Alumni: Next Up Saskatoon 2011-2012

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Meet the current Next Up Saskatoon Year 2 group (2011-2012)!

Alanna Makinson

Alanna is passionate and has strong opinions regarding womens rights and equity. She is enthusiastic about travelling and loves to learn about and experience new places and cultures. Alanna has ambitions to continue traveling while finding her place with a family, job and doing what she loves – pursuing social justice work.

Alanna spends her free time running and training for marathons (INTENSE!), reading, writing, being outdoors, watching movies and spending time with friends and family. Alanna thinks if she were a season she would be spring – she is warm and pretty; her spirit animal would be a white tiger – much like her, rare and fierce; if she were a place it would be a beach – fun and easy going; and finally if she were a color she would be purple!

Andrea Cessna

Andrea is currently in her fifth and final year of her Anthropology degree at the University of Saskatchewan and has plans to continue her education with a Masters in Enthographic Media. She is drawn to Anthropology because it can take her anywhere and everywhere, and with photography, she can take others along with her on her journey.

Learning is something Andrea never wants to stop doing, whether it be in the classroom or on her many adventures around the world. Seeing the world and experiencing different cultures is what Andrea is most passionate about in life, and she hopes to see as much of the world as she possibly can. Being creative, and spending time with inspiring and positive people is also a big part of Andrea’s life.

Andrea describes herself as passionate, driven, adventurous, loving, patient, and easy-going. She values her ability to laugh at herself and not take herself too seriously, which aids her involvement in a wide variety of social justice work. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family and friends, being in nature, reading, cooking, and being active through activities such as yoga, running, and soccer.


Boni Nleya

Born in Harare Zimbabwe, Boni moved to Saskatoon SK at the age of six and she has resided here in Canada ever since. Boni is now 25 years young and has graduated with a Sociology degree, and has made a documentary about Rwanda called “Kumva Neza”. Other than being a proud member of Next Up, Boni also volunteers with Victim Services as a support worker for people with Mental and physically disabilities. Her goal is to finish social work and to continue being involved in social justice. Boni is also a Netflix and Musicacholic!
“My passion is being involved of being part of a social justice, our world is changing. Sometimes it could be for the worse, but I believe that standing up for our rights and have to power to change, we can!” -Boni Nleya


Geordie Gescha

Geordie Gescha, his name may sound familiar to you for several reasons. Gescha was born and raised in a Romanian-Asian home here in Saskatoon. He paints, he is a community organizer and he mentors youth at risk. His talent, life-experience and hard work have lead him to be and to work on several impressive projects. In February his hip-hop single “Love Pirates” off the album Crayon Politics climbed the Canadian single sales chart to #7. Along with his numerous other albums he has helped with the production of Kumva Neza: Where the Land of Living Skies Meets the Land of a Thousand Hills. His last two years have been spent mentoring at risk youth here in Saskatoon. Currently he is helping set up a centre for youth to learn the skills to succeed in the music trade, working on a creative project to express what he has learned at occupy Saskatoon along with many other projects. Geordie Gescha is a charismatic and passionate young man. He has done a lot for Saskatoon and we are all excited to see his future unfold.


Jae Ford

James (Jae) Ford was born in the mid-eighties, right around the time that a-ha’s rubbish song “Take on Me” was occupying the number one spot on the pop charts. This song now occupies the number 27 spot on his iPod playlist.

Jae is currently employed by the Saskatoon Health Region, where he spends his days learning interesting things from centenarians, all while helping them put on their socks. His activist activities are currently dominated by passions for patient advocacy in long-term care, and youth political engagement. As a Secular Humanist, Jae rejects the supernatural and religious dogma as a basis for morality and decision-making.

In his fleeting spare time, Jae can be found building and launching model rockets, playing ping-pong, although not very well, and singing karaoke, but nothing by a-ha. He also has fun hiking, camping, reading, chilling in hippy drum-circles, campaigning for the New Democratic Party, vegan cooking, and using the Oxford comma. He enjoys the number 42, and wearing Toms shoes.

Jae presently resides in Saskatoon with his wife and three cats.


Justin Wiebe

Justin Wiebe is a 20 year old student, educator, activist and athlete. He identifies strongly with his Metis heritage, which has influenced his passion for indigenous and transformative pedagogies in his approach to teaching. He is currently completing a degree in Education and hopes to continue on to graduate school at the University of Saskatchewan in the coming year. He intends to address structural inequalities in the education system by encouraging a more holistic and inclusive approach to teaching and learning. He is passionate about the interconnectedness of all things, an attitude which fuels his work in social and environmental justice and his enthusiasm for the NextUp program.


