to affect change among other youth and families. He became known as the Inner city ambassador, as he spoke up about the importance of giving youth a platform to share their stories, and recognizing the value and importance in respecting the lived experience of individuals. Antonius believes that power lives within and is a champion for developing local leaders and supporting resident development and involvement in all processes.
Balu Kanagalingam has shown an enduring commitment to bringing out the talents and spirit of kids from underserved communities. He has taken an active leadership role on the Youth Advisory Board of Arts for Children and \was largely responsible for the success of the Big Bam Boom Youth Arts Festival at Harbourfront. While pursuing his studies at Ryerson, Balu has been working as an outreach artist with Arts for Children and Youth and, at the same time, taking an active role in putting together this year’ s Big Bam Boom.
Chiara Camponeschi’s approach to social innovation and social change blends elements of empowered participatory governance with the latest collaborative tools and theories. Her work is pushing for a more nuanced understanding of (urban) sustainability, and promotes a vision of interconnected local communities that are interactive, livable and resilient. Chiara is also really passionate about co-design (of services, policies, projects), and works to raise awareness on the potential of what she calls place-based creative problem-solving” (PBCPS) Her latest project, The Enabling City, is a Creative Commons publication that showcases the best in PBCPS initiatives worldwide and has been listed in Shareable Magazine’s “World’s Top 10 Gov 2.0 Initiatives”.
Chris Wong noticed a gap in Toronto’s landscaping businesses, specifically that food crops were excluded from gardening services. Out of this need, he started Young Urban Farmers, a service that sets-up vegetable gardens. After a year of positive feedback, he took urban food production one step further. The goal for Young Urban Farmers CSA, a registered non-profit, is to grow food secure communities through a backyard CSA program, informative weekly newsletters, and educational workshops. He is also a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council and the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, both of which work to shape policy around food issues in Toronto.
D’Andre Wilson has been a part of the National Society of Black Engineers for 4 years and would like to expand her work to teach leadership and STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) and also Entrepreneurial concepts to black youth. D’andre hopes to hold workshops, which she is currently developing a curriculum for with the help of the University of Toronto Engineering Outreach Office, and to hold competitions that will get youth engaged.
Darren Brown is a passionate and energetic individual. For the better part of the past decade he has dedicated himself to bettering the lives of the youth with whom he works . Through his experience organizing many outreach programs in and around the Greater Toronto Area, Darren has genuinely touched the lives of many young people.
David Berkal — I consider myself an activist, an entrepreneur, a storyteller, and an educator. I’m currently the Executive Director of Operation Groundswell, a nonprofit volunteer travel company. Now in its 5th year, OG will run 14 programs, sending 150 young adults all over the globe and raising over $150,000 towards community projects and microcredit financing, all while being a 100% financially self-sufficient social enterprise. I am also the founder of Canadian Roots, which runs exchanges and field schools for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth across the country. I recently completed my undergraduate at UofT specializing in Peace and Conflict Studies and was selected for the Next 36 Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute.
Francis Atta — I go to George Brown College, entering my third year in the Child and Youth Worker program. Growing up in the Jane and Finch community has been a blessing to me. From all the wrong choices that I have made in my life, I have learned how to become stronger and teach others how to do the same. I started an organization called K.E.Y.S which stands for Knowledge & Effort Yields Success. It is a Motivational Speaking Company and also provides workshops that inspires and encourages people of all ages to never give up no matter what the outcome.
Grace Poon started grayspoon (www.grayspoon.com) 3 years ago. She spends her days helping non-profits, start-ups and social businesses develop and strengthen their business brand identity. Her clients range from start-up business owners to large non-profit corporations to small community based operations in developing nations. Last year, Grace ran away with her passion, chopped off 14″ of hair and launched The Hair Dare (www.hairdare.org), a movement where girls (and guys) cut their hair to raise funds, awareness and hair for children who suffer from conditions like cancer treatments, burns and alopecia.
Jajube Mandiela — I am an emerging actor in stage, screen, and voice, as well as a young student pursuing a degree in Philosophy and Cinema Studies. I love my performance work but felt I was missing a tangible, positive impact on making the world a better place to live in, hence why I became the lead member of the reConnexion Artists Collective. We are a project-run group who connect Toronto’s youth with the professional live performance community. We are theatre practitioners (actors, arts educators, etc.) with core, project, and associate members. Our most successful, Trips2Shows project, takes youth accompanied by artist-facilitators to live performance events. While our newest project, Uth Connexions, endeavours to create a youth network in Western Toronto neighbourhoods so youth can have the power to program art training and creating activities in their own communities rather than through third parties. Simultaneously, we are launching the reConnexion Artists growth spurt: a project aimed at creating a stronger connection between arts organizations and youth social service providers. Our goal: when youth connect to one they have access to all.
