Thursday, June 29, 2006


Last night was an A+ event. Our young speakers were awesome, amazing and authentic.

We invited three of Canada's young women leaders to share their insights and aspirations with us.

At 26, Jennifer Corriero is the co-founder and executive director of TakingITGlobal, a non-profit organization that fosters and strengthens the involvement of youth in global issues through the use of technology. The website currently has over 100,000 members, in over 200 countries and receives over 1 million hits each day. And when she's not working at this, she's travelling around the world to speak at conferences and events.

Last night, Jennifer proudly announced that she has just completed her Masters degree in Youth Engagement and Capacity Building Across Cultures at York University, which left many of us wondering... how does she fit it all in?

Next we had Tonika Morgan, 23, whose homeless experience as a teenager has empowered her to help others in that situation. Last year she received the Young Woman of Distinction Award and the Flare Magazine Volunteer of the Year Award for her work in this area.

Today she is Project Manager of the Women Moving Forward project, an initiative supporting young single mothers in the Jane-Finch community and a part-time student at Ryerson University.

At 27, Roxanne Joyal, was the oldest in the group and equally as impressive. Named by Maclean's magazine as one of the "Top 100 People to Watch Out for in the Millenium", she is an active volunteer with Leaders Today and Free the Children. She has travelled to and worked in several third world countries and in 1996 lived and worked in Thailand, helping mothers and babies in Bangkok's largest slum area.

And she's been no slouch in the education department either. She graduated from Stanford with an honours degree in International Relations and in 2001 was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, and recently graduated with a law degree from Oxford University. She is currently working as a clerk for the Supreme Court of Canada.

On paper, these young women sound most impressive and in person, they were even more so. Vibrant, caring and articulate, they gave voice to their concerns, shared their thoughts on the future and talked with passion about the involvement of youth in our society.

While none had met each other before, it was neat to see the interaction between them and how the kernel of an idea could be generated by one, and built on by another.

For example, throughout the evening, Roxanne had been strongly advocating mentorship and the power of women helping women. Tonika told the story of some of the women she works with who know they need to change their situation, but who find it overwhelming to take that step outside their comfort zone. Finding the funds and confidence to go back to school just seemed beyond their scope.

She had barely finished describing this situation, when Jennifer threw out a challenge to the group of sixty women in the audience. She pointed out that Tonika had 16 women in her program, and surely out of the 60 women present, 16 could come forward to become mentors. And some of them did.

That was the sort of evening it was. A dialogue and discussion between a group of women of all ages. We'd encouraged the mothers in our group to bring their daughters so they could hear and be inspired by our three panelists, and they did. It was wonderful to have a room full of women from 17-70+, all open to hear what the other had to say, all wanting to learn more about each other, and all celebrating both our unique and shared experiences.

It was suggested that we invite our panelists back in five years, so we can check in on how they are doing, and maybe we will.

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