25 year old Franki was born in Vancouver but grew up in Edmonton. Their educational journey ended in 2013 when they graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of English and a creative writing minor. In 2007, Franki and a friend felt that LGBTQ youth in the Sherwood Park area had limited access to resources, which resulted in the founding of the AltView Foundation. What began as an LGBTQ youth group has grown into a multi program foundation that offers all ages discussion nights, writing courses for queer writers, and support services for schools developing a Gay Straight Alliance. In April of 2012, AltView hosted Status of Queer, a conference highlighting the current situation of queer folks in Alberta in the hopes of connecting LGBTQ service providers province wide.
Franki is also an avid reader, a lover of Sci-fi (The Fortunate Fall by Rafael Carter is one of their favorites!) and an ambitious writer. They are currently looking for an adult job but the prospect of getting their master’s in creative writing in the UK is not far off. Franki would like to live in Vancouver, maybe with a cat.
Todd Houseman is a local artist and activist of many talents. He performs and teaches improv with Rapid Fire Theatre, and co-hosts the segment “Folklords” which improvises Chekhovian tales, Cree creation stories, and a third genre chosen by the audience. Todd engages in activism through his art, which is informed in part through his identity as a Cree Mixed-Blood individual, and his desire to explore the intersections and nuances of social justice. His work aims to resist and challenge dominant social structures, and create constructive dialogue around Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Beyond his craft as a performing artist, Todd is also engaged in visual art, music, and writing. In addition to being a blacksmith with skills in knife-making and forging, he engages in anti-oppressive art through his role as member of the feminist punk-rock band Skunk Coat, and through storytelling. One of his notable works is the graphic story “Ayannisach”, which is featured in “Moonshot: The Indigenous Comic Collection”.
Marin loves love and passionate people. After completing her undergraduate degree in education, Marin decided to fulfill her dream of volunteer teaching in a school in Arusha, Tanzania. There she came face to face with the depths of colonialism and the cycle of poverty, which inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in Theoretical Cultural and International Education with a focus on social justice. Currently, Marin teaches grade 6 French immersion in St. Albert. She believes in the power of children and loves getting them excited about learning. Her goal as a teacher is to instil love, acceptance and compassion in her children and empower them to effect change in what they are passionate about.
When Marin isn’t teaching or thinking about social justice, she spends her spare time in the mountains or on her yoga mat. She recently completed her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification and jumps at opportunities to teach and share the practice of yoga wherever she can.
Marin is so excited to be a part of Next Up. She cannot wait to connect with like-minded people, learn more about social and environmental justice and further develop her leadership skills in order to better effect change and develop stronger communities. YAY!
Born in Italy and immigrating to Canada two years later, a tone was set for Fatima's life, one of travel and exploration. Her early years were spent in motion, moving all over Canada, before coming to Edmonton in Grade 7. Her mind, however, never settled. She began to write and to discover the writing of others, like Emma Goldman & Dostoevsky. The hierarchy of schooling isolated her, but she kept writing and eventually found another kind of liberation in celebration, in partying and sharing joy with others. And it was then that she returned to her family's roots in Somalia, living in Bosaso for over a year. Her life changed and, upon her return, she began to throw her own parties, to treat celebration as an act of creation, where positive, joyful spaces could be made. With a couple close friends she began renting venues and playing music once a month. The practice grew.
Fatima continues to write stories, about people, the basic things that connect them, and the complexity within those basics. She feels compelled to write because there is so much that doesn't reflect her life. Most recently, she has begun working at Boyle Street Community Services as a winter emergency response supervisor.
Damien Lachat is a first generation settler and a recent graduate of the University of Toronto with a double major in Philosophy and Equity studies. In his studies he expanded his knowledge of current race, gender, class, and sexuality education which he continues to use daily in his discussions on social justice. Damien is a proud member of a forward thinking community and his passion for social justice is recognized by his peers. His education also includes studies at NAIT, studying Materials Engineering Technology which extended his curiosities regarding practical crafts. When he’s not engaging in conversations on social justice politics, Damien enjoys his time reading, watching movies, exploring pop culture, and playing the ukulele. His favourite movies include but are not limited to, Amelie and The Dark Knight. Damien Also has an incredible and deep love of small mammals in the family Leporidae, particularly bunnies.