Jayar La Fontaine — After completing graduate level work in philosophy at McMaster University, I relocated to Toronto and began working in community-based neuro-rehab settings. I now work with publically funded acquired brain injury (ABI) organizations to improve services, build partnerships with other areas of healthcare and social services, and empower ABI survivors and their caregivers. I am working with Jane McGonigal’s start-up Social Chocolate to bring clinical trials and beta testing of her rehab-based alternate reality game “SuperBetter” to brain injury clinics in Ontario. In September, I’ll be returning to school part-time in OCADU’s new Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation.
Jayme Turney — I am a 25 year old York Political Science/Political Economy Masters student and Toronto Public Space Committee campaigner (since 2008). The TPSC was founded by Dave Meslin about 10 years ago and is currently under transition and revitalization, which I am leading and managing. The new organization, Toronto Public Space Initiative, will continue TPSC advocacy work to promote and protect public spaces and outdoor visual environments from commercialization, as well as to promote a public ‘right to the city’ in these areas and in the decision making processes around them; in other words, to further democratize the urban.
Jonathan Moneta — Jonathan Moneta is developing energy managment systems that address the rising cost of energy and the changing ways we pay for it. He is experienced in the wireless Smart Energy space and was formerly the Director of Business Development for MMB Reserach. Jonathan was also Chair of the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada’s (YSEC) re:Vision 2010 conference.
Joshua Liu — I am a third year medical student at the University of Toronto. When I was 15, I created SMARTS – Youth Science Canada’s national youth science network. This year we have redeveloped SMARTS as the premier online social network for youth interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Presently, I am the co-lead of a project at UHN’s Centre for Innovation in Complex Care to map out the current state of avoidable hospitalization for complex patients in Ontario. I am also working with Toronto Western Hospital’s family health team to develop their Homebound Seniors Program.
Lauren Spring — I am a stage and screen actress and international improvisor. I obtained my BFA (in Theatre and Development) from Concordia University in 2005 and completed graduate studies in physical theatre and clown Paris, France at L’ecole de Theatre Jacques LeCoq and with Philippe Gaulier. I am currently completing my Masters in International Development at York University. I have been teaching theatre and improvisation-based workshops for children, teenagers and adults for more than a decade throughout North America and abroad and along with my partner, Thomas Gallezot, recently started up a company- the Extant Jesters (www.extantjesters.com)- which specializes in skills training and event animation. We work with a wide variety of groups ranging from grade 2 students at Regent Park public school to top executives in bank towers- and everything in between.
My current project is on the relationship between humour and resilience in the lives of those who have experienced torture or trauma and as part of it I have been facilitating improv workshops with refugees at the Canadian Centre for Victimes of Torture, exploring the ways in which the improv principle of “Yes and” (acceptance and advancement) can be applied to their everyday lives.
Liam O’Doherty — I am an organizer, activist and improviser who likes to swim, garden and ride bikes. I stay up late and get things done. My currently projects include: Youthmovements.org a global youth engagement mapping project with TakingITGlobal, Greenshades an environmental entertainment group and Avoid.net a collaborative advice platform for consumer information.
Nadia Hamilton — As a sibling to a young adult with autism, I have been cognizant my entire life of the challenges faced by those impacted by this and other disorders. I have spent a lifetime advocating for my brother and the autistic community which is, I feel, an extended network of brothers and sisters. This year, I’m focusing my efforts in starting a for-profit organization that caters to adults with autism.
Nadia was the winner of CSI’s Project Wildfire and earned $25,000 for her project to improve the lives of adults with autism.
Nathan Duncan is the founder and CTO of eevig the give back initiative. He has contributed many years into social innovation and began his journey at the age of 14 when he opened his own media design firm onmedia just to build a social project he was passionate about IAP Sports. Nathan has now turned his eyes to the future… through a rough economy and with a growth in the social consumer market he has now targeted a new project, which is eevig the give back initiative. Eevig acquires quality corporate redundant assets such as chairs, desks, stationary supplies and IT equipment from some of the world’s most recognizable brands and managea the connection from corporations to social initiatives across the globe.
Paige Lawson — I am the founder and director of The DREAM Project, a locally based organization from London Ontario that provides education alternatives, resources, support and awareness for mental health and mental illness. Founded in 2008, DREAM has become a recognized support system within the Thames Valley and Catholic District School Boards, serving over 30 highschools and youth groups. I was recognized as a 2010 Top 20 Under Twenty Award Recipient for my work, and have recently expanded my work to Hamilton where I am currently studying Television Broadcasting and Communications Media.
Samantha Banks holds a Diploma in Fundraising and Volunteer Management from Humber College and has a BFA in Contemporary Dance from Concordia University. Sam was elected Vice President Special Events for the Fine Arts Student Alliance, where she organized orientation for 5,000 students and acted as a Fine Arts Councilor for the Concordia Student Union. She served as president for a campus, city-wide and international youth movement, and was responsible for implementing leadership development and social justice programming. Sam has attended conferences throughout the world that focused on interfaith and peace in the Middle East. She was selected for fellowships with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee and Canadian Israel Experience- Birthright. Sam was Social Chair for Students Take Action Now for Darfur and fundraised for Doctors Without Borders.