Who are we

The Awakening Project

The Awakening Project is a youth led initiative that began in the summer of June 2020 by post-secondary students. Since then, the project has grown to include more members from the high school level, college level, undergraduate level, and graduate level. Meet some of our current members below!

Our Team

Dania Ahmed

Dania Ahmed is majoring in Ethics, Society and Law with a double minor in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies. Her studies of interest include faith-based environmentalism as this is a project she is going to be working on in the Fall at the University of Toronto, as well as sociologically pertinent issues such as applying classical sociology theories to contemporary society. Currently, she is working as a Peer Mentor for first-year students at her University and is a full-time second-year undergraduate student. In the Awakening Project, Dania wants to highlight the importance of interfaith dialogue and understanding.

Vincent Pham

Vincent Pham is currently a University of Toronto Humanities student double majoring in Ethics, Society and Law program and Philosophy. He also intends to pursue a minor in Christianity and Culture. Vincent is interested in philosophy and all-things Catholic and Catholic liturgy. In recent years, Vincent has also grown awareness of legal and social justice issues in Canadian society. Vincent also enjoys writing. Several of his pieces have been published in The Catholic Register and YMagazine, an online publication by the Vietnamese Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the Awakening Project, Vincent wants to look deeper into the topic of refugees and the prophetic voice of Venerable Cardinal Francis-Xavier Thuận Văn Nguyễn.

Tijana Bagaric

Tijana Bagaric is an International Development graduate from the University of Guelph, and she was the first coordinator of the Awakening Project beginning in June 2020. Her studies of interest include climate change policy, diaspora studies, as well as NGO structures and policy change. Currently, she is exploring her options in career paths, and has previously published an undergraduate research journal, conducted research in patterns of poverty in Guelph, Ontario, and contributed to non-profit work. Tijana wants to do further research and content in the field of social justice to encourage positive change.

Michelle Ally

Michelle Ally is a current doctoral student at the Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She has earned an MEd in Social Justice Education and an undergraduate degree in postcolonial studies in the Caribbean and Latin America, both from the University of Toronto. Her research lies in the intersection of decolonization, social justice and spirituality. She is an immigrant woman of colour born in Abya Yala, with ancestral roots in Asia, working and living on Turtle Island as a settler. Michelle is a Peace Educator, having previously taught Montessori and directed art-based programs in West end Toronto. Her passion for justice and interfaith dialogue began as a lived experience and has manifested in her work and projects. She has been an enthusiastic member of the Awakening Project since November 2020.

Valuscha Pereira

Valuscha Pereira is entering her first year of undergraduate studies in Nanotechnology Engineering. Her studies of interest include applications of nanotechnology in fields such as medicine and healthcare, as well as how nanotechnology can be used to reduce the ecological footprint of humans in the future. Currently, she is a tutor for elementary school students, and has previously been involved in STEM-based clubs and camps, and as a Youth Leader at her parish’s Children’s Liturgy Program. In the Awakening Project, Valuscha wants to highlight the influential workings of activists and leaders who are making a difference in the world.

Iain Ross

Iain Ross has an undergraduate degree in geography from the University of Cambridge and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Theological Studies from Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. His studies of interest include urban/rural relationships; place, environment and identity; international development; biblical theology and education. Currently, he is working as an ESL teacher in Toronto and has previously worked in lay pastoral youth ministry in South America. In the Awakening Project, Iain wants to explore the interconnections between faith, justice and geography.

Jacob Stocking

Jacob Stocking is currently completing his grade 12 year at Michael Power/St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke. He is a reporter with the Youth Speak News (YSN) program, and his columns reach over 30,000 people every month. They are published digitally on The Catholic Register’s website. Jacob has founded several youth activism initiatives – on universal quality education, access to safe water and environmental protection. He was recognized with an award in 2019 for his leadership in cross-country, snowboarding and track & field. Jacob hopes to become an investigative journalist after completing university – with a plan to travel overseas to report on climate-related injustices. On the weekends, Jacob can be found in the kitchen attempting to develop his strong but misguided passion for cooking.

Marco Hidalgo-Romero

Marco Hidalgo-Romero is a Computer Science student with a focus on developing mobile apps. His studies of interest include Android app development, web development, data structures
and algorithms, and technological research, as well as worldwide news. Currently, he is in third year in his college program and is looking for new experiences in his career. He has had some experience working in Church services, programs, and charities. In the Awakening Project,
Marco wants to highlight both the Content Creator and Researcher roles. He likes to support people, especially participating in programs for people in need.

Meaghan

Meaghan is a recent graduate with a degree in international development and conflict resolution studies. She is passionate about social justice and an active citizen in her home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Meaghan has completed participatory research in India as part of her degree. Her research is focused on street vendors and their right to livelihood and she is currently consolidating her data into an article for publication. Meaghan will be pursuing graduate studies in the areas of public policy and international affairs. As part of The Awakening Project, she hopes to use her research skills to look at the effects of current public policy on vulnerable communities in Canada, such as those experiencing homelessness.

