Niagara College Community Employment Services 905-641-2252 ext 4670

ACL Leader in Focus – Jennifer Warren

With over a decade of experience in marketing, technology and brand development, she has a passion for helping unifying a brand with user experience and engaging audiences with digital strategies that convert.

Jennifer has had a lifelong passion for accessible education, poverty reduction, and women’s issues. She currently sits on the Niagara College Alumni Council, YWCA Board of Directors, and is a Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentor with the Strive Niagara pilot project. A lifelong Niagara resident, Jennifer lives in St. Catharines with her husband and two sons.

How do you define civic leadership?

A civic leader is someone who makes a difference in their community. “Someone who is a catalyst for positive change; who gives voice, time or financial means towards addressing a need, whether it be grassroots or on a higher level. “

To me, civic leaders have a lot of faces, they could be a parent organizing a fundraiser for some new equipment at their children’s school, a young student pulling together a peer group to ride the current #trashtag and clean up a local park, or even a professional setting on a volunteer board and lending expertise to an established organization.

In your view, what’s the most important attribute of a leader?

While I think there is a mixture of important characteristics that make a good leader, I find passion a critical trait. A leader must have a strong desire to see the goal they are working towards achieving. “When they are truly passionate about the goal it is contagious and inspires and motivates others to take action. Passion in a team breeds commitment which is essential to keeping effective teams strong.”

Why are you personally motivated to explore civic leadership?

Having my oldest son at a young age taught me that it truly does take a village to raise a child, and proved the necessity for those who are able to take action where they see a need. The support that I received in my early 20’s as a single mother from friends, family, and agencies throughout Niagara helped me to make ends meet when they really, really didn’t, and provide a happy life for my son. Ever since I have felt compelled to give back to the community both financially and through volunteerism.

My life experience has led me to a passion for access to education, poverty alleviation and women’s issues. Which has led to my involvement with the YWCA Niagara Region, Niagara College Alumni Council, and Big Brothers Big Sisters Niagara Falls in the Strive Niagara mentorship program.

In recent years, the feeling of “being part of something” resonates more than ever with the YWCA Niagara Region, both as a member of the Board of Directors, and as part of the planning committees for No Fixed Address and most recently the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. As the chair of the NFA Marketing & Promotions subcommittee, I was fortunate to work with a very talented group of volunteers and staff, and apply my skill set to help the YWCA complete a digital rebrand of the event. For which the YWCA acknowledged my contributions with the 2017 Volunteer Award. I am excited to give back even more in the years to come, having completed strategic planning with my fellow board members there are a lot of exciting initiatives on the horizon.

 I have never felt as compelled to be involved with anything as the day I read an article in the Niagara Falls Review about the pilot project BBBS of Niagara Falls was launching with Strive Niagara. The program focuses on matching mentors with young student parents who are trying to complete their OSSD and advance to post-secondary education. Without batting an eye, I enrolled to be a mentor and was accepted to the program a short while later. Over the past 14 months, it has been hugely rewarding to help a young woman, facing many of the same struggles I faced as a young parent, persevere and achieve her goals – and I am happy to have made a new friend.

What, in your view, is the most significant issue/opportunity facing our community? Why?

Among the many issues facing Niagara, and the global community at large, I believe the most detrimental to future generations is the prevalence of poverty, specifically during childhood.

Children living in poverty or near the poverty line experience severe consequences, including issues with health and cognitive development, academic achievements, self-worth and relationships, and ultimately less lucrative employment prospects. With 1 in 5 children in Canada living in poverty, their future successes are greatly interdependent with the prospects of our country and community as a whole.

Housing affordability is at the core of this issue, especially the availability of low-income public housing. If people in our community are struggling with homelessness or precarious housing, they are much less to be able to progress themselves to achieve safety and security needs – like employment and overall stability. Without intervention, this vicious cycle has the potential to create an even larger equity gap for certain members of the community, especially when we look at the issues with an intersectional lens and weave in racialized or gender-related issues.

October 8th, 2019