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DEAM IDEA Conference
Speaker Biographies

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Akinyi Aboka 

Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner & Career Advisor

Breakout Session Presenter 

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Practitioner, and a Career and Academic Advisor with a restorative justice lens approach to informing organizational change, career development and social justice.

 

Founder and C.E.O at Capability Career Group (CCG) and an Executive Director at Immigrant Champions of Canada (ICC). Through the Working Workplaces Program at Capability Career Group, Aboka has coached over 70 organizations in Alberta with a result-oriented D&I overhaul approach, that invites organizations to follow the steps of Assessment, Awareness, Alignment, Action, and Advocacy; to realize holistic organizational D&I change. 

 

Aboka's empathy style in delivering D&I sessions, has seen many participants demonstrate higher levels of engagement in the sessions and recorded high participation rates in social change advocacy. Employers have also been motivated to rewrite and change their policies to reflect the change required in today's and tomorrow's workplace. Besides D&I, Aboka has written 13 books and has published 3 of those.

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Heath Birkholz

Premiers Council Status of Persons with Disabilities

Panelist - Self Advocate 

In the discipline of social justice, Heath is on the Alberta Premier’s Council on the Status of persons with Disabilities. We provide persons identifying with disabilities a community to voice concerns and maintain an equitable quality of life. Heath also works as an Edmonton Representative for the Albertans Advocating for Change Together which enables people with disabilities from across Alberta to collaborate and strengthen their ability to voice concerns and maintain an equitable quality of life. Heath also helped found Right to Love Calgary and Alberta Advocates for Change Together. 

Heath is also a Collaborative Workshop Facilitator. Heath has experience developing and facilitating intersectionality, conflict-resolution and relationship workshops. 
 

Within the discipline of arts Heath is involved with the Canadian Dance Association and took part in ‘Build a Better Fringe’ with the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. Heath has also been involved with CRIPSIE for a decade as a dancer, co-choreographer, community liaison and is currently  Chairperson on their Board.

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Ryan DeGuzman

aka Rubix

Emcee

Ryan De Guzman also known as Rubix has been working in arts and education since 2012. His main work as a facilitator revolves around teaching youth the art of Hip Hop. He has worked with many groups through organizations such as Global Fest, The Autism And Aspergers Friendship Society, Socialogic, Movement With A Message, Beakerhead, Antyx Community Arts, TRIBE 1491, ReFreshed and Sonic Sages Academy. His passion for teaching and learning about human behavior combined with his skills developed within the Hip Hop community has been a great contribution to his life's purpose.

Ryan believes Hip-Hop can give youth the confidence to help express themselves, as well as become impactful leaders and individuals.  A role model to many, he continues to use his skills to spread positive messages that strengthen the community and uplift those around him.

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Mitch Lawson

Lead Designer, Catalyst Works
 

Breakout Session Presenter 

­­Mitch Lawson is the Lead Designer for CATALYST Employment Services in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Mitch has been working in support of people with disabilities for nearly 15 years, and is very passionate about changing the way people with disabilities are viewed by society, employers, and the entire industry of disability support.

Mitch believes that people with disabilities are misunderstood far too often. They are almost always quantified by what they cannot do, or what they don’t have. Whereas support, society, and opportunities should be driven by what ALL people CAN do, CAN have, and CAN contribute.

Mitch also works with closely with the PDC in Edmonton and the CEFN in Calgary to help establish a Provincial Network for employment support services, and works with service agencies in Lethbridge to collaborate on DEAM events and inclusion initiatives year-round.

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Shauna McCallum

Vice President, Programs & Service at Chrysalis
 

Breakout Session Presenter

Shauna is an agile leader who is passionate about innovation, challenging the status quo, and making meaningful change and impact. She currently serves as the Vice President of Programs and Services at Chrysalis and Partnership Broker for Edmonton's Pan Disability Connection.

During her 11 years with the organization, Shauna has been involved in many programs and start-up efforts — such as human-centred Design — all aimed at creating more innovative opportunities and solutions for people facing challenges. Outside of work, Shauna's interests include running, movies, sports, and fishing. She is happiest when with her husband Dave and their two boys (dogs), Rocco and ChaChi.