Kari-Dawn Wuttunee

Kari-Dawn Wuttunee is a young Cree woman from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Treaty Six Territory who now resides in Saskatoon. She has been spending her time passionately advocating for young women within her community, tackling issues such as HIV, harm reduction strategies, poverty and violence prevention. This work has opened up the platform for Kari-dawn to speak at Saskatoon community gatherings and Canada’s Safe Schools conferences involving topics of decolonization and anti-racism methods.

She is currently a youth regional director for the Native Women’s Association of Canada and represents youth for the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corporation. Through her experience within her community and volunteer work with National Aboriginal Organizations, it became apparent that neo-colonialism and racism often govern the decisions of Indigenous peoples rights. This has sparked a fire that burns in Kari-dawn, as she works towards facilitating change, and restructuring at different levels of governing systems.

Laura Hopkins

Laura is a native of Ottawa, Ontario. She came to Saskatoon in 2008 to attend the University of Saskatchewan. Since then, she has come to appreciate the sense of community and wonderful people in this city. In 2010 she completed a Master of Public Health and began a PhD in Community Health and Epidemiology. Laura is passionate about about the connection between local and global health, gender equity, politics, and addressing the many social determinants of health. She is currently the co-chair of the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition, an organization which works to raise awareness about gender-based violence in society. She also works to encourage women’s engagement with politics, and to ensure that issues pertinent to women are addressed in the political sphere.


Maggie McBride

Maggie McBride graduated from Augustana, a small liberal arts college in Alberta, with a B.A majoring in Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education and a certificate in Community Service Learning. Maggie likes traveling and has studied abroad in both Mexico and Norway. Maggie loves the outdoors, rivers, forests and helping people to enjoy them. She also loves running, skiing, canoeing and hiking. Maggie’s goals are to work within small food production systems to mainstream enviromental design. She is currently working at Floating Gardens and with the Saskatchewan Eco Network. Maggie is back in Saskatoon, reconnecting with family and friends, hoping to get her Masters in a couple years and to build up a market garden of her own.


Melissa Gan

To begin this story I think it important to tell the story of our meet-up to write this biography. On Friday, October 24th 2011 Melissa came and met me at Aden Bowman where we commenced our discussion. I had no idea what to ask her, but knew this couldn’t be a traditional biography. Sure she is 21 years old, her family is Malaysian-Chinese, she is from Saskatoon, speaks four languages some better than others, and may or may not love long walks on the beach. None of those things really tell us who she is. Our discussion began at about 3:45 and did not end until 6:00. Yes, we talked for over 2 hrs, but I think that in itself tells something about who Melissa is. She is the kind of person you can sit down with and just talk to for hours. I learned a lot about her life, who she is, where she’s been, and where she’s going. Her first experience with activism began in high school where she began working with WAM (“We Are Many”), a youth group dedicated to environmental justice and sustainability; a group that she is still a part of today. Initially she volunteered for self-gratifying reasons, but this changed as she grew as an individual. After high school she did a 10 month exchange in Japan that opened her eyes to the world around her, and the connections that exist. As a result she enrolled in international studies and loves it. My experience chatting with Melissa was splendid she is a wonderful, sincere person who truly cares about the work she is doing. She said something very insightful to me during our meeting. By only volunteering absent mindfully or by only studying a subject in University it is impossible to gain real understanding regarding what is going on in our world. True understanding can only be accomplished by truly, full-heartedly getting involved.


Molly Patterson

She was born in Newmarket. And she was definitely something new on the market. Because between moving to Pincher Creek, Sherwood Park, and Calgary, she found sanctuary in books. And they told her of cats, adventures, mountains, and cheese, of whales, monkeys, tea, and trees. So in this literary friendship grew her love for animals which has stretched far across her lifespan to this day. It’s why she studied ecology at the U of A.

“Education is the key”, she tells me. And this girl is next up to unlock every door and discover all the skills she needs to make a difference. She’s won’t wait for the “I do” to become engaged with the community. She won’t follow the traditional path, but the traditional knowledge of First Nations people. Marry that with elk habitat and you’ve got her Masters project. Her hero is Jane Goodall, though she’s already a hero to so many herself. This girl is incredible. Sit down and have a chat with her, she’s sure to make your day shine.


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