Justin is michif from Saskatoon (Métis and Treaty 6 Territory), who currently lives as an uninvited guest in Toronto on Dish with One Spoon Territory Territory. For years, Justin has worked and volunteered in a variety of capacities with different Indigenous communities and organizations. Justin is a skilled facilitator and educator, with experience as a planner, researcher, and community organizer. He is currently a Co-Chair on the Board of Directors of Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE) a national organization that builds bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through leadership development, conferences, and community exchanges. Justin is passionate about Indigenous planning and decolonization in the city, youth leadership and capacity building, and education and community development. He holds a Master’s Degree in Planning from SCARP at UBC, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Saskatchewan.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Taylor-Anne Yee is a Chinese-Canadian who grew up in Saskatchewan. She loves this province a lot and does everything she can to help make this place better for everyone. Her educational background is in politics and law with a focus on the environment and poverty-related issues. Tay is an introvert that never thought she could be a leader, but Next Up showed her that everyone has their own style, and she is incredibly thankful for everything this program has given her. She likes video games, sci-fi, playing piano and guitar, rabbits, cookies, and graphic design. Tay is not very good at writing bios about herself.
Born and raised prairie girl from Saskatoon. Fond memories of public transit, the local music scene, community events, volunteering and photography. Recent successes include a BA Honours in International Studies, more home cooked meals and a great partnership with her spouse. Curious about different cultures, community development, equality and global health.
Will try most things in life once and all the fun things twice.
“The Great Law of Peace from the Great Spirit is perfect, balanced, true and just in every way. Only when each person has the Living Laws of Peace within their heart, thoughts, words and actions will there be lasting peace among the Nations of the Earth.” – Deganawideh, The Peacemaker
I took this quote from a book that I gave a teenage boy. A teenage boy that is trying to make sense of life, and of all the situations that were put upon him. Some of these situations were made with little thought, some with great thought, but almost all of them were made without his input or consent. A great deal of them stem from generations of hurt, destruction, and prejudices. A great deal of them occurred because society chooses over and over again to look away or force, instead of hearing, respecting, and loving unconditionally. I choose to write about this teenager because as I hear his story, learn from his forgotten wisdom, and walk alongside his path of healing, I am motivated.
Societies are made up of intertwined individuals. Each individual has a sacred story that needs to be respected and deserves to be heard. I believe that if we take the time to know who we are, and connect with our own hearts, than we can then honestly connect to others without judgment, we can begin to feel other hearts, feel different truths, and build community. I believe that social change stems from one heart opening at a time. Cliché, maybe, but I’ve felt it to be true, and it is part of my story and my struggle. My name is Roanne Kosokowsky, and I believe that this is what sustainable social and environmental justice looks like. Honesty, humility, respect, courage, wisdom, truth, love.
A thousand thank yous and a satchel of love to all of you Next Uppers for having the courage to follow your own truth, embracing life, and holding onto hope.
Kathleen graduated with a degree in International Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and has since built capacity as a non-profit worker. Kathleen is a fundraiser in Saskatoon, working with charities on large-scale capital campaigns. Her work is as diverse as it is rewarding and she looks forward to building capacity as a community development advocate. Kathleen has worked for charities such as Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, One Change, and with the Christchurch City Council in New Zealand.
Believing that volunteerism is key to the health and success of every community, she is active on many fronts and is currently involved primarily with PAVED Arts and Nuit Blanche Saskatoon. Kathleen is passionate about living sustainably and enjoys everything that life on the prairies has to offer. Her interests are reading, cycling, cross country skiing, visiting art galleries, live concerts, and traveling.