To local entrepreneur and business owner, Kat Pasquach, authenticity is important.
In 2006, Kat started her business, Culture Shock Jewelry, an Indigenous owned and family operated handcrafted business that strives to create amazing jewelry and crafts that the community will love.
Before starting her business, owner and creator Kat lost one side to her favourite pair of earrings and besides looking to get a replace from a local jewelry store, she took it into her own hands.
“I was eager to replace it,” she shares. “I walked into a bead shop I went to a lot as a child with my family and there was no turning back.”
With Culture Shock Jewelry being a family operated business, Kat explained that her grandmother used to be the primary moccasin maker for them, but she is no longer able to sew.
“My mother and sister do beadwork and we would normally spend summers together attending pow wows and festivals to sell our work,” she shares. “My 7-year-old niece has also been a fun part of the journey as she has been making beaded necklaces – and she is probably the cutest salesperson you have ever seen.”
Offering authentic Indigenous crafts like moccasins in addition to jewelry, Kat also does a lot of work for the Indigenous community in Windsor.
“In addition to my business, I also work for the University of Windsor at the Aboriginal Education Centre,” she explains. “My role is doing outreach and retention with Indigenous students; it has been a really fulfilling part of my life – being able to work with my community and support Indigenous learners.”
Kat shared that her piece of advice to any entrepreneur trying to make their way in the world is to not compare their success to anyone else’s.
“We all have our journey and timelines – keep your eye on your own goals and you will get there,” she says. “Often, we focus too much on what others are doing or how they are doing things and that will only detract you from your own path.”
Founder and creator of Glam by Lexx Hair Extension, Lexy Delicata, is a force to be reckoned with in the hair industry in Windsor.
Since a young age, Delicata has always been compelled to be involved in the beauty industry and knew becoming a hair stylist was a natural fit for her. At 18, Delicata completed her education at St. Clair College then immediately jumped into her first job in the industry by working at a local salon.
“I grew up always having a passion for the beauty world and being able to express myself through my creative side,” she shares. “I wanted to be apart of making girls feel more confident and helping them express themselves through their hair.”
However, once Delicata built up her clientele, she started to realize the building frustration many girls were having with their hair and their extensions.
“I was having young girls come into the salon that I worked on and I was realizing how frustrated they were getting with their hair,” she shares. “A lot of them would order products online for their hair and they would also order extensions and I came to the realization that it wasn’t something anyone should be putting in their hair, it was more or so damaging their hair.”
That is when Delicata began her research into how she could provide her clientele with high quality extensions that wouldn’t cause damage.
“My mom and I just started doing our research,” she explains. “We looked into how we could provide girls with good quality extensions that would maintain their hair.”
Since August of 2019, Delicata started up her own extension line and as of this year, she has started her own home business in Lasalle.
“It feels very accomplishing to be able to have my own business only 3 years in this industry,” she says. “It motivates me to keep working hard to reach my ultimate goal of expanding and growing my brand.”
When asked what empowers her, Delicata shared that she knew when she got into the business, she wanted to give it her all.
“I wanted to create a name for myself,” she shares. “It’s thrilling for me to make people feel more confident about themselves by doing their hair the way they imagined it.”
To check out more on Lexy’s business, check out her website.
Nobody can inspire us as great as teachers can. They seem to come along at just the right moment and teach us things about ourselves that we could never see. They see potential in us that others, including ourselves, can’t or won’t see.
For many, this is the impact that Belle River District High School English Teacher (BRDHS), Christine Marentette has had on many of her students for the past two decades.
Marentette, whose been a teacher at BRDHS since 2000 has done many things in her teaching career, but one of the things that sticks out most is her influence on her students.
“It is the most rewarding yet undervalued career, she shares. “I love seeing my students years later thank me for treating them as people or caring about their lives not just schoolwork.”
Being the only one in her dad’s family to graduate high school then move onto University, Marentette studied a Bachelor of Art’s in English then continued her education onto Teacher’s College at the University of Windsor.
“I always said from the time I was little that I was going to be a teacher,” she says. “Knowing that I’m providing a good example of hard work and determination keeps me going and also the fact that I broke barriers of the old school mentality where I should do this or that as a female, motivated me.”
In March of 2019, Marentette was experiencing swollen glands which encouraged her to visit the walk-in clinic in Lakeshore for a check up.
“It was so scary getting the call back after the examination and hearing, we found a mass in your neck,” she explains. “Luckily, it wasn’t the C word, but the surgery was to remove a tumour in my neck they thought it was a carotid body tumour but once they opened me up, they saw it was way worse.”
During surgery, doctors came to the realization she had a Schwannoma tumour that grows on her nerves.
“I’m very sad that I sustained permanent damage as a result of surgery,” she shares. “My right vocal cord is permanently paralyzed; my voice was like my trademark I could literally yell and every kid in the halls would stop.”
Despite going through that, Marentette is set to return to work in January of the new year.
“I think what happened made me stronger,” she says. “The scar is huge, makes for a great icebreaker with new students, they always try and guess what happened.”
