Aspire Youth Summit 2023

Aspire Youth Summit 2023 Level Up: Future Changemakers

On February 9th, 2023, hundreds of young people (15-30) attended the youth-driven, youth-designed one-day virtual summit themed Level Up: Future Changemakers. Modeled as an alternative to take your kid to work day, the 2023 Aspire Youth Summit offered youth the chance to meet and network with experts, employers, and motivators to explore careers and develop skills through seminars, panels, and training sessions. to.  From career exploration to personal advocacy, the Summit educated, inspired, and encouraged youth who are entering or currently in the labour market, and gave attendees a steppingstone to level up their future of work.

Young people who were in school or graduating during the acuity of pandemic economic disruption have an uphill battle to regain their footing in a labour market that has left them behind. Awareness of and access to Employment Service Providers in First Work’s network was front of mind while youth took part in keynotes and sessions such as:

  • Randall Adeji | Ontario’s Poet Laureate | Rise Edutainment Inc.
  • It’s All About the Journey | Kick Ass Careers
  • Career Exploration with CNIB: Training a Handler and Guide Dog
  • Bringing Our Issues to The Table: An Advocacy How-To | Young Ontarians United
  • Experiences of Polarization in our Communities | Public Policy Forum

At the Aspire Youth Summit 2023, young Ontarians were given the opportunity to explore meaningful work and expand their own capacity to be changemakers.





Check out the confirmed speakers for the Youth Summit below! Read more about more about them and what they are hoping to convey at the Youth Summit. More speakers and details will be announced as confirmed!

Randell Adjei
Founder | RISE Edutainment

Know yourself: Finding a career path through self exploration and finding our purpose

When we are young and coming of age people always ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Which is always connected to a job or career. I think the better question is really ‘who do you want to be when you grow up?’

I believe jobs and careers should tie to our deepest desires in life. They are bigger than just making money or having a cool title.

This session will focus on discovering our truest selves and illuminating our deepest desires. It will also focus on how we can turn our personal interests and passions into entrepreneurial ventures or careers through life experiences and even our life adversities.

  1. Allowing for reflection on our truest selves and illuminating our deepest desires
  2. How to turn our personal interests and passions into entrepreneurial ventures or careers
  3. Encouragement to think outside the box when it comes to your career
Randell Adjei is an entrepreneur, speaker and spoken word practitioner. He was recently appointed Ontario’s first Poet Laureate. Randell is the founder of one of Toronto’s largest youth led initiatives; Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (R.I.S.E Edutainment). In 2018, R.I.S.E received the Toronto Arts Foundation’s, Mayor’s Youth Arts Award. Randell is the author of “I am Not my struggles,” a powerful Anthology released in 2018 and was named CBC’s Metro Morning’s Torontonian of the Year in 2015, and NOW Magazine’s Local Hero in May 2017. In 2020, Randell opened up for President Barack Obama at the Economic Club of Canada.

Ruth Altaye
Generation Chosen |
Director of Emotional Intelligence

Anchoring Anxiety

In this workshop we focus on the biochemical and psycho-social predeterminants of anxiety. We do this by tackling topics such as trauma, self care, and self love as tools to investigate the culprits behind our anxieties and fears. In order to equip facilitators with the capacity to interrogate and contend with their anxiety as they lead and support others, we must first take a look at the origins of our own anxiety and create roadmaps and helpful tools for the people we service.

  1. Learn how to combat anxiety at its root instead of overworking your brain with the task of eliminating returning side effects.
  2. Learn how to live in the present and for your future, rather than living in the mentally harmful cycles of your past traumas and fears.
  3. Learn how to implement good habits that will help you gain confidence to go past the limitations of your fear and anxiety.
  4. Gain understanding of the biological implications of your day to day life, on your own mental well-being. Learn how small changes and tricks can encourage better mental health, and decrees anxiety.
Ruth Altaye is a fourth-year Philosophy student at Tyndale University. She helped spearhead her university’s first ever Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. Ruth is also the former President of the ‘Black Educators of Tyndale,’ a collective that focuses on creating safer spaces for black students while also creating informative spaces for all students to learn about the black experience, culture, and history. Ruth is the Director of Emotional Intelligence at Generation Chosen, a nonprofit organization that focuses on interrupting the cycles of trauma and violence in Toronto’s Jane and Finch community. She oversees a free therapy program called Remedy and created and oversees the facilitation of important EI based curriculum for youth. Ruth is an 1834 Fellowship Alumnus that cares about seeing black people represented in politics in a more meaningful way that surpasses symbolism and fosters actual change.

