Growing up, Katie spent most of her time at school or at church. Both of these places continue to play a large and influential part in Katie’s life. Katie is a proud member of The United Church of Canada and her passion for social justice and activism is deeply rooted in her faith. She truly believes that Jesus was a radical and a revolutionary who not only lived with extreme compassion and empathy, but also sought justice and equity for all. Katie’s involvement with the church has taken her to many different places and has allowed her to meet many different people – she believes that the first step to breaking down barriers of injustice is learning about and opening ourselves up to the stories of others. Within the church, Katie works with groups of youth and young adults and has found a passion for youth engagement and involvement in social justice issues. After completing a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Regina, Katie entered the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan and recently graduated with her B.Ed. She is now exploring teaching as a career and is interested in the intersection of mainstream education and social justice work. Often referred to as a ‘professional student’ by those closest to her, it is unlikely that Katie will ever leave school or learning behind.
When Katie is not hanging out with groups of youth and young adults, she can be found with her head in a book, spending too much time watching crime shows or laughing loudly. She is a firm believer in the transformative power of a road trip, is fascinated with the moon and stars and is most proud that her best friends are beautiful children who call her Auntie.
Mandy (Yatong in Chinese) is a community builder, caring and philosophical individual who believes in creating and reshaping both her own world and the world at large. She has been very active in the Saskatoon Chinese community, and she has been a host of a heritage language radio program at CFCR for 8 years. Her recent passion has been around anti-racism and anti-oppression while her job as the Coordinator of Stakeholder Engagement involves a wide array of community building subjects at United Way Saskatoon and Area. She was trained in regional and urban planning and endeavors to think in holistic ways, in finding solutions to bring about better public good so that everyone has the possibility to thrive. She is also an active mental health peer support worker, she sees the power vested within each individual, as well as the effectiveness and importance of self-care through meditation and mindfulness practices. She’s shy at times but has great laugh and loves to be around people, especially honored to be among this year’s Next-Upers!
Nicole Barrington is a recent grad from the University of Saskatchewan, where she majored in Religion and Culture with a focus on ecology, gender, and art.
Nicole has co-organized various events at her hometown university to engage the public in contemporary issues in religion. She is also a radio DJ at CFCR, a visual artist, and a public sector employee. Nicole hopes to further her education in environmental anthropology as a grad student, exploring the social effects of resource development and Indigenous-settler relationship.
Nicole is currently creating a graphic novel about the supernatural, and also just walking around and thinking.
Born and raised in Calgary, on Treaty 7 territory, Matt is deeply passionate about fighting for climate justice.
While studying at the University of Victoria he broke his teeth on campaigns by campaigning for and being elected as Director of Finance and Operations for the UVic Students’ Society. In this role he helped to organize the youth climate justice conference “Power Shift BC” that drew over 1000 youth to develop their skills and grow the movement. He also worked to increase student engagement because he believes that change comes from engaged communities.
Currently Matt is fulfilling his call to climate justice activism as a core coordinator of the Calgary Climate Action Network as well as attending COP21, the climate talks in Paris, as part of the Canadian Youth Delegation.
When Matt is not participating in conferences, rallies, or doing climate activism, he bikes, plays board games, and watches way too much nerdy TV (anything by Joss Whedon).
Syma grew up in Edmonton, where, after she obtained a degree in Philosophy, she began to advocate for food justice, feminism, accessibility, and trauma-informed spaces, and connecting these ideas to create impact in at-risk communities. Since moving to Calgary, Syma works as the Community Action Coordinator at The Alex Community Food Centre, a dignified community space focused on growing, cooking, sharing and advocating for good food for all. Her main focus is building community capacity and supporting neighbours in community-led advocacy initiatives.
Syma’s focus in all the work she does is to create an atmosphere where change making is accessible to anyone. She strives to be relatable, and believes that lasting revolution lies in sharing our stories through art and over meals. She believes that by allowing ourselves as activists to be radically vulnerable and open to all the people we encounter, we are able to consider their stories as well, and can lead with love first. Syma loves yoga, walking everywhere, writing for children, learning to make anything, dancing, mountains, trees, feasts, and spices.
Since childhood, Nav Jassar has been drawn to social and environmental justice issues. Growing up experiencing different forms of injustice has helped shape her worldview. With “hard core anti-establishment” roots, she is most interested in issues of structural violence, power and privilege, and holistic grassroots development.
Today, Nav is a Lodge Keeper at Mahmawi-atoskiwin, a local indigenous agency that advocates for client families and provides culturally relevant resources for healing trauma. She completed her Development Studies degree at the University of Calgary with a focus on Indigenous Studies and Political Science and was very involved in the campus community.
Nav has previously worked and volunteered with various agencies around the city including the Distress Centre, Big Brothers and Sisters, the Boys and Girls club and the YMCA in a variety of positions including front-line crisis work, afterschool programs and youth mentorship. She has also worked overseas on a number of projects spanning Asia and Africa, including a CIDA internship at a local radio station in rural northern Ghana. Through her involvement with NextUp, she hopes to find her social justice niche, gain new skills, and move toward a future in policy and critical analysis.
In addition to her pursuits for creating a more just world, Nav loves to travel, play sports, have philosophical discussions about life, and hopes to improve her poetry writing ability.
Matt is originally from a small village in Ontario. After finishing high school, he went on to study Canadian social history (with a minor in Russian) at university. Upon graduation, Matt travelled to South Korea to teach English and save money for graduate school. When he returned, he went on to complete a Masters of Information at the University of Toronto (also know as Library Science). This is significant to him as he has many fond memories of spending hours at the library in his community as a child and student. He is very passionate about matters of antipoverty, equity, workers’ rights and public transportation. He is currently enjoys reading about linguistics and urban planning and learning Korean through a combination of selfdirected learning and podcasts.
Mariam spent her formative years in Pakistan (learning to walk and teaching elementary school), Texas (doing interfaith work and coaching at-risk youth) and Montreal (where she commenced her studies in economics at Concordia University). Her affection for ‘data’ grew as she grappled with ideas of permaculture, social innovation, participatory planning, collaboration, communities of knowledge and design for the 99%. As these ideas percolated, she discovered her tribe at Sustainable Concordia, advocated for sustainability in higher education (at Concordia and McGill Universities) as well as working at international non-profits.
Nowadays, Mariam is keen to use intentional language, is a voracious reader (which dates back to her childhood), finds value in doing meaningful work, and has a wonderful time discovering Calgary.
Inspired by the challenging experiences that she faced while growing up and attending university in South Korea, Heejung (이희정) decided to pursue Social work upon moving to Canada. Her purpose in engaging in justicebased work is to create safe, caring, compassionate and inclusive community for all. In her work and life, she seeks to raise awareness of and challenge the many issues that deprive us of our humanity and create social divisions. The desire to treat all human beings with dignity and respect underscores her worldview. Heejung currently works with immigrant women and their families, helping them to feel empowered and to overcome the barriers they face in their everyday lives in Canada. In her free time, she recharges by reading, listening to music and grounding herself through solitude and reflection.
A hitchhiking trip from St. John's back to Calgary taught Josh to trust in others and himself, and launched a new direction in his life. Now, as a social work student at Mount Royal University, Josh is interested in doing work at the community level to change how our current social structures operate, and improve social, agricultural, and environmental sustainability. He has worked with CommunityWise Resource Centre and in seniors care centres. In his spare time (when it's not exam season), Josh can be found working on improving his own self-sufficiency and personal development in his greenhouse, in a philosophical book, or on a mountaintop.