Through all her challenges this last year, Marentette’s strength and courage is something to admire. The lasting impact that a teacher has on their students is something that will stay with that student years later. As a former student of her’s, I can say one thing, she showed me that whatever challenge and situation you are facing, to always persevere through it all. No challenge or situation is big enough to rule your life, if it were not for the impact, she had on me, my mentality and drive would be different today.
Finding Strength In The Hard Times With Katelin Dupuis
Bodybuilder and Psychotherapist Assistant, Katelin Dupuis wants other females to know that pushing yourself and focusing on what helps you is an important aspect of inner growth.
Since a young age, Dupuis’s love for sports and inner achievement started when she came to the realization that she was obsessed with sports.
“I used to play softball and soccer very competitively,” Dupuis explains. “In High School I trained for sports but once I realized how much the gym had helped me over the years, I got more and more into it.”
Always knowing she wanted to be involved in competitive bodybuilding, she lifted weights off and on but never really dedicated herself to the idea till about two years.
“I hit rock bottom and I knew I had to do something for myself,” Dupuis shares. “I was engaged and in a relationship for two years when I found out he was unfaithful to me.”
Dupuis explained that she felt like she lost everything and felt like she couldn’t talk to her family and friends during that point in her life. After experiencing a hectic year mentally, she decided it was time to take her life into her own hands and make the moves she needed to make, to heal.
“Lifting has saved my life,” Dupuis says. “I really find it fun and it was more of a mandatory thing for my anxiety to help regulate everything so that I didn’t have to be medicated.”
Society often has a particular image of how females should look and being shredded with muscles, usually isn’t one of the things included on the list. To Dupuis though, it is the feeling she gets when lifting weights that empowers her. “Don't be afraid to do it,” she shares. “It's really important as a female athlete that we are supportive of each other and if you feel like you could do a competition or even want to do a prep without doing a competition, then do it.”
Last year, she entered her first show in Brampton, where she won for first in true novice, novice and overall, for Women’s Natural Physique.
Dupuis road to success is just starting and she is not done yet, her advice to anyone who is wanting to pursue this path is that consistency and trust is huge. “If your going into it hating your body your going to have a hard time appreciating all the work put into it,” Dupuis says. “The more you’re consistent the less your body goes into survival mode the less storage of fat.”
The Switch Up with Josie Murphy
Public Relations wiz, owner of 3 Girls and A Paint Brush, Digital Marketer, Photographer and Singer, Josie Murphy likes to keep a busy schedule day by day. Born and raised in Brampton, Murphy went to high school for the international business and technology program. “The program revolved around business management and computer proficiency,” Murphy said. “They required us to have our own laptops which was pretty cool for 2007, and we were trained to be proficient in Microsoft Office and the Adobe Suite among other things.”
Murphy next attended an arts school called Mayfield Secondary School followed by Peel Alternative.
“I ended up moving out when I was 16 because I was that cliché angsty, know-it-all teenager,” Murphy stated. “I switched high schools twice in order to find one catered to non-traditional students, while still ensuring a quality education. Even though I was a young mother, University was always on my mind.”
After graduating from high school and giving birth to her only son Laif, Murphy moved to Windsor in 2011 and started her Honours Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Windsor. “I originally came here to pursue social work,” Murphy shared. “Midway through my first year, I ended up switching to a double major in Psychology with Thesis and Philosophy and I completed my studies in 2015.” After being on the hunt for a job in academia and not being able to find much locally in her field of study, Murphy jumped into the Public Relations Program at St. Clair College.
“That program pushed me to explore the creative side of myself and it ended up showing me what I was passionate about,” Murphy shared. “The opportunities I was given to network with various industry professionals was the best part of the PR program. All the jobs I've held since attending have been due to the connections I made while in Public Relations.”
Since graduating the program in 2019, Murphy keeps a packed schedule. Currently, she’s the Digital Marketer and Photographer for Performance Ford/ Lincoln of Windsor, alongside doing interior home renovation projects with her business 3 Girls and A Paint Brush and having an online presence with her music.
“I started pursing music serious about a month ago,” Murphy explained. “I began writing music when the quarantine started as a way to deal with anxiety and depression.” With it all, Murphy has created and established her name in Windsor and hopes to do more in the upcoming future. “You can never put all your eggs in one basket,” Murphy said. “At any point, a door of opportunity could close, so you always need to have back up plans ready to go.”
With some people calling her the networking queen of Windsor, Theresa Reaume is fully dedicated to her business that has successfully led her down the path she is on today.
Owner of Successful Image Client Relations Management, Reaume has been helping businesses build relationships since 1999 with their personalized client relations management system and have clients across Canada.
“It was an idea I kind of had in the back of my head for some years,” Reaume explained. “What we do on the salesperson’s behalf is send out their thank you cards, birthday cards, Christmas cards, whatever type they want and it’s all first class mail and appears to all be their effort."
Before creating her successful business, Reaume worked at Chryslers but within that time, decided to take a leap of faith and quit her job there to pursue her own passion.
“It’s scarier sitting on the fence then taking that leap of faith and committing to the business. You’ve made a promise to yourself to make it work,” Reaume shared. “It’s your focus now and when you make that shift, you have to believe you can do it, there is no looking back.”
