What do the three finalists in this year’s Future Leaders of Manitoba Awards’ age 20-25 category have in common? Apart from their general desire for positive change, Chelsea Caldwell, 21, Cameron Krisko, 20, and Iain Brynjolson, 24, are all students at the University of Winnipeg.
Chris Loewen, President of the organization, says it started in response to the negativity surrounding the perceived loss of some of Manitoba’s most promising young talent to other cities.
“We’re sitting there thinking, we know some excellent people our own age and younger,” he says. “From my perspective, it’s about trying to create a community of people who want to drive social change in the province in a positive and inclusive manner.”
“I really don’t regret it,” Caldwell says of her choice to stay here. “Over the past four years I’ve seen Manitoba become this nexus for human rights, education, action and research internationally.”
The annual awards, held this year on January 23 at the Fort Garry Hotel, celebrate exceptional young leaders of Manitoba. This is the first year that an age category under 25 has been included.
The finalists were chosen from a group of nominees who were selected based on their contributions in three main areas: as a volunteer, at their workplace, and to Manitoba in general.
Caldwell, in her fourth year of the Human Rights and Global Studies program at the UW, is involved in extracurricular endeavors that include chairing the United Way’s youth council, working as a Student Ambassador, and holding a job with Travel at the Forks.
Iain Brynjolson is both a produce manager at Neechi Commons and creator of the Food for Folks market at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, a program that makes cheap fruit and veggies accessible to festival goers. All of the money earned goes to North End food security projects. Brynjolson is involved in several other community initiatives in the North End.
Krisko, the third finalist, is founder and President of Making Waves Manitoba, which teaches children with disabilities how to swim. He is also a St. Paul’s hockey coach, a Special Olympics track and field coach for the past six years, and Community Relations Coordinator for Count Me In Winnipeg, among other things.
Caldwell says the UW has been a big help in her transformation as a leader. “It’s this community based nature of U of W that we thrive on, where we can make sustainable connections for the future,” she explains.
“[Going to school here] has allowed me to meet so many new people, both staff and students alike and to learn from each and every one of them,” Krisko adds.
For aspiring future leaders out there, Brynjolson has sound advice. “It doesn’t have to be activities that add value to a society in a monetary sense or even a social or spiritual sense; sometimes it’s finding your own happiness. Follow your passion, do what you love doing and you’ll find like-minded people out there. That helps build community.”