Our Leader Spotlight | Renee Ji
Leadership Niagara Diversity Scholarship Recipient
Manager, International Student Services, Brock University | Mental Health Support Worker, Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Center
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.
Renee is from a University in the bustling city of Beijing to a University and a newcomer service agency in the quiet Southern Ontario town of St. Catharines. She found her voice after immigrating to Canada to start a new life.
Renee worked in the clinical social work and mental health counselling field for over 10 years before deciding that she wanted new challenges and new opportunities for herself and for her young son. In late 2017, she left her established life behind in China and ventured out to Niagara.
She did not know it at the time, but Renee would go on to become a client of newcomer settlement service agencies and would find a way back to her career. First as a Mental Health Support Worker with Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Center then as an International Student Advisor with Brock University, and then both. Renee would excitedly email her settlement counsellor that her recognition as a Registered Social Worker (RSW) with the OCSWSSW had finally come through.
Now she can say with pride that she has managed to adjust and thrive in Niagara, and now she wants to give back to this warm community. A helping profession has always been Renee’s passion, and she is grateful for being allowed to assist those individuals and families in need. She believes resilient individuals and happy families build strong communities and better societies, and she is passionate about contributing her skills and energies in that process.
Why are you personally motivated to explore civic leadership?
Supporting others with my professional skills has been my passion and career for more than 10 years. From teaching to mental health counselling, from mentoring to coordinating, supporting others is always close to my heart. Motivating and mentoring others come naturally in my work and life. However, as a new immigrant coming from a culture that doesn’t encourage informal leaders, my leadership has been hidden. With my successful settlement in Niagara, I want to give back to the community and shining my leadership can benefit more people, especially newcomers to Canada.
What, in your view, is the most significant issue/opportunity facing our community? Why?
The Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning in 2021. The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. I had a very positive experience settling down in Niagara as a new immigrant. But I have seen many of my newcomer clients and international students are struggling to find a way to a meaningful career and life in Canada. I believe they just need some inspiration and support to connect with their inner strength, and a better system to assist them to translate their experience to a Canadian context.
What individual attributes do you hope to develop or expand upon?
I would like to develop my capability to coach, mentor and motivate my team members and clients. I want to learn more about how to motivate a team and group, to be able to make some greater changes.
I would also like to expand my knowledge of civic politics and policy and understand how decisions are made that affect the community and its citizens.
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.