Reaume explained that if she never decided to take that next step in her life, she probably would have never done it. “I thought this is my chance, if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it,” Reaume said. “You just know, you know yourself, you know that if you make that commitment, you’ll do it, and it was just time.”
On top of it all, Theresa also received the Woman of the Year Award through LEA (Ladies Exclusive Alliance) for her professionalism, mentoring and community involvement. She was also a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year through the Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.
When asked what empowers her, Reaume had this to say. “I really like that I am setting a good example for my daughters to follow their passions and my dog Mia keeps me grounded. I also really like that I’m making people smile,” Reaume shared. “I know that may sound corny, but I really like that I’m able to make someone else’s day."
Finding your passion with Liz Pettapiece-Phillips
From Associate Director to Project Manager to College Instructor, all-around wonder woman, Liz Pettapiece-Phillips' resume is nothing short of extraordinary.
“If anyone had told me as a young girl growing up in the small town of Manitouwadge, Northern Ontario that I could have such an interesting and varied career I probably wouldn’t have believed them.”
A degree in Communication Studies from the University of Windsor and a passion for working in broadcasting lead to a 36-year career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto.
In the mid 1980’s, Pettapiece-Phillips landed a job as an Associate Director for CBC’s flagship newscast, The National and instantly felt at home contributing to a high performing team; building close relationships, and being apart of a community that inspired her.
That role lead Pettapiece-Phillips to developing a news associate director training program. “I really enjoyed helping colleagues who were working toward that career. Years later, I am still connected to many of these former students and am excited by their success,” Pettapiece shared.
Certified in Project Management, Pettapiece-Phillips also worked as a Project Manager organizing crew, facility, and broadcast requirements for many productions including Dragons’ Den, the Fifth Estate, Marketplace, Canada Day and other large scale live productions, like The Tragically Hip’s final concert.
“I was incredibly lucky to be working alongside industry professionals and on-air talent.”
Pettapiece-Phillips was also involved in CBC’s pilot mentoring program. This led to a volunteer position with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
Pettapiece-Phillips returned to Windsor in January 2017 to work as a part time instructor at St. Clair College’s Mediaplex.
“The best thing about being an instructor, is seeing young people excited to achieve,” Pettapiece-Phillips shared.
“Whether it's mentoring students or new immigrants, being part of a family, a church community, a volunteer organization or a circle of close friends, I am motivated by the positive interactions that are a product of these relationships,” Pettapiece Phillips says. “And getting to meet and learn about other people is also one of the reasons I’m passionate about travelling. I think it's really gratifying to make connections with people.”
Her career advice to young people is the same advice she gave her three daughters when they were young: identify something that combines your strengths and your interests, and you will naturally excel in this work. “As a young person, I hadn’t realized that matching my skill set, strengths and interests could result in a career that I would be passionate about.”
“And whatever career you determine will make you happy, envision yourself in that role as you take the necessary steps to get to it,” Pettapiece-Phillips says. “It often isn't obvious and may take a lot of legwork to get there.” Recently retired from the CBC, Pettapiece-Phillips acknowledges the broadcasting industry has changed dramatically since she started her career, but she thinks now there are more varied occupations and endless opportunities for women.
Shining a light on Brittany Genovese
On Monday, the Hiatus House kicked off their annual Shine the Light Tree Lighting Ceremony honouring survivors of domestic abuse for Women's Abuse Prevention Month.
Due to COVID restrictions, the event happened virtually on The Shine the Light Facebook page and YouTube. The event featured virtual performances and speeches from Theresa Sims, Nokomis Theresa, and Indigenous Culture and Language specialists from Ska, along with this year's two honourees Brittany Genovese and Udona Desjardins. The campaign focused on spreading awareness about women's abuse in Ontario and Windsor's available resources for shelter and help.
Brittany Genovese, honouree, survivor, nurse, and mother of four, described leaving an abuser was like getting off a drug; you must cut yourself off entirely from your abuser.
"It was the day that I dreaded and dreamed of at the same time," Genovese explained. "The anxiety of what people, my friends, my family and my children would think of me and not knowing what would happen next."
Genovese shared that the day she left her abuser, she experienced an unexplainable fear.
"It was gut-wrenching and paralyzing; I was going to start my new life," Genovese said. "Thoughts of fear, guilt and failure ran through my head."
Genovese said that making that first phone call to the Hiatus House was the hardest thing she had to do, but she was thankful she did it.
"Walking through the doors of the Hiatus House was extremely scary; what would it be like, where would my children and I sleep and eat, what other kinds of people would be there," Genovese said. "The Hiatus House was exceptional, 24 hours a day, front line staff was there to counsel me through every emotion; they were there to talk or just sit quietly."
Genovese said the Hiatus House was her saving grace and hoped her words could help someone else going through something similar.
"What I can say to other women going through a similar thing as I did is just do it, stop making excuses," Genovese says. "People don't realize sometimes whose going through this; my abuse was mostly mental and emotional, so I didn't have a lot of bruises, you know it wasn't visible."
Genovese explained that all of her abuse were invisible, even if the bruises and pain go away, the thoughts never go out.