Dan Kuiack
LinkedIn | Enterprise Account Director, Government Sales – Talent Solutions

LinkedIn: Building Digital Brand

Having a LinkedIn profile is an important step in building a professional online presence. A LinkedIn profile allows you to showcase your skills, experience, and accomplishments to potential employers, clients, and business partners. One of the main benefits of having a LinkedIn profile is that it increases your visibility and makes it easier for people to find and learn about you. When you create a LinkedIn profile, you become part of LinkedIn’s vast network of professionals, which means that anyone searching for someone with your skills and experience can easily find you. This is particularly useful if you are looking for a new job, as many employers and recruiters use LinkedIn to find potential candidates.  LinkedIn allows you to connect with other professionals in your field, which can help you stay up-to-date on industry trends and news, and learn about new opportunities. You can also join LinkedIn groups related to your industry, which can provide valuable insights and resources, and allow you to connect with like-minded professionals.

  1. Mastering your LinkedIn Profile
  2. Networking on LinkedIn
  3. Build your Digital Brand
Dan is one of the 5 representatives at LinkedIn that work with the Canadian Government for Hiring and Learning. He has 5 years of sales/relationship management at SaaS and staffing companies and knows the importance of Digital Branding and Networking. His main role now is to help the government hire and retain their top talent using LinkedIn and how they can utilize the platform to the best of their ability.

Alexis Roy
First Work | Project Lead

Using AI to Empower Ontario Youth with a “GPS for your Career”

An AI-powered platform that acts as a GPS to help job seekers navigate career transitions, supporting them from career navigation, to reskilling, to employment. FutureFit AI uses over 350 million global talent profiles, live labor market data and projections, and proprietary algorithms to identify an individual’s skills, recommend possible career paths, and create a personalized roadmap of learning programs, career support resources, and coaching to drive successful job outcomes.

  1. How to navigate the platform
  2. The benefits of using an AI powered platform for upskilling and job searching
  3. Best Practices

Alexis is the Project Lead at First Work, joining in August 2021. After multiple years in management and sales for companies such as CIBC and Bell Canada, Alexis has worked in Employment Services at Glengarry Inter-Agency Group for the past 3 years. He worked as a Job Developer, Employment Counselor, and most recently, the Youth Job Connection Program Facilitator. Alexis is passionate about equipping job seekers with the necessary tools and resources to successfully navigate the ever-changing employment sector. Alexis firmly believes in education and is constantly looking to learn new things and to speak with professionals from various industries.

Mardi Daley
Lived Experience Lab | Founder
and Engagement Advisor

Transformative Employment Practices: Lived Experience as an Asset (Closing Keynote)

Sharing can be caring when it comes to lived/living experiences! Mardi Daley presents her journey of youthmental health and youth homelessness and how she transformed them into an asset to her career as a facilitator and consultant for community and participatory engagement and research.

  1. Turning negative life circumstances into a career driven by passion and purpose
  2. Learning how to apply your lived experiences as a lens to your employment journey
  3. Building on personal strengths and interests when forming your career pathway
Mardi Daley, B.A. is an entrepreneur, engagement advisor, facilitator and certified Peer Specialist working in youth mental health and homelessness in Toronto. Working from the lens of her own lived experience, Mardi collaborates on community-based research projects to support by-youth for-youth resources, training, inclusion and engagement. Her areas of interest include youth employment, peer support and ethical youth engagement. Since 2015, Mardi has co-authored and created many resources related to these areas and has worked with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), LOFT Community Services, Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness, Making the Shift, MLSE Launchpad and many others.

