Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre’s Frances Wesley and Anishinabek Employment and Training Services’s John DeGiacomo were recognized with Leadership Thunder Bay ACE (Acknowledging Community Engagement) awards.
“I am very honoured to receive this award from the alumni of Leadership Thunder Bay,” Wesley says. “I’ve participated in Leadership Thunder Bay for a number of years now and I’m really glad they are recognizing me tonight with the ACE award.”
Wesley was recognized for the work she has done over the years in Thunder Bay, including her recent efforts to help establish the Indigenous Peoples Court at the Thunder Bay Courthouse.
“When you become leaders in the community you are setting an example for the young Aboriginal people or any Aboriginal people who would like to participate in this group,” Wesley says. “That is why I was adamant and advocated for the Aboriginal youth leadership to be part of Leadership Thunder Bay. And I want to see more young leaders get involved in some of the community action plans within Thunder Bay, particularly with the number of incidents that are happening now. I’d like to see more young people being part of the whole community and feel like a belonging.”
DeGiacomo has been the co-chair of the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program since it was established in 2014.
“I’m humbled by the award and certainly as a recipient it makes me think back about how it is only possible with the help of others to receive this type of award,” says DeGiacomo, executive director of Anishinabek Employment and Training Services. “So I’m accepting it on behalf of others that I’ve worked with and served with.”
DeGiacomo says the Leadership Thunder Bay program is about building capacity of community leadership.
“It helps us to stay in tune with what is going on in the community and to work on community action projects that make a difference in the lives that really need it,” DeGiacomo says. “Leadership Thunder Bay has grown, not only in numbers of graduates, but it has grown in its programming and the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program is one such example.”
Michael Villella, president of Leadership Thunder Bay, says that Wesley and DeGiacomo played key roles in the creation of the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program, which focuses on youth between the ages of 15 and 30.
“(The AYLP participants) go through a 10-month program as well where they learn the seven grandfather teachings,” Villella says. “They become leaders in their own right in the community.”
The ACE awards were created in 2012 to recognize the contributions and connection of Leadership Thunder Bay alumni to the community.
Recipients are nominated by fellow Leadership Thunder Bay alumni according to one or more of the following characteristics: demonstrating leadership and supporting team efforts through work or volunteer activities, valuing and
recognizing the contributions and perspectives of others, making diversity, inclusiveness and collaboration a part of their work and serving as a role model for leadership and community involvement.
The achievements of 19 Leadership Thunder Bay program graduates who completed a 10-month leadership journey over the past year were also celebrated during the event.
“They learned about community leadership, they learned about working in a team and they also learned about growth and development in themselves and in the community,” Villella says.