"I still, two years later, am fighting them; I've moved on, and I'm happy in a relationship, I have my children, but something comes up every day and makes me have to stop and think how am I going to get through this today."
Brittany Genovese is one of many stories of violence and abuse towards women. If you know someone who is experiencing violence or abuse, reach out to the Hiatus House or contact their 24/7 help line (519) 252-7781.
Building A Dream With Nour Hachem Fawaz
Since 2014, Nour Hachem Fawaz has continued to build a dream for many young women and girls looking to get into careers that challenge the status quo and push the envelope for women wanting to get into male dominated jobs.
Back in 2012, Nour was working for a non-profit organization called Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor where she helped women on social assistance and women who were unemployed to get into the workforce.
“One day we did an analysis of where our clients were finding employment and a lot of our clients were finding very low paying positions,” Nour explains. “Often I was doing the math with my clients to ensure that the full-time job provided a living wage to afford them the option to get off the system and full-time into the workforce.”
Nour shared that doing that within her job sparked an interest in how she could help her clients find high paying positions and get them into the workforce not just in low paying positions but positions that can lead to long term financial success.
“Windsor-Essex is really known for the manufacturing sector, there’s a lot of skilled trades opportunities,” Nour says. “So, at the time, we hosted a workshop and invited close to 300 of our clients to learn about career pathways and skilled trades and only one of our clients showed up.”
Since then, that pushed Nour to do her research and find out why women on social assistance seeking full-time positions never considered skilled trade positions. Furthermore, why women made up only 3% of skilled trade workers across Canada, yet there was a significant demand.
“We partnered with many stakeholders and beginning asking important questions to help us better understand the barriers and limitations preventing women from accessing these positions.” Nour explains. “At the time, the federal government of Canada launched a proposal that was asking community organizations to come up with ways to help young women reach economic success.”
From there on, Nour and her team launched a project called “We Succeed Beyond The Status Quo”, which looked into what influences the career decision of a young woman and what educators, employers, government and community could do to help young women consider career pathways in male-dominated industries including the Skilled Trades, STEM( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Emergency Response and Entrepreneurship.
“One of our many findings was parents were key influencers in that decision-making process,” Nour shares. “That’s when we launched Build A Dream with our funding partners, The Greater-Essex County District School Board, The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, St. Clair College, University of Windsor and Workforce Windsor Essex as a one-time event, where we invited parents and their daughters.”
The first Build A Dream event included role models sharing their career journeys, companies showcasing the opportunities within their company, college, and universities with hands on experience and within that, the event was a huge success.
“Parents were overwhelmed with how many opportunities were available for their daughters,” Nour says. “We kept hosting it as a grassroots initiative every year at the same time during my role at Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor I had written a provincial grant to secure additional funding to lead a pre-apprenticeship training program to get women trained in the skilled trades. WEST in partnership with St. Clair College received funding to train women in Windsor-Essex in the manufacturing industry. A program that still exists today.”
Nour has travelled across Canada speaking about diversity and inclusion in the workplace and recruiting, attracting, retaining and advancing women in the male-dominated industries.
In 2017, Nour registered Build a Dream as a Not-for-Profit organization with the goal of taking the movement across Canada. The organization has scaled significantly with programs and services that service all stakeholders addressing diversity and inclusion efforts. With her role as the President/Founder of Build A Dream to motherhood to running a growing foundation, Nour’s mission is to spread the word to other young women that they can do anything in their career.
“Having been raised and often told while I was growing up that I couldn’t do things because I was a female or a girl, I often questioned that,” Nour shares. “I didn’t really agree clearly, with what was being told to me so I made it my mission to tell other women that yes you can and I’m going to show you how.”
When asked what empowers Nour daily, she shared that there is just something magical about young women owning their power.
“Young women owning their voice and young women owning their actions,” Nour shares. “Women that believe in their power and their dreams to achieve their goals and to just be able to watch that unfold, watching them install their confidence and evolve, I just think that is what ultimately empowers me every day.”
Reaching new heights with Carolina Wagner
Soon to be momma, Carolina Wagner has been committed and motivated to reaching new heights in her and her husband’s business every day.
Twelve years ago, Wagner and her husband Jonathan launched Scribble Maps. This online platform allows a user to quickly and easily draw, annotate and perform analysis on a map and share that map with others.
“We’ve been able to have a great relationship with Google Maps over the past 12 years now,” Wagner shares. “Initially, where we got a lot of our traction from was teachers and educators online, and then the Google Maps team picked us up and posted about us on their development blog.”
Wagner shares that throughout the last few years, they have been able to evolve and expand their skillsets on the platform to grow an audience of over 200,000 users a month.
“We both grew up here in Windsor, and a great deal of the development came from here; in fact, the idea of Scribble Maps came while we were both living here in Windsor back in 2009,” Wagner explains.
Before Scribble Maps took off, Wagner completed her education in The Visual Arts Program at The University of Windsor with her hopes and her dreams back in the day to work for a company as big as Pixar.
“I went to art school, and the joke in art school is we better pick out our favourite cardboard box because that’s where we are going to be living afterwards,” Wagner joked. “I ended up continuing my education and going into Animation at Sheridan College, and after finishing, I ended up working in animation in Toronto.”
