Selena joined genius as Executive Director in July 2018 and is an alumna of the first Calgary Next Up cohort (2010).
As an anglophone, Acadian-settler mother living in Alberta, Selena’s relationship with colonialism is complex. She believes that reconciliation is rooted in both an understanding of self and in collective community experiences. This is critical and personal work as she strives within her own communities to decolonize what it means to be part of the Acadian diaspora.
With almost 15 years experience in the non-profit sector, Selena has coordinated national and international workshops, collaborations, and open spaces that explore responsible ally-ship, grassroots leadership, and youth agency. She is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Canadian Roots Exchange, and has been a community facilitator with the 4Rs Youth Movement.
Selena currently lives and works on Treaty 7 lands. She loves board games, animals, and chasing after her vivacious toddler.
Manuela Valle-Castro is our Program Coordinator for Next UP Saskatchewan, located on Treaty 6 Territory, homeland of the Cree and Metis people.
Manuela has an incredible history of grassroots activism in Chile and Canada with a flair for facilitation and encouraging thoughtful discussions about social justice with youth. She has achieved a PhD in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice, along with her involvement in many different organizations including Girls Rock Camp Saskatoon and Riversdale Community Association. Manuela has held teaching positions at the University of Saskatchewan, and brings with her experiences and skills rooted in feminism, conflict mediation, mental health, poverty, environmentalism, Indigenous topics, and many more such subjects. She is also huge fan of 'zines!
Manuela impressed us with her analytical and compassionate perspectives, positive energy, and wealth of skills and hands-on experiences. We are extremely excited for what Manuela will bring to the program and the future Next Uppers who will have the opportunity to grow and develop their leadership under her guidance!
You can reach Manuela by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Syma is the program assistant for the 2018 Climate Leadership Program. She also works at the Alex Food Centre as a community organizer and educator.
Born and raised in Calgary and inspired by her progressive, eco-focused parents from a young age – Kate Letizia became an unyielding combatant for equality, human rights and environmental health before she even knew how to 'fight'. Educational and professional adventures throughout Latin America, Sweden, the Philippines, and now her hometown, created opportunities to build and refine an arsenal to generate positive, lasting change.
While her education (MSc in International Development and Natural Resource Management) and recent career and community focus has been on reframing waste and legitimizing non-conventional forms of employment and living (check out Calgary Can), a recent fellowship opportunity with SiG International vaulted Kate into the world of complex problems, social innovation and transformational change across Alberta. Armed with an even more diverse toolkit of human-centered, generative changemaking devices, and a few years of climate and social justice activism under her belt, Kate is now ready to focus her energy on what may be the biggest battle she’ll ever face: transforming the way her local and provincial peers, counterparts and communities respond to climate change and our collective future. Kate wants to live in a city, and province, where climate change is taken seriously and responded to fairly, intelligently and creatively. Kate was a participant in Next Up Calgary (2013 - 2014) and in the 2015 Climate Leadership Program.
Kate is coordinating Next Up Alberta's participation in the Alberta Narratives Project, and is a guest facilitator for the 2018 Climate Leadership Program.
Laura Collison is a white Settler living in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton) under Treaty 6. Laura was a participant in the 2010/11 Next Up Edmonton cohort and has served on Next Up Edmonton’s Advisory Committee.
Growing up surrounded by Albertans in border towns in BC and Saskatchewan led to a fascination with Alberta’s political culture. This drew her to study Sociology and Political Science at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Faculty. She learned that politics in Alberta is often frustrating, but never boring and the progressive community she found here helped her decide to make the province her home.
Laura is passionate about creating change through popular education and has developed workshops on feminism in community organizing, ending gender-based violence and sexual assault, and prison abolition. She also has experience in feminist community radio, youth leadership, volunteer engagement, public legal education, social marketing, and political campaigning. Laura has been a volunteer at the the federal prison for women in the Prairie region since 2008.
You can often find Laura knocking doors during elections; riding her bike to a meeting; hiking in the woods; or curling in Edmonton's LGBTQ curling league with her team, the Button Bangers.
