Our Leader Spotlight | Melissa Montovani
Client Services Coordinator, St. John Ambulance
This series is dedicated to introducing and celebrating the ACL+ 2021/22 program participants. Each week, we will focus on one of our leaders, sharing a little bit about them and what motivates them to explore community leadership in Niagara.
Melissa Montovani grew up in the Niagara Region, but she moved to Windsor and Montréal to pursue
her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature at the University of Windsor and Concordia University
respectively. Later, she worked in several private businesses in Montréal and Toronto and pursue
continuing education in Marketing Fundamentals and Marketing I.T. Tools before returning to refocus
her career in the Niagara Region’s non-profit sector.
Currently, she works for St. John Ambulance Niagara Falls as a Client Service Coordinator where she
manages and coordinates health and safety training, including First Aid and CPR, Mental Heath First Aid,
Medical First Responder, and Joint Health and Safety Training. In addition, Melissa has dedicated a
significant amount of time toward improving the lives of children, youth, and people in the 2SLGBTQIA+
community in the Niagara Region and beyond. She currently volunteers in a few roles at Pathstone
Mental Health and serves on OUTniagara’s Regional Advisory Committee and on the Toronto Bi+
Network’s Planning Committee and as a Peer Support Facilitator.
Why are you personally motivated to explore civic leadership?
As someone who grew up in the Niagara Region, I know that a lot has changed for the better in our community—there are more opportunities, more resources, and more diversity.
Having spent most of my adult life in larger cities with more resources, however, I recognize that there are some needs that must be filled so that everyone—including racial, gender, and sexual minorities in our community—will be able to live fulfilling, authentic, and productive lives and inspire others, who look like them, to do the same.
I am motivated to explore civic leadership, in part, because some of the resources that our region currently lacks are ones that I would have benefitted from as a young person, and I want the next generation of people in our community to feel seen, represented, and respected in and by the world around them. I am also motivated to offer leadership development and opportunities to people from other marginalized groups and to amplify diverse voices, so our businesses, non-profit organizations, and municipalities reflect the makeup of our community better.
What, in your view, is the most significant issue/opportunity facing our community? Why?
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how the unequal distribution of the social determinants of health affected the outcomes for people in the Niagara Region. It should come as no surprise that community members who face food, housing, or job insecurity, who have diverse races, genders, sexualities, or disabilities, or who experience other forms of inequality or adverse experiences have not faired as well as those who do not have the same obstacles.
While these inequalities existed before the pandemic, they do not need to continue after it if we do not let them. I think we have an opportunity to strengthen the social safety net for and amplify the voices of community members who need equity and inclusion most as restrictions ease. This may be uncomfortable work for many people who have held power and privilege throughout their lives.
However, for those in a position of privilege, listening to the marginalized and improving equality in the Niagara Region and our workplaces is necessary work. We must promote reconciliation for our Indigenous community, safety for our BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, and accessibility for those community members who are living with a disability. It is only when we do this—and possibly much more—that our teams, organizations, and the region will benefit from improved creativity and solutions to the issues that we face. And the Niagara Region will become a better, more equitable society for us and future generations.
What individual attributes do you hope to develop or expand upon?
I am someone who strives to lead from a place of consensus and empathy. Due to this leadership style, I recognize that managing a diverse team through the constantly changing requirements of the pandemic is not always easy; some members of the team may be more resilient and adaptable than others, but we still have to all work together.
My hope is that the Accelerate Civic Leadership Plus program will help me to further develop my ability to inspire my team to both achieve our shared goals and build upon their own skills and interests in times of unprecedented change.
I hope to develop and expand on my ability to motivate both clients and coworkers, assist people in managing change, build upon my confidence as a leader within my organization, and become more self-aware and able to understand myself as a leader.
What Is ACL+?
Accelerate Civic Leadership+ is our answer to adapting our flagship Accelerate Civic Leadership (ACL) program for virtual learning.
Designed as a tool to expand the number of individuals who accept leadership roles in business, government, and social organizations to meet future challenges in the region, ACL+ strengthens the bonds within the region. It serves as a retention and engagement tool for our Niagara businesses and non-profits.