Wagner said that from 2012 to 2015, she was able to work on a lot of fun television shows, including Paw Patrol.
“That was a really eye-opening and great experience for me to learn about,” Wagner shares. “From there, I worked on two other 2D animation shows for the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, and it was an exciting time in my life.”
Wagner said that it is interesting that she went to art school, film school and animation school because it fits very nicely into the business she and her husband have today.
“It’s been a long haul for us,” Wagner explains. “Every customer that we put on is hard-earned, and we are appreciative, and we live and die by the feedback.”
Make-Up Artist, Reiki Practitioner, Singer and one positive chick, Kelly Spinarsky's main goal is to make others feel beautiful while going down her own personal journey of self development. Specializing in mobile make-up application for weddings, home parties, film and TV, editorial, theatre, engagement, boudoir and more, Spinarsky completed her education in Makeup Art in 2004 at The School Of Makeup Art in Toronto.
“Lasted about a year, it was very expensive to live in Toronto and I ended up moving back to Windsor after that,” Spinarsky shared. “I loved colour in general, that’s why I decided to pursue makeup artistry and I always wanted to be in a film one day, so I thought if I snuck behind the scenes doing makeup, maybe I’d get into it somehow.”
After completing her education, she started gaining clients and began doing makeup for a multiple amount of different clientele, while giving a different type of makeup consultant to her clients.
“With my makeup artistry, I also offer what’s called a selenite aura cleanse and all it is, is running a selenite wand that will emit a frequency that can shift your aura,” Spinarsky explained. “If I run it through your energy and say you're anxiety prone, it will elevate you out of it.”
Spinarsky explained that while working with her clients, if they are anxious it really helps them feel more grounded and present.
“That’s part of my makeup experience,” Spinarsky shared. “It opens my clients' minds to going "Oh, what is this?" and "Wow, that's pretty cool." In her Reiki sessions, she likes to focus on emotional well-being. "It’s important to recognize that you can sometimes hold your emotion in different parts of your body, so if you’re anxious, for example, there are ways to help you shift and let them go.”
In 2016, Spinarsky became more open about her spirituality after going to a couple of classes in Windsor through a company called Truthful Healing. It allowed her to open a new side of herself.
“I think the reason why I shifted and started to get into spirituality is because I knew I was supposed to be talking about it more,” Spinarsky said. “I’m still working on it; I know that doing this allows me to understand the inner weaving of my life and being in the moment.”
Spinarsky explained that within her business and within her day to day, inner and outer beauty is most important to her. “Those two things go hand in hand because what's going on inside reflects outside and what's going on outside of us affects us inwardly,” Spinarsky shared. “Empowerment is stepping into your own momentum of your inner and outer vibes of self expression and self love and gratitude.”
Getting Connected with Nichole Howson
Photos by: Heather Brooks Photography
This social media expert has taken Windsor by storm with her creative and compelling media ideas and her journey of how she got where she is today.
When 20-year-old Nichole Howson was waiting eagerly for her semester at St. Clair College to start, she decided to put an ad on Kijiji for social media management. She ended up getting her first client in the first three weeks after the ad was posted.
"It was one of those moments where it was like, wait, did that just really work out the way it did," Howson shared. "I finished my schooling for Business and Marketing, and by the time I graduated, I had enough clients that it didn't make sense for me to get a traditional 9 to 5 job somewhere."
Just like that, in 2014, Howson was in the field of helping businesses of all sizes achieve their online marketing goals with her business, AIM Social Media Marketing.
At AIM, they create a plan with innovative marketing strategies to resonate with today's consumers but recently just added services in the last three months working with other social media managers and helping them with their online presence.
"Every client looks a little bit different but helping manage their online presence is our top priority," Howson explained.
With her business's success, Howson finds that learning about self-care has helped her a lot throughout her busy days.
"We talk about self-care all the time, and honestly up until two years ago, I used to roll my eyes whenever someone talked about self-care, because I'm like, I don't want to take a bubble bath," Howson explained. "I just didn't understand what that looked like and how it can look different for every single person."
Howson, who was hospitalized last year for being suicidal, explained one of the main rules she learned before leaving the hospital is that she was not allowed to work after 6 p.m.
"I was waking up early and staying up until one or two in the morning, and I was burning myself out," Howson shared. "It just wasn't healthy, and that was one of the rules that needed to be set in place for me, and honestly it was one of the best things I've done, it's a good practice for anyone that's in business; it's ok to take time for yourself."
For more information on AIM Social Media Marketing, head on over to their website aimsmmarketing.com for more information.
Spreading Kindness with Veronique Perrier Mandal
For this long and celebrated journalist, Veronique Perrier Mandal’s primary goal is to spread kindness wherever she goes.
Born in Buchans, Newfoundland, Mandal grew up always writing poetry, plays and continuously reading.
“When I was 11, I use to go to the library every Friday and bring back four books and take four books, Mandal shared. “One day, the librarian said to me, so what you want to be when you grow up, and I said I got a list.”
Mandal explained that when she showed the list, the librarian told her that most people do not achieve all their career goals, but that they usually only go for one thing that is listed.