Jamie McMillan
Founder of KickAss Careers!

It’s All About the Journey: Living A Life of Passion & Purpose

It’s all about the Journey, according to Jamie!

As someone who followed a non-traditional path to her career, Jamie believes our unique journeys allow us to live a life of passion and purpose. When we embrace who we are and stop trying to “fit the mould” of how society tells us we should live our lives, we can make the impacts we are meant to make in this world. This is where the magic happens!

In this engaging and inspirational session, Jamie will share her unconventional path from struggling to triumph as a failing high-school student with ADHD to finding the wonderful world of trades and becoming an advocate for women in male-dominated industries. As a multi-award winner, Jamie is the perfect example of what happens when we find our true purpose, lean on those who lift us up and disregard those who pull us down. The positive mentors in our lives give us strength when we cannot find it within ourselves. So who is this for you?

When we climb the mountains of life, sometimes we take the wrong path, learn and start again. Sometimes reach the top, look around and see all the possibilities of where we can go next. You never know who you will impact or what opportunities may arise! It’s all about the Journey.

  1. Walk away with the understanding that our life paths are not linear; when we truly embrace who we are and what lights us up, we create our own path to success!
  2. Understand the importance of mentorship in our lives; no one achieves success alone.
  3. Have the Courage and Confidence to embrace your uniqueness and use this to power the life you want.
  4. Understand that life is all about the journeys we take.
Jamie became an ironworker in 2002 when women only represented 2% of the workforce across Canada and the United States. Through KickAss Careers, Jamie travels approximately 30 weeks a year providing engaging keynote presentations and workshops to more than 50,000 students, parents, educators and employers each year across North America. Her efforts have gained international notoriety for opening doors and minds to the possibilities of well-paid careers in skilled trades and technology sectors. Over the years Jamie has received the Top 20 Under 40 Award for making an impact in the metal trades, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Champion Award and District School Board of Niagara Technology Education Partnership Award for her commitment to youth in schools across the province of Ontario.In 2018 she received the Hamilton YWCA Women of Distinction Award for being a trailblazer excelling in her field promoting leadership and equal advancement opportunities. In 2019 Jamie was named a co-chair on a National Skilled Trades Advisory Committee to create a campaign to promote careers in skilled trades as first choice pathways to youth for the Canadian Federal Government by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Jamie continues to speak professionally across North America, works on various construction projects whenever possible and enjoys helping out at a homeless shelter for women.Most recently, Jamie joined the Helmets to Hardhats Canada team as an Outreach Specialist providing career opportunities in the Building Trades for serving, transitioning and former members of the military.

Kyle MacLeod
Herd Manager / Owner |
Darcroft Farms Ltd

Nicole Avery
Broiler Care Coordinator |
Wallenstein Feed & Supply Ltd.

Career Exploration Session: Agri-Food Industry

The agri-food industry consists of four sectors: primary agriculture, food and beverage processors, food retailers and wholesalers, and foodservice providers. Not only is this industry essential for all Canadian citizens health and well-being, but it also employs 2.1 million people across Canada each year. Canada’s food system is resilient and innovative, sustains our environment and supports our economy. Attend this session to learn more about the Agri-Food industry from professionals in the primary agriculture sector and the career opportunities available to young people.

  1. Gain insights into career opportunities in the Agri-Foods industry.
  2. Learn how to gain job experience in the agriculture sector.
  3. Know where to look to find additional educational opportunities to support career development in the Agri-foods Industry.
Kyle MacLeod
Kyle Macleod is a 3rd generation dairy farmer near embro Ontario at Darcroft Farms. They milk 105 cows in a sand bedded freestall barn built in 2017 and they farm 487 acres. Darcroft Farms is a family run operation that besides having some custom work done, have no outside workers. Kyle is a co host of the HOPcast (the Holstein ontario Podcast). He has been a member of the local holstein club for 12 years and is a director on the Holstein Ontario Branch. Kyle is also a 4-H leader for his local Calf club.

