Phenomenal women among Brampton's Top 40 Under 40
July 5, 2018
Out of work and at wit’s end, Danielle Dowdy had just finished praying for divine intervention when a phone call quelled the unpleasant feeling and drastically changed her life.
Sandra Carnegie-Douglas, then the president of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), had seen a job advertisement for a program co-ordinator for the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) was about to launch in the summer of 2006 and thought Dowdy would be the ideal fit for the position.
“I talked to God that morning and told him I wanted to do something that has meaning to me,” said Dowdy who has an undergraduate degree in economics and a public administration & leadership certificate. “Minutes later, Sandra called saying she thought of me when she saw the ad and that she knew I would be good for the role. I had done a lot of volunteering at the JCA while I was unemployed, so she knew what I was capable of.”
Dowdy was a bilingual customer logistics & financial co-ordinator at Proctor & Gamble for 25 months before leaving in September 2005.
“I am more of a community person and not someone who will flourish in the private sector,” she said. “I wanted to find something more in line with where my heart is.”
Keith Forde, then the TPS deputy chief in charge of the human resources command, interviewed Dowdy for the position.
“I was looking for someone that could relate to young people,” said Forde who retired in 2010 after 38 years with Canada’s largest police service. “It was evident right away that Danielle has a passion for working with youths. I could feel it. She is also very bright, she thinks outside the box and she has a lot of innovative ideas. I was so impressed with her in that first meeting.”
Six months into the job, Dowdy approached Forde with a very direct question.
“She asked what I saw in her that no other employer saw,” Forde recounted. “She also mentioned that working with youths to make a difference in their lives is exactly what she wanted. She brings so much to the table that makes her an asset to any organization.”
An analyst with the TPS Business Intelligence Unit since May 2017, Dowdy was seconded last October to the Independent Street Checks Review team as a senior strategic initiatives lead.
Ontario Court of Appeal judge Michael Tulloch leads the review.
“Danielle is one of the bright lights within our community who is civically engaged and socially conscious,” he pointed out. “She has brought a youthful perspective to my team which has enabled me to gain a clearer insight as to how some of the issues that I have been reviewing impact youth stakeholders.”
A Brampton resident since 2009, Dowdy made this year’s list of the city’s Top 40 Under 40 who were honoured at a reception on June 20.
JCA president Adaoma Patterson, who was the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the 2015 federal elections, attended the event to support Dowdy who worked on her campaign.
“Danielle is unassuming, but impactful,” she said. “She’s constantly looking for ways to raise the voice and profile of the Black community. She’s truly community-oriented.”
Dowdy, who sits on the Peel District School Board’s Black Parent Involvement Committee, moved from Oshawa three days before her wedding nine years ago.
“It’s awesome to be recognized in a region that’s so big and diverse,” said the married mother of two young children. “It’s nice because community work can be thankless sometimes.”
A total of 15 per cent of the honourees were Black, all women.
Shauna-Kay Jones and Chris-Beth Cowie met on the last day of school in Grade Nine at North Park High. They migrated from Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago respectively in 2002.
“Everyone kept telling me that there is this amazing girl who is just like me,” said Jones. “They were right and we have been close ever since.”
While pursuing an undergraduate degree in legal & business studies at the University of Waterloo, she worked as a computer technician to make ends meet.
“That started my fixation with technology and my desire to create something from scratch,” added Jones who is a business system analyst at PointClickCare whose cloud-based software enables a coordinated and collaborative approach to senior care. “That’s when I decided to go into software development and network engineering.”
While trying to help her autistic brother apply to university two years ago, she ran into a roadblock.
“It was just a challenge trying to figure out which schools would give him the support he needed and if he would be able to have an independent life,” Jones, the Sheridan College Faculty of Applied Science & Technology 2016 valedictorian, added. “I started to look at what tools and technologies were out there to assist him and there was really none. That’s when I decided to build something on my own to do that.”
In September 2016, Jones started ‘Motify Learn’ that’s an application designed to assist individuals on the autism spectrum.
Almost a year later, Cowie – a social entrepreneur -- joined the company as a business development lead.
“We are sisters for life,” said Cowie who graduated six years ago from the University of Guelph with an honours degree in international development and is as a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program director and a motivational speaker & facilitator. “There were teachers at North Park that inspired us to be great and I am so happy that we are here together being celebrated at the same time on this platform.”
Jamaican-born Dwania Peele attended Liguanea’s Unity Preparatory School where the motto is, ‘Only the best is good enough’.
She has embraced that aphorism for most of her life.
“I only know how to do the best,” said Peele who spent six years in New York before migrating to the Greater Toronto Area two decades ago.
The holder of chemistry and political science degrees from the University of Windsor, Peele started Canadian Small Business Women, a website and blog that aims to provide aspiring small businesswomen with resources required to start a business
“It is also a space where they can get useful advice from experts in various fields related to small businesses,” she added.
Peele, who also owns Tiny Delights Cupcakes and Pies Inc., dedicated the honour to her mother -- Susan McLarty -- who was unable to attend the celebration.
“Mom couldn’t be here tonight because she’s caring for my little nephew,” she said. “She is the best mom I could ask for and she is always there at events I go to.”
After giving birth to her third and last child in 2016, Aly Tyghter founded ‘Mommy Connections’ that provides Brampton mothers with programs and services that are offered in their community.
“Our classes offer a unique learning opportunity and a fun way to bond with our children and other moms in a social environment,” said Tyghter who has a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and a public relations diploma from Humber College. “It helps reduce the isolation that some moms feel. They come out for eight weeks and get to hear from presenters, they engage in fun activities and interact with each other while learning more about Brampton and what is available for them to access.”
Being honoured by the city she was raised in is quite an honour for the Peel District School Board educator and blogger.
“Brampton is so unique because even though it’s a big city, it has been able to retain that small town charm,” Tyghter added. “You are, in a sense, getting the best of both worlds and that’s why I love this city so much.”
Shortly after leaving Jamaica 15 years ago, Kimberlee Shelley joined New Life Kingdom Ministries in Brampton where she has risen to become the praise and worship leader and a member of the board of directors.
“To be recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 in this city is so humbling,” said the 2017 Brampton Black Canadian Queen. “I am truly grateful and will always represent this place to the best of my ability.”
Shelley manages a midsize recruitment firm in Brampton and is a pro bono paralegal.