“Everything that was listed I wanted to be when I grew up, and I will tell you I have been ticking off that long list ever since.”
At 16, Mandal moved out of Newfoundland to get an education in Psychology and English, then shortly after that, started working at a theatre in England. When her five-year Visa became expired, some of her friends suggested that she try out nursing school in Manchester with them.
“I talked to the government and asked if I went to nursing school, would that count, and they told me they always need nurses,” Mandal explained. Mandal completed her nursing education within four years and worked in the field for a couple of years in England and Ottawa before moving to Windsor.
“Within that time, I completed my master’s in Journalism and an MBA.”
Starting her journalism journey in radio at CBC Windsor, writing at the Windsor Star and then writing for the National Post, Mandal’s resume is nothing short of extraordinary. With her success in radio, newspapers, and magazines, she has won dozens of provincial, national, and international awards for her work, while also being an accomplished author.
“While I was working at The Windsor Star and in television, that’s when I got the call from St. Clair College, and they offered me a teaching position,” Mandal explained.
In 2010, Mandal became coordinator of the Journalism and Public Relations Program at St Clair College’s Media Plex in downtown Windsor. “I’ve learned a lot in my ten years of being the coordinator,” Mandal shared. “I don’t think there has ever been a day where I haven’t learned something about myself and others.”
Mandal shared that she finds kindness makes anything possible.
“Even when you have to impart not the best news, if you do it with kindness and you think it through before telling that person that news, everything will be ok.”
When asked what empowers her, Mandal said this: “My spirituality and my faith, I know that whatever God has in store for me, everything will be fine cause that’s what my destiny is for me.”
To check out some of Mandal’s books, click the links below-
As an avid historian, author and educator, Irene Moore Davis has contributed to her community in multiple ways.
Born and raised in Windsor, Davis is the Manager of Continuing Education for St. Clair College, an English and History teacher, and President of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society.
In a recent interview, she said that her family’s commitment to celebrating history sparked her interest in it from an early age.
“My mom was a founding board member at what’s now the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, and my grandmother had such a love for Black history and for recounting the Underground Railroad stories in particular,” Davis shared. “We spent countless evenings looking through historical photos and hearing stories of Black Canadians from every era, especially our ancestors. That really grew my love for history.”
Davis shared that her ancestors arrived in Southwestern, Ontario in the 1840s with some living in Windsor since 1851. As an example, her great great great great aunt Mary Ann Shadd established her own newspaper in Windsor in 1853.
“When she did so, she became the first woman in Canada and the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper,” Davis stated.
Often it is said that to understand your future, you must understand your past first, and Irene Moore Davis is an excellent representation of that.
Davis frequently speaks about Black history in the media, schools, and museums and history conferences. She was one of several U.S. and Canadian authors to contribute chapters to the award-winning book A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderlands, published by Wayne State University Press. Her chapter was about her favourite subject, historic Black Canadian communities in Essex County.
In addition to that, Davis has been finishing up her book called Our Own Two Hands: A History of Black Lives in Windsor from the 1700s Forward, with a planned release of 2021. When Davis is not working on her book, she co-hosts a literary podcast with friends, called All Write in Sin City, serves as Programming Chair for BookFest Windsor, and fulfills various other voluntary roles.
When asked what empowers Davis the most, she mentioned three things: “My support system of friends and family, my faith, and especially my ancestors,” adding, “The way I look at it, my ancestors didn’t go through all the things they went through just for me to sit around and shrug my shoulders.”
Wonder Woman in tech- Yvonne Pilon
Yvonne Pilon, the CEO and President of WEtech Alliance, Co-Founder of Branded Sisters and host of the Tech in The City Podcast, is what most would consider a wonder woman.
Pilon, who was born and raised in Windsor, Ont. has always had a deep passion for entrepreneurship and graduated from the University of Windsor- Odette School of Business in 2007. At the age of 24, Pilon founded her first tech venture, AD2IT, and by the age of 29, she became the youngest woman to lead a Regional Innovation Centre. Since then, Pilon has been involved in many community and national projects and has helped WeTech Alliance grow into what it is today.
"WEtech Alliance is a non-profit business accelerator, providing entrepreneurs with business services, training, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring your disruptive technologies to market, increase revenues, attract investment and create jobs," Pilon shared. "Ultimately, WEtech Alliance is here to create jobs, prosperity and more companies. More holistically, we are here to be a voice and sense of place for tech for the community."
Pilon, who grew up with very entrepreneurial parents, explained that she was confused about where her path would take her while growing up. "Like most young people, I was lost. As a kid, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist," Pilon said. "I remember going to my guidance counsellor in high school to discuss what options I had, and at that time, I remember the best career options for a woman were either a nurse or a teacher, "Pilon said.
Pilon said that when she was in grade five, she remembers one of her teachers telling her she had great business-acumen already, which has always stuck out in Pilon's mind.
"I would always put up flyers, create experiences and sell things, that's what made my decision later on in life to be in business a little easier, it was just something that was in my blood," Pilon shared.