KNicole Avery
Nicole is currently living in Waterloo ON with her husband and enjoys going on coffee dates and volunteering at her church in her spare time. Nicole’s employment at Wallenstein Feed & Supply Ltd. began in 2012 when she started working part-time in customer service while completing high school and college. After completing a Business Marketing program at Conestoga College in 2017, a full-time customer service position became available that was a perfect first step to starting her career at WFS. In 2019, she accepted the role of Broiler Care Coordinator and is enjoying the new challenges and learning opportunities she is faced with as she services Ontario chicken farmers.

Victoria Kuketz
Research Fellow in Democracy |
Public Policy Forum

Shweta Menon
Policy Associate | Public Policy Forum

Experiences of Polarization in our Communities: Home, workplace, and Online Spaces

This is a unique opportunity to make an impact and contribute to the discourse of a more inclusive society in Canada. We are trying to engage youth as future leaders who can share their experiences and opinions on polarization in Canada. Polarization is the “division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.” For instance, it can be seen as a divergence of political views away from the centre.

In this session, we aim to discuss the challenges you face because our society, both online and offline, seems increasingly polarized, where public dialogue is breaking down, online spaces seem increasingly mean-spirited and toxic partisanship is pretty common in our politics and political parties. It is hard to find a middle ground and compromise these days. It looks even more complex with so few people turning out to vote because many are losing trust in our institutions and systems. This can create instability in what we think we know and how we find information. This session aims to develop a better understanding of alienation from the political system, who feels it and to what extent. We’d also like to know whether you feel connected to your community and, more broadly, to Canada. The session will be facilitated in a manner that helps participants understand the issue and share experiences they find relevant to it. Your opinions and experiences are valuable in helping us understand the risks polarization poses to social cohesion, trust and democracy in Canada.

  1. Understanding from discussion and from experiences of peer on how polarization affects the youth in Canada
  2. Contributing to the policy dialogue on how polarization impacts the Canadian democracy
  3. Contributing to the policy dialogue on the risks polarization poses toward social cohesion and trust in Canada
  4. Focus on Diversity and Inclusion via the lens of polarization
Victoria Kuketz
Victoria is a public policy and external relations professional focused on helping solve complex societal issues such as innovation, inclusion and the protection of democracy. She is an established social inclusion leader who is passionate about building, facilitating and co-developing solutions for the advancement of sustainable and equitable systemic change. She has built her career advising on conscious leadership, leading initiatives in public education and democratic engagement, as well as driving strategic initiatives. She has built public-private partnerships at the Public Policy Forum, MaRS Discovery District, Elections Ontario and the Digital Research Alliance of Canada. Victoria is the host of Democracy Dialogues at the Democratic Engagement Exchange and a 2022 Civic Action DiverseCity Fellow. Victoria holds a Master’s degree and an HBA from the University of Toronto.

Shweta Menon
Shweta Menon joined PPF in 2022, before which she completed her Master’s in Public Policy from McGill University. She was awarded a merit-based scholarship for the program. During her Master’s, she did a capstone project with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), wherein she gave recommendations to the federal government on acquisition and preservation strategies for affordable rental housing. Shweta is from India and has worked as a Research Associate for a Member of Parliament, where she has actively contributed in giving suggestions to improve the policies of India. She has extensively dealt with the challenges of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. With over four years of work experience, Shweta has been closely involved with the stakeholders of the policy-making process. Before her stint in the Parliament, she has worked as a journalist for both broadcast and print media. She has travelled the length and breadth of India, covering law and policies with a special focus on the injustices people face due to the inordinate delays in the Justice Delivery System. She has done her under graduation in Chemistry. Shweta hopes to bring her diverse set of experiences in science and her work as a journalist covering law, judiciary, and her learnings about policymaking to PPF. Given the diverse group of projects handled by PPF, she hopes to further expand her breadth of knowledge in different subject areas.