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Lionel Migrino

Community Leader & Inclusion Facilitator

Breakout Session Presenter
Panelist - Self Advocate

Lionel Migrino is a proven community leader and inclusion facilitator. He graduated with a Bachelor of Management degree from the University of Lethbridge, majoring in Human Resources and Labour Relations. Lionel always brings his lived experience as a Filipino- Canadian living with cerebral palsy to the forefront to promote accessibility, diversity, inclusivity, equity, and justice. He enjoys speaking on social issues such as mental health, disability rights, and anti-racism. Lionel is a confident public speaker with experience facilitating inclusion training in a not-for-profit and corporate setting. His goal in life is not only to spread awareness of accessibility, diversity, inclusivity, equity, and justice but to empower action towards change.

 

In 2021, Lionel Migrino was one of the winners of the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada’s (CEWIL Canada) Student of the Year Award as a Co-op student at Pembina Pipeline. After graduating and finishing his internship, Lionel currently works at Pembina full-time as a Talent Development Advisor. 

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Cindy Pilz

Premier's Council Status of Persons with Disabilities
 

Panelist - Self Advocate

Cindy Pilz is the Deaf Services Manager at Deaf & Hear Alberta. As a deaf person, Cindy is passionate about her work assisting deaf and hard of hearing individuals and families with a variety of supports. Cindy loves being part of the Deaf community and has participated as a board member for deaf organizations over the years.
She currently sits on the Advisory Committee for Accessibility for the City of Calgary and is a member at large for Alberta Society of the DeafBlind. Cindy also sits on the Alberta Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Cindy has received a variety of recognition awards for her work with Deaf Albertans.

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Sean Wiltshire

Executive Director, Avalon Employment
 

Closing Plenary
Panelist - Epic Fails and Cocktails 

Sean Wiltshire is an international award-winning diversity advocate. Many folks know Sean by his large laugh, his deep voice, and his unbridled passion and commitment for helping bring change to businesses and communities around the world. 

If you have heard Sean speak you know that woven into all of Sean’s presentations is his ability to tell a story to share and educate.

Be it of finding jobs in the garment factories of Bangladesh, or working with crown corporations to build a diversity plan. He is known to tell it like it is, but always with a belief that we can, and should do better.
Professionally, for the last 30 years Sean has been the Chief Executive Officer of Avalon Employment Inc (AEI). - An employment agency for individuals with disabilities that also has built a large social enterprise that has done over $150 Million Dollars in payroll for other not for profits and local businesses in the last 15 years.

In February 2021 Sean and his organization won the prestigious Zero Project Award for their Autism Employment Inclusion Pilot, as one of the top 75 innovative Practices in the World. This award was presented to him at the United Nations in Vienna.

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Elise Ahenkorah

Award Winning Inclusion Strategist 

Keynote Speaker

Elise Ahenkorah is an award-winning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategist, speaker, and founder of #shemeets, a women-of-colour entrepreneurship resource group. She is educated in Law & Justice, International Relations, Change Management and is completing her MBA in Strategy. She is also an alumnus of Cornell University's coveted diversity and inclusion strategic planning program.
As the Inclusion Strategist of inclusion FACTOR, Elise Ahenkorah uses data-driven strategies to show how an inclusive workplace increases the bottom line and employee satisfaction.

With inclusion FACTOR, Elise translates a company’s vision into measurable and practical DE&I tactics aligned with business and talent retention outcomes.
Her clients include Saje Natural Wellness, Hootsuite, IBM, EPICURE, Calgary Film Festival, Avenue Magazine, Evans Hunt Marketing Agency, Calgary Police Commission, Avenue Calgary, City of Toronto, University of Calgary, IABC, Magazine Association of BC, Alberta Magazine Publisher Association, Law Society of Saskatchewan, Leftovers Foundations, Fresh Routes, HDR International – to name a few.
In her 15-year career, Elise has covered diverse grounds in progressively senior roles in communications, marketing, stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, and DE&I for public and private sector organizations.

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Sean Crump

Co-Founder of Included by Design & Krooshl

Panelist - Self Advocate

Sean is a Purpose Capitalist TM and an inclusion collaborator. After breaking his neck in 2004 from a diving accident, he now lives his life as a quadriplegic. At the time, Sean was faced with the choice of being angry and focusing on what he lost, or being grateful for what he still had. Choosing the latter, Sean has dedicated the better part of his professional career to bettering accessibility and inclusion in society.
 

As the co-founder of Included by Design, Sean’s goal is to create communities where all people feel comfortable conducting daily tasks, participating in social events and contributing to their economic well-being as though spaces were designed to accommodate all people regardless of their unique characteristics.
 