Pilon shared that her education in business and her networks across Windsor and Canada have opened many doors for her the past few years. "As a young female in business, I do believe there are challenges that we face here in Windsor, but as our city undergoes its own transformation, I believe we are paving the way for a new leadership culture," Pilon explained. "I may be a young female leader in tech, but my role as a CEO is the same as any leader regardless of gender, age, etc."
Pilon's advice for anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur is to be obsessed with your customers' needs, not be afraid to fail, and reach out for help to the community's many entrepreneurial support organizations.
“Don’t expect your path to be linear,” Pilon said. “It’s usually made up of winding streets, roadblocks, hills, ice, etc. Your goal is to work hard, fail fast and be better than you were yesterday.”
The worst best friend I’ve ever had- Wonder Woman of The Week- Samantha Stanley
She leaned over while covering her right nostril as she inhaled the clear, white powder. Once she threw her head back, her heart began to race, her body temperature started to rise, and within 15 minutes of her first hit, her tongue and throat became numb from the blow's sensation.
She knew it was time for her to get some shut-eye, but the rush of the blow stimulated the energy in her body, leaving her wanting more. Her mouth started watering as her craving for it increased; she shut her eyes when she heard a murmur in her ear, saying, "I'm here for you; you can trust me."She shook her head in disbelief, but the whispers became louder, and the craving became stronger. "Just one more, just one more," the murmur convinced her.
Samantha Stanley's journey to being clean is shared by many in Windsor, a city mired in addiction. For many individuals, addiction is a way for them to have fun, relax, experiment, or cope with everyday stress or past traumas.
Stanley, a 28-year-old recovered addict who has been clean for two years, explained her addiction started when she was 11 years old. "I started drinking and smoking weed because it was kind of what everyone else was doing around me. " Stanley said that she continued to experiment with alcohol and marijuana throughout her teen years and at points tried other drugs like ecstasy and mushrooms.
"It wasn't till I was 18 years old that I started drinking every day, and eventually, I flunked out of nursing school," shared Stanley. "I was back and forth, and I felt like I had no one to talk to and no one to rely on when things got hard."
Throughout the ages of 19 to 21 years old, Stanley experienced a few violent attacks that led her down a deeper depression and more substance abuse. "I never really felt a need to tell anyone about my sexual assaults because I didn't care about what happened to me," explained Stanley.
By the age of 22, Stanley felt like her life was going well despite what happened to her previously. She was in a happy and healthy relationship and felt completely confident and fulfilled with her life path.
On February 23, 2013, Stanley and her then-boyfriend Martin were involved in an apartment fire on Thornberry Crescent. Due to the fire, Stanley was put in a medically induced coma. Her boyfriend Martin died at the young age of 30.
"I'm not sure how the fire even started. All I remember is our neighbours were trying to kick in the door to get us out, but we were already passed out by that time," said Stanley. "I was in a coma for more than three weeks, and when I woke out of it, I was told that within 24 hours after the accident, Martin had so much smoke inhalation that they couldn't even recognize him."
From there on, Stanley's grief led to a spiral of more substance abuse to the point where she found herself doing cocaine every single day. "Awhile after the fire, I met someone that I thought would be good for me, and I ended up getting pregnant with my son, Ethan," explained Stanley. "Six months after having Ethan we were using everyday and selling to satisfy our habits."
In 2016, after the end of her relationship, Stanley moved to Windsor and instantly made the process of getting sober after attending rehab classes, youth classes and anger management classes. After being sober for almost a year, she found herself overwhelmed and tired and felt the urge to use it again.
"I ended up just kind of losing myself again and meeting up with my ex at a hotel room and using all night long," said Stanley. "CAS was already involved in so much of what was happening with my son, so I knew something had to change within me."
The week after she used again, Stanley agreed to go to the Women's Life Centre in Windsor in mid-May 2018. The center provided counselling, nutrition, education, treatment support, and more for women recovering from addiction and trauma.
Since graduating from the Women's Life Centre, she has been clean and sober.
"If it wasn't for the Women's Life Centre being completely dedicated to me being clean, I don't think I would have been able to overcome this," said Stanley. "Now, I can be the best mom I know I can be and focus on what's good in my life."
Stanley's story is one of many to admire in the battle against addiction. It shows strength and determination that you do not have to battle the murmur's in your ear alone.
Addiction in Windsor: Windsor has never seen more of an increase in addicts struggling to overcome their addictions since the beginning of COVID-19. Coronavirus, which took the world by storm when it hit in late March 2020, has challenged many individuals struggling with an addiction to get any help during this time. Many non-profits have changed around their schedules and day to day lives to help those in need.
Some services you can contact today if you are struggling are,
School In The Age Of Coronavirus: Featuring Wonder Women Of The Week, Josie Baselj And Bibi Uzonyi
Bibi and Rob Uzonyi smile for a photo with their kids, Gabriella and Jacob.
Josie and Ivana Baselj smile for a camera with their mask on August 31.
Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many, including parents and children. When the schools in Windsor-Essex closed in March, parents had to rearrange their schedules to be home with their children, where children had to get used to homeschooling and a different way of learning.
With school returning on September 8, many parents and students are anticipating what this school year will be like with new health regulations in check. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced back in late July the new school plan would see elementary students in Kindergarten up to grade eight attending classes five days a week.
