An experienced educator, author, and facilitator, Aiden has been fortunate enough to work internationally in a variety of immersive settings, exchanging knowledge with participants of many ages and backgrounds. Aiden completed a Doctorate in Developmental Psychology in Berlin, Germany and currently practices as a registered therapeutic counsellor.
Aiden has developed trainings for different advocacy groups, written numerous articles including a textbook on adolescent development, and contributed to and translated a book on moral democratic education and psychology. Aiden is engaged in grassroots activism with Socialist Alternative, Left Alternative, and other collectives focused on revolutionary social and economic justice. She brings her multi-cultural background, deep appreciation of the natural world and inquisitiveness to collaborative projects. She is rather passionate about politics (an understatement) and believes in the fundamental good of the human spirit, the power of radical acceptance and compassion, and ability for healing and transcendence.
Meenakshi is a community organizer living in Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territory. She is working on issues related to equity and intersectionality across social movements, and advocates for community-based media, alternatives to incarceration and widespread feminism.
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.
Bailey Bjolin has a passion for the power of stories and understanding the role of narrative and representation. This interest has brought Bailey from Calgary to Vancouver to pursue a Masters in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia. In her research, Bailey intends to focus on queer and gender non-conforming narratives in young adult literature. Back in Calgary she was involved at the University of Calgary queer campus spaces, a peer support at the Women’s Centre of Calgary, and volunteered on the sexual assault hotline. Through Next Up, Bailey is looking forward to connecting with like-minded folks in her new city and continue learning, bridging her Masters to the opportunities provided through NU.
Spending a large portion of my childhood in Vancouver’s Chinatown, I was drawn back into the neighborhood as an adult to look at what was happening after years of disinvestment and gentrification. The neighborhood, which allowed my great-grandmother to connect with others, thrive in and build community with her limited English and resources, has led me to my current focus in life. As a grad student in SFU’s Urban Studies Program, I study the impacts of neighborhood change on the well being of low-income, long-term, monolingual Chinese seniors. In my social change efforts I work to ensure those like my great-grandmother have the ability to remain and make a life for themselves in gentrifying Chinatown. I’ve also had the joy of being a part of impactful organizations that work to build sustainable and resilient communities like Embark Sustainability, Growing Chefs and Village Vancouver. My favourite things in life are breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time.
Pardis’ interest in social change is rooted in her experiences as an exiled immigrant woman in Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish territories. Her awareness of social justice piqued upon working with an organization dealing with power dynamics and oppression in the Middle East. This work allowed her to understand histories of colonialism and injustice in the Canadian context and has impelled her to point her ongoing learning and activism in this direction. In Spring 2015, Pardis was involved in Transportation Not Deportation – a successful campaign geared towards ending the MOU between CBSA and Vancouver Transit Police. In her undergraduate thesis, Pardis conducted research around the ways in which communities of colour were excluded from meaningful civic participation in the 1970s. In addition, her involvement in Pathways to Education has given Pardis the opportunity to provide support to young people facing challenges due to systemic inequality. In her free time, Pardis enjoys various forms of jazzercise, forcing herself to be ‘outdoorsy,’ and illustrating awkward life events in attempts to mitigate anxiety.
Sharnelle Jenkins-Thompson is a mixed-race (Welsh-Jewish immigrant mother and Metis-Cree-Irish father) white-passing woman who is passionate about addressing the impact of poverty in British Columbia, both in terms of small-scale, neighbour-to-neighbour interventions, as well as through addressing poverty on a larger, policy-wide scale. Sharnelle grew up in Nanaimo but moved to Vancouver to attend UBC for a degree in social work. Today, she divides her time between working as the Director of Child and Family programs at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House and volunteering with the Poverty Reduction Coalition. Sharnelle is also on the Board for Check Your Head and is looking forward to continue to build community and explore purpose in meaningful ways.