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CivicAction Activates 30 New DiverseCity Fellows to Change the Face of Leadership

TORONTO (February 6, 2019) – Toronto’s coat of arms may say, “Diversity Our Strength,” but when comes to who sits at our regional decision-making tables, a diversity of perspectives, identities, and experiences is missing. To breathe new life into the greater Toronto region’s future, the CivicAction Leadership Foundation today welcomed a new DiverseCity Fellows cohort of 30 passionate individuals who are embarking on a unique “civic MBA” to collectively change the face of leadership.

The 2019 DiverseCity Fellows come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences including a public servant making cities more resilient to climate change, a Syrian refugee and consultant opening doors to employment for other newcomers, and a non-profit leader who is helping youth break into the media industry. Fellows are selected for their leadership abilities, passion, authenticity, community and regional contribution, and track record for creating collective impact. In a time of rising populism, a widening wealth gap, and deepening political polarization, we need leaders like these who can step up and navigate these changing times.

“We live in a time with increasingly complex challenges—all of which require solutions with an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction. “Our DiverseCity Fellows program is the ultimate silo-breaker because it trains rising leaders on how to bridge the gaps between our communities and bring new players to city building tables.”

Boardrooms and municipal councils in the greater Toronto region are still far from reflecting the diversity found in our region. For example, 51.5% of Toronto’s population is from a visible minority, yet only four people of colour were elected to city council last year, and Mississauga only has one city councillor to represent the 57% of its residents who are racialized. Additionally, a survey of LGBTQ+ Canadians conducted by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion found that only 15.7% of respondents held management positions and 33.2% have witnessed identity-based discrimination in the workplace.

For 10 years, CivicAction’s award-winning DiverseCity Fellows program has helped shrink the sidelines of leadership by providing engaging and through-provoking programming for emerging and under-represented leaders. By equipping the Fellows with strengthened self-awareness, a diverse peer network, senior civic leader mentorship, and leadership development opportunities, the program opens doors to accelerate their leadership journey and amplify their impact.

“As a person who is legally blind, creating more equitable spaces means having representative leadership at decision-making tables to help break down barriers,“ said Amy Soden, Development Writer for University Advancement at Ryerson University and 2019 DiverseCity Fellow. “The Fellows program is a meaningful opportunity to enhance my leadership skills and to support more diverse and deserving people seeking equitable opportunities.”

The experiences and stories of the 2019 DiverseCity Fellows are as unique and varied as thegreater Toronto region itself. Meet the 30 rising leaders who are changing the face of leadership.


2019 DiverseCity Fellows

Abhishek Sarathy, Director, Total Benefits & Savings, Sun Life Financial

Alyssa Brierley, Executive Director and General Counsel, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation

Amuna Baraka-Clarke, Director of Operations, Jane/Finch Centre

Amy Soden, Development Writer, Donor Relations and Stewardship, Ryerson University

Anne Warner, Senior Manager, Design Strategist and Coach, Royal Bank of Canada

Annette Selvanayagam, Senior Manager, Human Centered Design, Bank of Montreal

Biju Pappachan, Executive Director, POV 3rd Street

Brendan Steven, Senior Copywriter, GCI Canada

Daniel Lynn, Director of National Accounts, AutoVIN/KAR

Diana Grimaldos, Community Engagement Coordinator, Working Women Community Centre

Erin Kim, Strategic Initiatives Lead, Social Enterprise, Heart & Stroke Foundation

Farah Kurji, Manager, Strategy & Planning, Global Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank Group

Imara Ajani Rolston, Neighbourhood Resilience Officer, City of Toronto

Janelle Hinds, Founder, Helping Hands

Janine Manning, Manager, Indigenous Culture Fund, Ontario Arts Council

Jaskaran Sandhu, Executive Director, World Sikh Organization of Canada

Juan Camilo Rendon, Community Investment Specialist, Intact Financial Corporation

Kema Joseph, Special Assistant to the Mayor, Outreach, Office of the Mayor – City of Toronto

Lhazin Nedup, Project Manager, Evergreen

Lindsay Kretschmer, Executive Director, Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council

Mike Brooks, Senior Policy Analyst, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

Mohamed Huque, Philanthropy Consultant, GrantBook Inc.

Nazar Poladian, Management Consultant, Deloitte

Nida Jabrani, Senior Project Manager, CIBC

Niroshan Subramaniam, Sales Executive – Hybrid Cloud Services, IBM

Rebecca Ramsarran, Director of Community Safety and Intergovernmental Policy, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Rupal Shah, Strategic Programs Manager, Toronto Arts Council

Safiah Chowdhury, Policy Development Officer, City of Toronto

Samra Zafar, Director, Business Finance, BMO

Will Meneray, Principal, Oliver Wyman


Our thanks to Cision for sponsoring this announcement.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jeff Junke
Communications Manager
416-309-4480 ext. 533

About CivicAction: Complex challenges need an all hands on deck approach, and collective impact is what CivicAction does best. As a premier civic engagement organization in Canada we have nearly two decades of experience creating and implementing effective solutions to the most pressing challenges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and beyond. To find out more visit or follow @CivicActionGTHA.

Building on a decade of high-impact and award-winning leadership programming, CivicAction launched the CivicAction Leadership Foundation to further elevate and catalyze our region’s leadership potential. With a focus on advancing education, the Foundation harnesses the power of diverse leaders and empowers and activates all voices to influence and shape our region. For more information visit

About CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows: CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows is one of North America’s leading urban fellows programs for rising city-builders. Now in its tenth year, with over 230 graduates, this free year-long leadership program enables Fellows to become better leaders and create change in their communities.

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