Sean is a seasoned public speaker and facilitates workshops on accessibility and inclusion. His bold communication style paired with his in-depth knowledge in universal design, accessibility, and disability inclusion will captivate and inspire your guests.

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Bindiya Dias

Program Coordinator, ArtRecruits
 

Breakout Session Presenter 

Bindiya Dias is a program coordinator with ArtRecruits, a division of Prospect Human Services. The accidental facilitator realized she wasn't cut out to be an accountant (oops) and began working as an arts and crafts facilitator with memory care residents. Watching the subtle mood shifts through mindful activities was rewarding for her. In her current role, she facilitates essential skills workshops for job seekers with mental health barriers.

As a facilitator, she aspires to influence and transform mindsets. Her mission is to boost her clients' confidence through "aha" moments and self-discovery. She is a collaborator who loves to co-create solutions with partners and clients. Developing and facilitating workshops are two of her favourite things.

When she is not working, she enjoys nature walks, listening to music and spending time with her family. She is a proud mom of two girls, a varsity squash player and a national-level rock climber.

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Allison Leigh

Programs & Innovation Coordinator, Chrysalis
 

Breakout Session Presenter

Allison Leigh is a dedicated leader who believes in putting the fun into work. Her passion is finding people’s unique skills and talents and supporting them to use those abilities to achieve their goals. Allison has a BSc in Sociology and has worked with people with disabilities with a focus on employment for 17 years.

 

Allison is passionate about finding innovative ways to support people. She is a realtor and stimulates those around her to achieve their best. Allison demonstrates this in her work as Programs & Innovations Coordinator for the Innovative Employment Program at Chrysalis

When not at work, Allison enjoys relaxing with her husband, 2 adult children and her cat. She is an avid Edmonton Oilers fan and never misses a Formula 1 race

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Sean McEwen

Director, GEDI Hub
 

Breakout Session Presenter
Panelist - Epic Fails and Cocktails

As a Director at RealEyes Capacity Consultants, Sean engages with organizations across Canada to help build diverse and inclusive workplaces. Sean is also the Director of Alberta’s first Employer Resource Centre for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - the GEDI-Hub

For over two decades, Sean has been designing Employment Inclusion services - while providing leadership and coaching to teams of professionals serving jobseekers and employers. Sean has developed and facilitated training across Canada and has helped develop regional, provincial, and national networks dedicated to Employment Inclusion.

Sean is based out of Calgary and collaborates extensively with Community Futures Treaty Seven.

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Johnathon Red Gun

Disability Employment Coordinator - CFT7
 

Panelist - Epic Fails and Cocktails 

Johnathon Red Gun is the Disability Employment Coordinator for Community Futures Treaty Seven. CFT 7 allocates the resources to the sub agreement holders of treaty 7 territories, consisting of the urban contracts of Calgary, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.

Mr. Red Gun has facilitated number workshops in the wellness stream, specifically, to those who are impacted by the Residential School legacy, and its intergenerational trauma. He now continues to use his wellness training, social work and judicial background to advocate for First Nations persons with a disability.

He has served in various advisory roles that he has developed partnerships in the stream of disability service delivery, disability accrediting agencies - Alberta Council Disability Services, educational institutions such as Red Crow and Bow Valley College, and mainstream "generic" supported employment agencies, more importantly partnerships and relationships with businesses. Sitting on Provincial and Federal Panels. Recently a collaboration with Gateway - GEDI-Hub.

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Heather Trotter

Program Coordinator, ArtRecruits
 

Breakout Session Presenter

Heather is a Program Coordinator that brings 20+ years of facilitation to a wide range of contents, formality, and audiences. Heather leads workshops designed around themes of stress management, adaptability, and empowerment. Her work assists people facing mental health barriers develop confidence and essential skills to connect with employment. Though art is the vehicle, no previous art experience is necessary. In a workshop you can expect to try new techniques, explore various mediums, and create a unique personal piece of art each class.  Heathers warm and welcoming nature creates a space that people feel at ease to share their art and parts of their lives.  The atmosphere is vibrant as she always has a great playlist. Participants leave class feeling connected, inspired, and uplifted. 

 

In Heather's free time she enjoys finding inspiration for her next painting while on adventures with her husband and dog.

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Stephen Wright

Workplace Inclusion Strategist 
 

Panelist - Epic Fails & Cocktails

Stephen has pursued his career in the area of inclusive employment in a variety of places, working in creative environments in the pursuit of, and creating inclusive workplaces. His passion of lifelong learning enhances opportunities to engage with like minded people.