New cohort of DiverseCity Fellows eager to effect change
February 19, 2017
Nearly two decades after their first meeting as volunteers on a community arts project, Stefany Hanson and Emily Mills are reunited as emerging leaders poised to take action on issues critical to the health and prosperity of Toronto.
They are among 25 members of the new cohort of DiverseCity Fellows who have already significantly impacted communities across the Greater Toronto Area.
Hanson and Mills crossed paths for the first time through visual artist Ato Seito who was organizing an awards program for young people in the city.
“We were volunteering to help the program happen,” Mills recalls. “It was reassuring to see someone like Stefany again in such a key setting. It’s good to see her being acknowledged for the work I know she’s really doing to take her leadership to the next level.”
Since November 2014, Hanson has been the manager of the United Way of Greater Toronto Youth Challenge Fund & Youth Initiatives.
She’s excited to be among a group of young leaders who are have already made their mark in the city.
“The program is a phenomenal investment to further the leadership potential of our diverse region,” said Hanson who has a Master’s in public policy administration & law from York University and was a health promoter at Bramalea Community Health Centre for four years prior to joining United Way. “It fosters robust leadership development informing and catalyzing impactful change. For me, this is recognition for the need for all types of leadership and it really honours the knowledge, expertise and capacity that we have to make our city great and better.”
Now in its eighth year, this free year-long program exposes participants to important regional issues, provides opportunities for personal leadership development and helps them develop a strong network of civic-minded peers across sectors. It also offers access to the region’s top influencers and a unique platform for community-focused action.
The program comprises four integrated streams of activities – interactive learning sessions, network connections, a mentoring relationship and city-building projects.
“Through this platform, I hope I can inspire other Black women in this city to embrace leadership and to understand that it is not about your title or your position,” said Mills who holds journalism and music degrees from Ryerson University and York University respectively and is featured in the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education 2016-17 advertising campaign. “It’s is about your commitment to making a difference in the city. I am now among a great group of people who have not only big resumes, but humility and passion. I just can’t wait to build with this group.”
She completed three public relations courses before securing full-time employment six years ago as a senior communications officer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) communications, marketing & brand team.
A past assistant diversity producer at CTV News, supporting the network's efforts to better reflect the diversity of Toronto by broadcasting stories about people of various ethnicities, faiths, abilities and sexual identities, Mills was also a media relations and communications specialist for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), an organization that works to better include skilled immigrants into the local labour market.
Shortly after completing high school in 1999 at Northern Secondary and receiving an Eva Smith bursary, she established a scholarship at her alma mater in the name of the late community worker who passed away 24 years ago.
In May 2010, Mills started a women’s organisation, ‘How She Hustles’, which is a space for Black and diverse women to network.
Almost 5,000 women are connected to the network through social media and special events and she plans to use the DiverseCity Fellow platform to showcase some of these female leaders.
“In addition to wanting to inspire other young women to aspire to be leaders, I really want to see how I can tap into my women’s network,” Mills said. “A lot of women are connected to me on social media who are leaders in their own right and people don’t necessarily see their leadership potential and the impact they are making. I am hoping to open the door and shine a light on the women I know.”
To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, Mills – a married mother of two children -- will launch a digital photo series shortly of 150 Black women in Toronto titled, ‘Herstory in Back’.
Past DiverseCity Fellows hold senior executive positions in top performing companies, have started their own businesses and are in senior-level government and political roles.
“This program creates space for exceptional people from different backgrounds to be exposed to new city-building perspectives, build meaningful and lasting relationships with diverse peers and ultimately become better allies and authentic champions for inclusivity,” said CivicAction chief executive officer Sevaun Palvetzian.
Comprising a coalition of civic leaders dedicated to addressing challenges confronting the city’s economic and social future, CivicAction offers a suite of programs including DiverseCity Fellows and the Emerging Leaders Network.