♥ Keep loving, keep fighting ♥
In addition to coordinating the weekly Next Up program in Edmonton, Laura is facilitating our Next UP BC Presents: Sustainable Leadership in Urgent Times.
We at Next Up know that Nadia Kidwai, coordinator for NU Winnipeg, is a force to be reckoned with (Star Wars reference noted) in the wider realm of MB's social justice networks; however, we are so pleased that CBC knows it too! They recently announced Nadia's nomination as one of Manitoba's Future 40 leaders, builders, and change-makers who are making a difference in Manitoba. Here is the text of the official nomination and you can also find it here, on CBC's own website.
Profile :: Nadia Kidwai
Nadia was born and raised in Cardiff, Wales and graduated from Oxford University (M.A. in Politics & History).
Since arriving in Winnipeg in 2004, she has worked in various sectors with a passion for diversity, multiculturalism, and community empowerment through grassroots community development, journalism (CBC Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press), and co-founding the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute.
Nadia is Chair of the Manitoba Women's Advisory Council, advising the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, and a council member of the Immigration Partnership Winnipeg.
Nadia leads Next Up Winnipeg, a progressive leadership program for young people committed to social change and environmental sustainability. She also works for the Canadian CED Network.
Nadia is passionate about hosting "conversation cafes", believing that the way forward for our society is through creating a safe space where people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences can come together and create meaningful dialogue.
Most importantly, she is the mother of 2 young boys and therefore well versed in Star Wars, Minecraft and other equally important cultural phenomena.
Nominated by: Brendan Reimer
We are happy to announce that Rana joined the ranks of Next Up Coordinators in the Fall of 2014. She's coordinating Next Up's third cohort in Ottawa. Here's Rana, in her own words:
I am an activist, student, artist, and writer. I consider myself a community organizer, both locally in Ottawa, and in my second home, Palestine.
While working on my BA in human rights and law at Carleton University, I became interested in organizing for students' issues, from food poverty to reviving the fight for accessible tuition. I am working for the establishment of an ethical investment policy with Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), and I sit on the board of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), a social and environmental justice resource centre. In Palestine, I worked as an independent journalist and with grassroots collectives, training new activists in nonviolent direct-action.
I am interested in creating spaces where oppression and colonization can be addressed and deconstructed, for the betterment of our movements and ourselves. I always contend that change is possible when we know which buttons to push and am happy to be working with young change-makers through Next Up!
-Rana Hamadeh, Next Up Program Coordinator, Ottawa
Rana Hamadeh is a Palestinian-Canadian activist, artist, facilitator, and writer based on Algonquin Anishnaabeg land in Ottawa. She immerses herself in grassroots community organizing, both in Ottawa and her second home, occupied Palestine.
Alongside coordinating Next Up Ottawa, Rana currently runs peer support programs for refugee youth and women through an Ottawa non-profit.
While completing her BA in human rights and law at Carleton University, Rana became interested in organizing for students issues, from food poverty to accessible tuition. On campus, she became a core member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) and joined their battle for a socially ethical investment policy at Carleton. She also continues to sit as a Board member of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), a centre for student organizing on the lines of social, environmental, and economic justice. In Palestine, she worked as an independent journalist and within local direct-action activism collectives.
Rana’s passions are informed by her experiences: arriving in Canada as both a refugee and a settler; growing up in the Palestinian diaspora and resisting exile as an adult; and living in Canada as a racialized Muslim woman. She is interested in creating spaces where action is informed by decolonization.
Seth was hired to open the CCPA’s BC Office in 1996. Under his direction it has become a prominent and widely respected source of public policy research and commentary. Seth’s research deals primarily with tax reform, welfare policy, poverty, inequality, and economic security. A social activist for over 30 years and a former teacher, Seth holds a BA in international relations, a BEd from the University of Toronto, and an MA in political science from Simon Fraser University. Seth is a co-founder of Next Up. He is the former co-chair of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, an advisory board member for the Columbia Institute’s Centre for Civic Governance, and an advisor to the Living Wage for Families campaign.