#OCChangemakers 2022-2023 Mid-Year Project Highlights: Ashley, Bee & Celynne

Updates from Ashley, Bee & Celynne at the mid-year of the implementation of their projects as an #OCChangemaker.

Pause and Process: Healing Academic Trauma
Ashley Gittens, Toronto

Project Description & Goals

Ashley Gittens is building out her project -Pause and Process: Healing Academic Trauma” into a two-week harm processing and reduction curriculum intended for use in school classrooms by teachers or appropriate faculty members.

The curriculum intends to address and process the institutional violence students may have faced in previous years and mitigate future harm. The curriculum aims to increase and improve feelings of safety, power, and autonomy in students more at risk of experiencing institutional violence, including Black, Indigenous, disabled and/or queer and trans students. 

As I have moved through this project, my approach to it has morphed along with the ways my life has morphed. When I first applied to be a changemaker, I was working adjacent to but not directly in schools. Now that I am spending every day as a teacher, my perspective towards my research has changed”.

Ashley sees the need for it now more than ever as she challenges, on a daily, the power dynamic within which she exists. Thus, her research has transformed from collecting data from others to observing and reflecting on her practice through first-hand experience within the classroom. Though this has been a challenge to adjust so that she can thoughtfully address her privilege and power, it has been an eye-opening experience in many ways, she says. The Changemaker has found herself reflecting far beyond the past few months and imagining years into the future. Luckily, she saved all of her previous reflections and journals to thumb through. I’ve luckily been able to apply my own experiences to the application of my work – as does tend to happen when doing passion work for other people, she says. 

Project Highlights

In addition to the challenge of adjusting her mindset and plan, she has also been inspired by the organic movement of her project. Conversations and moments have arisen without manipulation, and Ashley feels grateful for “being in the right space and time (meaning with the support of the Changemakers Grant) to receive them. I feel as though I have had the privilege to let my project grow naturally while being steeped in the community, I intend the work to impact”.

What’s Next

The next six months of work will translate observations and conversations into tangible lessons. As well as practicing those lessons and receiving feedback for improvement. In short, the next six months will be the trial and finalization stages of the project. Ashley looks forward to what those new stages will bring.

About Ashley

Ashley Gittens is a teacher and writer born and raised and forever representing Scarborough. She works as a Grade 6 Teacher in her community, and her research is supported by The Department of Imaginary Affairs. As a changemaker, she is dedicated to developing thoughtful and supportive resources that aid in equitable and empathetic practices in school systems and their counterparts

#socialinclusion #trauma

Humans of Transit
Bee Zelda, Windsor 

Project Description & Goals

Humans of Transit aims to destigmatize the transit experience. The project goal is to enhance the visibility of transit riders and improve people’s sense of ownership of public transportation in Windsor in a way that is accessible to everyone. 

Project Highlights

Bee Zelda’s work with Humans of Transit initially was attending farmers’ markets, and open street events with the organization Activate Transit Windsor Essex and speaking with the community. They asked people what their transit dream was for the city of Windsor and had them draw out their dream over top of a city map in exchange for a bus pass or a $5 Tim Hortons card.

The goal was to engage the community in Windsor to think about what their public transportation
could look like. Afterward, Bee started a social media campaign highlighting basic public transportation information. They’ve created a series of posts for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook that contains information about fares, bus etiquette, and

I have been able to help spark conversation about the state of public transportation in our community. There have been more conversations about Transit Windsor on major news outlets in our city than ever because of the visibility Humans of Transit and Activate Transit Windsor Essex have sparked.

Project Challenges

One of the main challenges of the project has been working with a group with a different creative perspective than the changemakers due to their lived experiences. “There were many ways that we could go about engaging the community and involving them in the conversation about why public transportation is so important and that we can’t let it die,” tells Bee. “Some suggestions were for canvassing door to door or video interviewing people on the bus. Talks of taking pictures of people who were waiting at their bus stop were all valid options. However, when I put myself in the position of the transit rider, I’m not likely to feel safe being recorded on the bus, interviewed at home, or photographed at a bus stop on my way to work or the grocery store”, they add.  

The immediate answer to this challenge is releasing podcast episodes about Humans of Transit and the vision for what public transportation can be like in Windsor. They have already released one episode where  Bee and their co-host debunk harmful talking points against investing in transit. It’s called Windsor Small Talk.

While the changemaker prefers the online aspect of this project with the social media campaign, they run the ATWE Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and they have instead enjoyed speaking with people in person. At local events where ATWE can set up a booth, they loved hearing everyone share their dreams for public transit in Windsor. “I still have all the pictures from the board where folks wrote them, but I’ve had difficulty finding a way to format them to share them online,” they add.