Bibi Uzonyi, a mother of two, said she thinks it's time for kids to go back to school. "This is the new normal for us, and for everyone, I can't shelter my children forever, they need their education."
Uzonyi, whose two children are entering into grade three and grade five, expressed that this is the time that their education is most vital. "It's going to be different for them because they're kids. They want to socialize, they want to be around their friends, but it will be different for them this time around," said Uzonyi. "They have been practicing wearing their mask for a couple of hours out of the week so they can get more use to it. As for physical distancing, they may need reminders here and there, but it's all something we all need to get used to."
Secondary schools in the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board will have classrooms accommodating up to 15 students with a mixture of online and in-person classes.
Josie Baselj, whose daughter is going into 10th grade, explained that she's not nervous like she used to be because of the mandatory masks in place and social distancing.
"It's so natural to me now, with where I work, you just know now, keep your distance and make sure your mask is on," said Baselj. "I trust that the government, the schools, the board are doing everything that they can with the best interest of the students in mind, this is why they continue to change everything around to make sure our children are safe."
This school year will be different and challenging for all parents and students but if we all have the positivity and trust like these two wonder women do, the school year will be a good one.
For more information on the new regulations in place for this school year, click the link below:
With over 126,000 cases of Covid-19 in Canada alone, the pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s lives including front line workers. The mental health of these front line workers has been challenged in the last six months.
Many nurses from Windsor-Essex who have been working overtime due to the increase of cases have been feeling the same way, including Gastroenterology Nurse Practitioner, Cheryl Cascio.
At the beginning of March, Cascio who works in Livonia, Michigan at the St. Mary Mercy Hospital, was transferred to another hospital in Livonia because the need for nurses were so high.
"Working in Michigan and living in Windsor made it so difficult," said Cascio. "For one, at the time, when things started to get bad in Livonia, it was not as bad in Windsor, and I was scared thinking that I am bringing it home to my family and could potentially infect them with the virus."
Cascio, who finished her nurse practitioner degree three years ago, said she never expected to see the healthcare system take a hit like it has in 2020. "I think the most heart-wrenching thing of this whole pandemic is I saw people pass on, and all they wanted in their final moments was to say goodbye to their loved ones, but we weren't allowed to let any family in," said Cascio. "I know that if I was in that situation, all I would want is to see my family." Within the last few months, Cascio explained when she got home from her long day at work, she would change out of her scrubs from the hospital in her garage, run downstairs to shower and keep her distance from her husband and children.
"I was so paranoid that I could have it - or spread it to someone I cared about - that I didn't sleep in the same bed as my husband for over three months," explained Cascio. "It was so straining for myself and my husband to have to go through that distance."
Within this month, Windsor-Essex has moved into Stage 3 with most commercial, retail, and public spaces reopening.
Virginia Facecchia- Free Food Community Fridge
Virginia Facecchia stands proudly in front of the Free Food Community Fridge located on 365 Pelisser St in Windsor.
There's a take-what-you-need system happening in Windsor that's geared to help with homelessness, food insecurity, and struggles local food banks face in the community.
Since the start of COVID-19, 21-year-old local Windsorite, Virginia Facecchia, began reaching out to people in the Toronto area about ideas on how she can help her community. After learning about Toronto's community fridge program, Facecchia knew she had to bring this concept to Windsor.
The idea of a community fridge is to give people in need the opportunity to have food. The concept has been growing in popularity and has been adopted recently in other Canadian cities, such as Calgary.
"People are doing this all over the place. I met this guy named Jalil Bokhari in Toronto that has the Community Fridges Toronto Program. I started messaging him and told him I wanted to do something like this in Windsor," said Facecchia. "I've been super worried about food insecurity with people since the start of COVID. Once that happened, I knew I had to do something for the community."
Facecchia, who works at Advocating Young Minds - a local program that allows young people to focus on academic, social, and emotional learning - said their system offers young people a cupboard-style program that allows kids to bring home food to their families. Unfortunately, ever since COVID hit, they have been closed but will be reopening in September for four nights a week.
"Once that happened, I was so concerned about how these families were going to get any food," Facecchia stated. "I find that in Windsor's downtown core, there are a lot of issues related to homelessness and addiction. There are many people on the streets, but despite that, some people have also lost their jobs because of COVID, and that's something we need to focus on in our community."
The Free Food Community Fridge, which is located right in front Lowend Co. on Pelissier, is stocked full of locally grown vegetables and fruits from many donations that Facecchia was able to get in the last couple of months. With most of the contributions coming from the Downtown Farmers Market, Facecchia is happy with how the public has reacted to the Free Food Community Fridge.
"If it weren't for the guys here at Lowend Co., I wouldn't have been able to put this all together," shares Facecchia. "They are the ones that have helped me out so much with this mission. I have to thank the owner Ian Maxime Lufitha, Hector Nilo, Jedd Cruz, and Shawn De La Cruz for all they have done for my little project and of course, everyone in the community that is supporting this."
As of next week, the Free Food Community Fridge will be relocating from the front of Lowend Co to another location; that location is still being determined.