Eligibility criteria for this session: Must be a resident of Canada between the ages 18-35 years

  • This session requires you to pre-register – email will be sent out a week before event to those registered for the conference and registration details will be available there.
  • Capacity for the session is 30 people.

Wendy Quan
Founder |
The Calm Monkey

Simple mindfulness practices for your career growth

Starting and growing your career is challenging, and mindfulness can play a big part in not just ‘getting through it’ but also thriving through it. In this session, learn what mindfulness really is (it’s often misunderstood), and super helpful, practical strategies for stress management, well-being and mental preparedness. This will be an experiential session, and you will come away with some easy mindfulness techniques that you can use at work or anytime.

  1. Learn what mindfulness is and isn’t, and the proven benefits.
  2. Learn techniques for your own well-being and mental preparedness.
  3. Learn techniques for dealing with difficult situations.

Wendy Quan is the Founder of The Calm Monkey, and an expert and trainer in workplace mindfulness.  She trains individuals, organizations and mindfulness facilitators worldwide.  Wendy has an extensive management background in human resources, information technology, organizational development and change management, and deeply understands how mindfulness can create a better experience of life and at work.    She is the expert for the course ‘Mindfulness for the Workplace’ on The Great Courses, Wondrium and  See it here:  Wendy’s clients have included Google, the U.S. National Park Service, University of British Columbia, and Genentech, and over 400 mindfulness facilitators trained around the world.  See Wendy’s website with additional resources at:

Samantha Timbers
Lead Facilitator |
Simcoe Muskoka Workforce Development Board and Literacy Network

How perspective can affect your communication

How do our unique perspectives affect our communication? Sometimes we have great communication and find conversations easy to understand, effective, and enjoyable other times we might be mildly irritated with communication interactions, and other times we might be downright offended. It is important to understand how our perspective and how we process information affect our responses and how we view our conversations with others.

  1. Understand how information is filtered through our beliefs
  2. How perspective can change the outcome of a conversation
  3. Learn a communication technique to help your memory

How do our unique perspectives affect our communication? Sometimes we have great communication and find conversations easy to understand, effective, and enjoyable other times we might be mildly irritated with communication interactions, and other times we might be downright offended.  It is important to understand how our perspective and how we process information affect our responses and how we view our conversations with others.

Jared Ong
Workers Action Centre |
Community Organizer

Know (and fight for!) Your Rights at Work

Jared is an organizer and case worker with the Workers Action Centre. He empowers workers with the tools and community to stand up against bad bosses and protect themselves at work. But he also knows that systemic changes must happen Ontario wide to raise the bar for all our workers because our minimum labour standards are not enough.

  1. Understand that all workers are protected by minimum standards under the Ontario Employment Standards Act
  2. Learn the steps needed to protect themselves from bad bosses
  3. Build confidence in their power to fight for change in their workplace and in Ontario

Jared is an organizer and case worker with the Workers Action Centre. He empowers workers with the tools and community to stand up against bad bosses and protect themselves at work. But he also knows that systemic changes must happen Ontario wide to raise the bar for all our workers because our minimum labour standards are not enough.

Terence D’Souza
Young Ontarians United |

Katelyn Wang
Young Ontarians United |

Bringing our Issues to the Table: A How-To Guide on Advocacy

Advocacy can sometimes feel like a complicated foreign concept for us young people. It may seem beyond our grasp. However, it is an effective way for our generation to build an inclusive and prosperous future, one that works for us. And the best part – everyone can do it. This session is meant for young people of all stripes who want to learn how to foster our changemaking skills and advocate for what matters to us.

