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Stand Up and Speak Up Event Brings Awareness to Challenges of Racism and Mental Health

April 13, 2018
Community News
Campus: All campuses
Stand Up & Speak Up 2018

April 13, 2018, THUNDER BAY, ON – Students, employees and community members joined together Friday to ‘Stand Up and Speak Up’ in an effort to bring awareness to the challenges of racism and mental health. Hosted by community member and Confederation College alumna Ashley Nurmela, and the Student Union of Confederation College led by President Jodi Afonso, the event included a walk in unity around the College grounds, refreshments and a keynote address by Stan Wesley.

“My love for humanity and the good it holds drives me to put forward any effort possible to assist our community in see that too,” said Ashley Nurmela, community member, First Nation, Metis and Inuit Community Liaison Officer, Lakehead Public School Board and Confederation College alumna of the Native Child and Family Services program (2016). “Our kids are watching; the youth listen and learn from our examples. ‘Stand Up and Speak Up’ is meant to bring us all here together as one, in support of each other so everyone understand that no matter who you are or where you come from, you are not alone. We are here with you.” 

This year’s event is built upon the previous success of the ‘Stand Up’ initiative, originally introduced by students of the Native Child and Family Services program in 2015. Champion Ashley Nurmela has led the initiative since its inception, having kept it going with annual awareness events in 2016 and 2017. It was a natural fit to establish a more formal partnership with the Student Union and with very close ties between racism and mental health, adding ‘Speak Up’ was an easy decision.

“The goal of this event is to make a positive difference in our schools and community,” said Jodi Afonso, President of the Student Union (SUCCI). “By adding ‘Speak Up’ to the pre-existing ‘Stand Up’ initiative, we hope to generate awareness and help remove the stigma associated with mental health. The SUCCI Board of Directors and staff have been extremely supportive, and have worked diligently to make this idea come to fruition. We want to thank all of our sponsors for their generosity. Our community has truly joined together to bring attention to these important topics and we are grateful.”

Special guests included MP Patty Hajdu the City of Thunder Bay’s Aboriginal Liaison Ann Magiskan. The keynote address featured Stan Wesley, who was raised in Moose Factory, ON and is currently living in Toronto. Wesley focused on celebrating success and advancing good, healthy relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. He engaged the audience with a unique style, balancing fun with meaningful discussion.

The ‘Stand Up and Speak Up’ event was supported by Presenting Sponsor Confederation College and media sponsors 91.5 CKPR, Energy 103/104, Rock 94, the Thunder Bay Source and Tbnewswatch. Gratitude was also shared for other sponsors of the event including: Stan Wesley, City of Thunder Bay – Aboriginal Liaison Office, Diversity Thunder Bay, Lakehead Public School Board, Landmark Inn, Matawa Drumming Group, Shadow Creek Drumming Group, Sodexo Food Services and Thunder Bay Police Service.

Organizers look forward to this remaining an annual event and encourage the community to keep the conversations and healing going year-round.

Speak Up & Stand Up Walk in Unity
Keynote Speaker Stan Wesley (centre) with Event Organizers Jodi Afonso (left) and Ashley Nurmela
Speak Up & Stand Up Welcomed Students, Employees and Community Members

See more photos on Facebook…


Confederation College has been serving the citizens of northwestern Ontario since 1967 meeting the educational needs of students in a catchment area of some 550,000 square kilometres. Along with its main campus in Thunder Bay, Confederation College has eight regional sites located in Dryden, Fort Frances, Geraldton, Kenora, Marathon, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and Wawa. 

Confederation College delivers exceptional education and training to an average of 7,800 combined full- and part-time students per year and currently has a total of 805 full- and part-time employees. Confederation’s regional economic impact and contribution is valued at $411.2 million annually.


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