What’s Next 

“My plans for the next six months are to continue with the social media campaign and podcast to share necessary content about our Transit Windsor and to empower citizens with that knowledge and resources,” says Bee.

It’s become clear that many folks don’t have the means to utilize a transportation system that’s expensive and does not have enough stops or routes. The Windsor Changemaker will do giveaways for folks who engage with the online content; they can provide single bus passes, reloadable passes, and some yearly passes. Once the weather improves and outdoor events resume, the group Activate Transit Windsor Essex will attend markets and street events where they can set up a booth. “I want to continue to help fund their endeavours since they focus on data and presenting those facts to the media and city council. With our combined efforts, I believe that we can help improve Transit Windsor so that it’s accessible, safe, and frequent to accommodate everyone”, they say. 

About Bee

Bee Zelda, they/them, is passionate about encouraging safe, diverse, and inclusive spaces while promoting conversations about important topics affecting our city and communities. 


#socialinclusion #civicengagement #publictransit 

By The Inside Out
Celynne Shipley, Kemptville

Project Description & Goals

By the Inside Out is a passion project where Celynne  Shipley draws from her personal experience as a once lonely teen. It nurtures her desire to serve her community and leverage her academic and professional experience in mental health advocacy, ethics, and behaviour change. Most importantly, she seeks to model the important stuff to her two sweet young daughters.

By The Inside Out has set out to ensure young people can thrive by advocating, building awareness and promoting intentional development and use of community resources and spaces designed to nurture autonomy, connection, and competency — three psychological needs that, when satisfied, allow a person to achieve personal fulfillment and growth. 

Since beginning the OCC Program, I have been busy establishing the foundational pieces that will allow me to maximize the impact of By the Inside Out – building partnerships, understanding the needs of my community, and creating marketing collateral to spread the word effectively and professionally..

Project Highlights

Project one pager.

Project one-pager.

Following the OCC retreat in August, Celynne spent September building key messages and creating a website, one-pager, and elevator pitch to introduce her project. Having these tools to quickly access has come in handy and has been used many times already; the Changemaker also spent time in the fall building a connection with a researcher in Self-determination Theory, a teacher at the local high school and the community youth center.  

October was dedicated to designing a survey/questionnaire to understand the perspective and needs of young people in the community. Celynne leveraged community Facebook groups to solicit, and despite having been “trolled” a few times, she received approximately 125 respondents in November!  

Her assumptions were challenged by the themes in the responses, so she spent December re-evaluating the goals of her project. It was clear through the data that while young people felt comfortable describing what mattered to them and making decisions/choices accordingly, felt comfortable and able to make new relationships and believed they had the skills to succeed, young people in the community often left the community to access things that interested them and that the places in the community did not reflect very well their needs.

With this information, Bridge Spot was born. A program within By The Inside Out and is about intentionally acknowledging young people’s place in the community – building for inclusion. It is an initiative designed to identify, enhance, or create public spaces used as safe and accepting bridge spots for young people into adulthood.

The guiding values of Bridge Spot are Be willing, Reinforce and model, Invite, and show Dignity, Generosity through inclusion and` Empathy (BRIDGE). The enablers of Bridge Spot include a handbook for business owners and community members about the program and its values, a bias check, education, and awareness about how to support young people and support for creating a young person-friendly environment.

There will also be a map made to identify all the Bridge Spots available in the community.

Businesses will be given a window decal of a bridge to acknowledge itself as a Bridge Spot publicly. Celynne spent January designing the program, including the handbook and values. February was a productive month – she met with the Mayor of Kemptville to solicit her support in connecting with the municipality’s Youth Advisory Committee for feedback on the program and supporting materials. “Through that, I received her full support of the program and further opportunity for partnerships,” she shares. 

Project Challenges

While the Changemaker has made meaningful progress in the program, it has not been without challenges. In particular, the commitment of volunteers and the survey trolls. 

What’s Next 

The next six months will be about creating iterations of the handbook and other elements of Bridge Spot and working with the Municipality for community outreach, support and implementation of the Bridge Spots.   

Visit the project website here.

About Celynne

Celynne Shipley is a Change Management Practitioner from Kemptville, Ontario that has worked in a series of related roles in different sectors, including government, health and home care and financial services. Through her lived experiences from years of travel and the knowledge that she gained from her time spent studying for a Master’s degree in Public Ethics, Celynne has had time to reflect and understand areas within behavioural psychology that influence behavioural change in communities.