  1. Operationalizing how to start an advocacy project
  2. Identify challenges within advocacy and how to overcome them
  3. Empowering attendees to realize their own potential for advocacy and how to leverage their skills for advocacy outcomes

Terence D’Souza is a systems thinker based in the GTA — passionate about how young Canadians can meaningfully engage in and transform democracy. He is the co-founder of Young Ontarians United, a fully youth-led research group that amplifies young Ontarians’ voices. He also serves as a board member for Apathy is Boring, an organization that supports youth to be active citizens in Canada’s democracy. He is also a member of the global ChangemakerXchange Community. He has worked for the federal government in diverse policy and public affairs roles – including Global Affairs Canada, Rideau Hall (serving Her Excellency Mary Simon); the Privy Council Office and more. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Ottawa. Terence has supported initiatives on community-development and equitable education and employment, with organizations like Taking IT Global, the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity, Together|Ensemble, YouthREX, First Work and more. Learn more here:

Katelyn Wang is a 1st year medical student at the University of Ottawa, and previously studied at the University of Toronto, as a National Scholar. She is the Co-Founder of Young Ontarians United (@youngontarians), an organization committed to bridging the gap between policymakers and youth through equitable research, advocacy, and knowledge translation. In March 2021, she represented Canadian youth at the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on the Young Diplomats of Canada Delegation. Passionate about accessible and culturally safe healthcare, education, and youth empowerment, she is excited to continue her community work as she studies medicine.

Ryan Hooey
CNIB | Program Lead Come To Work

Rob Cramer
CNIB Guide Dogs | Guide Dog
Mobility Instructor

Emily Greenham
CNIB Guide Dogs | Certified
Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Career Exploration Session: Training A Handler and Guide Dog

Learn about exciting careers in the guide dog field of work. Hear from a panel of experienced CNIB staff, including Guide Dog Mobility Instructors (GDMI) and Guide Dog Trainers (GDT) on their day-to-day work life. Find out about the qualifications and training that they had to endure to become certified.  Also, learn what motivated them to pursue a career working with handlers, experienced or not and their guide dogs. Join us to hear what the life of a future guide dog puppy might look like. Learn how all the CNIB Guide Dog staff love their work just as much as the guide dogs love guiding their handlers safely.

  1. To showcase our fantastic staff and the certifications required and where you can obtain them
  2. Learn that it takes a village to train a guide dog
  3. How scarce and needed these positions are. Very difficult to get hired as one.
Ryan Hooey
A guide dog handler who has worked at CNIB for the past 5 years. After graduating with degrees in Marketing/ Public Relations and Sociology and a diploma in Volunteer management and Coordination, Ryan now assists others who are living with vision impairments prepare themselves for the world of work. Through advocacy programs, such as the guide dog rights in the workplace campaign, assistive technology programs and many more the Come To Work department works along side its talent pool members from coast to coast. Teaming up with the CNIB Guide Dogs Program we are offering advocacy support to those talent pool members who are guide dog handlers and providing informational sessions such as this one to bring awareness to working in the guide dog field.

Rob Cramer
Rob is a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor with CNIB Guide Dogs. He began his career in 2008 as a Kennel Attendant at Guide Dogs Queensland in Australia. He progressed to the role of Senior Guide Dog Trainer before starting his own dog training business in 2014, where he focused on helping pet owners with their reactive dogs. He also did consultancy work with the state government related to canine enrichment, behaviour modification and welfare in an adoption program for retired Greyhounds. He returned to the Guide Dog industry in 2016 at Vision Australia, working as a Puppy Development Supervisor and Trainer before commencing the Guide Dog Mobility Instructor apprenticeship. Rob returned to his homeland of Canada in 2018 to join a growing team at CNIB Guide Dogs. Rob is an avid dog lover, participating in scent detection training with his pet dog, but his primary passion is in teaching and empowering members of the blind and partially sighted community.

Emily Greenham
Emily Is an Apprentice Guide Dog trainer as well as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist with CNIB Guide Dogs. Emily started her career in 2001, working for CNIB as an Orientation and mobility specialist, assisting those with vision loss, regain a sense of independent and safe travel. Emily worked as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist for 20 years before joining the CNIB guide Dog’s team in 2021 as an Apprentice Guide Dog Trainer. Emily currently spends her time training future guide dogs at the CNIB Canine Campus which is proving to be her dream job. It is Emily’s passion to assist those living with vision loss, to be able travel as safely and independently as possible throughout their community.