Above all, Kristen Rivers is a proud mother of an amazing nine-year-old. She is grateful and honoured to be born an Indigenous woman during this era of transformation. Kristen comes to the Next Up program with a background in Accounting. Currently, she works with Reconciliation Canada - a charitable organization based in Vancouver, BC - as Executive Assistant to the CEO.
Kristen believes in the power of simplicity. Creating opportunities for Indigenous peoples is a simple act that can change many socio-economic indicators for Indigenous peoples. Core to Kristen's values are empowering others, embracing differences and sharing prosperity. There are many people who helped shape the woman she is today. Two women who were especially influential are her grandmothers - Audrey Tiyalelot Rivers (Skwxwú7mesh) and Marie Tlakwagilaogwa Baker (Kwakwaka'wakw). She is grateful to Next Up for the opportunity to develop her leadership skills in a meaningful way.
(Dara) Yvette Thompson spent the first half of 2014 fostering the creation of a Climate Adaptation Strategy for the Government of Alberta, and is an advocate for meaningful environmental action. She still works with the provincial government, flexing her communication muscles within Environment and Parks. While completing her MSc. in Agricultural and Resource Economics, focussing on the impacts and possibilities of REDD+ policies in the Congo Basin Rainforest, she spent much of her time contemplating purpose, life and how to truly make a difference. That led to completing her 200-hour YogaWorks yoga teacher training, spending time setting goals in the happiest place on earth (lululemon) and getting to know herself, beyond academia.
A skilled communicator, she spends her time considering behaviour around consumption and values, identity politics and how to eliminate jargon from the English language. As a former news radio storyteller and environmental advisor, Yvette is looking forward to launching a podcast about self- and eco-awareness (likely including her Prius named Bambi) after she finishes exploring Calgary with her fiancé Connor.
Sarelle Azuelos grew up in Unity, Saskatchewan before moving to Calgary to attend university. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and a minor in Communications at the University of Calgary and has continued to live in the city ever since.
During her time at university, Sarelle became involved in student journalism, which launched her interest in social justice issues. She worked her way up to the position of editor and chief at The Gauntlet, the U of C’s campus newspaper. Despite graduating, she’s still often found on campus working on episodes of Yeah, What She Said, a radio show focused on feminism and women’s issues on CJSW.
Currently working at the Women’s Centre of Calgary as the Communication Coordinator, Sarelle enjoys working in the peer model and getting to know women who come to the Centre.
In line with her passion for social justice, Sarelle has worked at the Discovery House in the past. During her free time, you can find Sarelle enjoying a good book, going for a hike, or riding her bike.
Lauren grew up in Calgary and has always been mindful of building community. She was in the final year of her studies at the University of Calgary when she took the Women’s Studies class that made her realize she wanted to pursue social justice seriously. Sweatshops caught her attention first and she found the issue to be a gateway into feminism and environmentalism. She was struck by a Suzuiki quote “what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves” and began to live with this in mind. During University she volunteered at the Women’s Resource Center, and Green Calgary, and later went on to work for Green Calgary as an Educator. She currently works for The City of Calgary in Waste & Recycling Services with a focus on diverting and reducing waste for businesses. Lauren loves to “trash talk” with anyone, any day of the week! Being able to speak to the public and educate others about waste reduction is her favourite part of her job. She loves running and is currently training for her second ½ marathon, and loves to use cycling as her primary form of transportation. Lauren also loves reading, writing, and music; she sings, plays piano and guitar, and is learning the Mandolin. In her spare time she is a self-professed “festival fanatic“, watching as many films as she can, and making sure to go to Folk Fest each year. She lives her life with the motto: “I will do the best I can.”
Ana Lucia was born in Argentina and came to Canada at a young age with her mother and grandmother. She completed her degree in Anthropology, French and Spanish at U of C before moving to Ukraine, Toronto and then back to Calgary. Ana Lucia is a pen pal to a dentist in New York, her former neighbour in Toronto, and several long-time friends in Ukraine. She sees the world through a storytellers lens and finds inspiration when connecting with people from various walks of life.
Ana is a self-described vanilla-over-chocolate, cats-over-dogs kind of person. She has worked within the non-profit sector for eight years and attributes her motivation for social change to the personal connections she has to issues.
She believes in working towards a world in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential and admires most the people in her life that turn their ideas into action.
Ana Lucia is an avid cyclist on the road and in the spin studio. She also enjoys photography, cooking and going for walks.