Jessica Lopez

Jessica Lopez is in Life Sciences with a focus on Human Biology/ Immunology. Her studies of interest include research on cell-mediated immunity through the genetic altering of cells, as well as how different and sometimes contradicting parts of society such as science and religion can work hand in hand to find solutions to social justice issues in Canada. She is currently pursuing a career path in medicine, specifically pediatrics. She has volunteered at Sick Kids hospital and has spent time in Quebec learning French. In the Awakening Project, Jessica wants to highlight and spread awareness of racial minorities in Canada and how during these times, for some their situation has become a little bit worse. She hopes to discover new ways in which society can work together to improve the living situations and societal views of racial minorities.

Daniel Yoon Sik Choi

Daniel is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. Prior to law school, he worked in Database Operations at the Ontario Medical Association. He holds a BA in philosophy from the University of Toronto and a MA from McMaster University, where his research focused on ethical theory. During law school, he served on the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, the Intellectual Property Journal, and the Transnational Legal Theory Journal. He also worked as a Research Assistant in areas such as contract law theory and Section 7 of the Charter. His current research interests are in the intersection of law, business, and technology. Professionally, he is interested in cross-border transactions and capital markets. In his spare time, Daniel is committed to volunteering in his community. He co-founded the Business Etiquette Team, served on the national chapter of the First Generation Network, and contributes to a number of other student groups. He also loves boxing, trying new restaurants, and has a dog named Bok Choi.

Melody Li

Melody Li completed her undergraduate degree in Life Sciences at the University of Toronto in June 2021, having specialized in Environment and Toxicology and minored in Environmental Science and Physiology. She joined The Awakening Project as Student Leader in June 2021 because she is very interested in social justice issues and wants to learn more about how she could contribute to the creation of a more just society with The Awakening Project. In addition, she hopes that she could further her skills in writing and social media through writing detailed responses to posts and/or others’ comments found on the project website and creating social media posts for the project’s social media platforms, respectively. Melody likes to sing and watch cute animal videos in her spare time.

Jennifer Wan

Jennifer is a MLA student at the University of Guelph. She recently studied Architecture, Environmental Studies, and French at the University of Toronto. Jennifer is enthusiastic about environmental and social justice, as well as the role one’s faith can play in driving individual and systemic change. At the Awakening Project, Jennifer is involved in the website design team and social media, and she hopes to write about and create discussion on moral, spiritual, and practical approaches to relevant social issues.

Viktor Zhuang

Viktor is a website designer for the Awakening Project. He is a recent graduate with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Toronto. He is enthusiastic about utilizing digital spaces for social justice and is an advocate for accessibility in these spaces. He hopes to help the Awakening Project build an online presence and platform on which they can expand and strengthen the meaningful work the project does. Viktor hopes to pursue a path in software development where he can continue to help build affirming digital spaces. Although he is passionate about tech development, he also enjoys Classical studies, particulary Latin and Roman Literature.

Yannie Mork

Yannie is a second-year student at the University of Toronto majoring in Ethics, Society and Law and Sociology. She is interested in exploring different social issues from a sociological point of view, and has a particular interest in the relation between social dynamics and personal development. As an international student, she hopes to grow her knowledge of the diverse Canadian society and its policies. She is currently working on content creation for the Awakening Project, producing Prophetic Voices bios and social media posts, etc. She is looking forward to researching further and making social justice-related content to raise public awareness of social justice issues.

Fariya Ali

Fariya Ali is currently studying Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. She is interested in discourses regarding prison reform and abolition, systemic racism and the intersections of gender and class with the criminal justice system. Currently, she volunteers in a research program to help high school students prepare for higher education by establishing productive research habits. At The Awakening Project, Fariya is the Social Media Lead, involved in managing the social media platforms and creating a unique online presence.

Amiran Sultana

Amiran Sultana is a highschool student from R.H King Academy located in Scarborough. She is a part of the Future Leaders program at her school and frequently performs community service nearby. She has been a member of The Awakening Project since December 2020 and has been helping out with the project’s social media, as well as taking part in/facilitating zoom call discussions. Her interests with social justice began when she started to become more aware of real-world problems through an English class. After highschool, Amiran hopes to go to university and study architecture or civil engineering. When she’s not busy, you can find Amiran settling in with a good book to read or making a new dessert in the kitchen for her family.

Cole Sadler

Cole Sadler has a PhD in Philosophy of Religion from University of Toronto. As a student of Rabbi David Novak, he is a Christian who has done interfaith dialogue with Jews and Muslims for over a decade.

Jessica Asotie

Jessica Asotie is a forthcoming grade 12 student at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School in Brampton. Jessica is a general member of the Awakening Project, and being a part of the Black community, enjoys speaking and sharing the various social justice issues worldwide. She has much experience with helping others and being an advocate for her community. Through the social media team and making numerous posts, she shares knowledge on several topics and ways to counter them. Jessica hopes to become a nurse after university-in hopes of using her skills to help those with inadequate medical care. Jessica loves cooking many cultural dishes and enjoys watching anime on her free time.

I encountered the Awakening Project while completing the Interfaith Leadership Program at the Multifaith Centre at University of Toronto. As a teacher of over ten years and a childcare worker for over twenty, I have experience in education as well as in social justice work and advocacy. Having a diverse background with faith and spirituality has been a benefit for me in leading discussions with many perspectives when discussing interfaith issues and social justice.

I have led discussions on Zoom which deal with issues of mining extraction and indigenous women’s resistance in Latin America, climate chaos, and indigenous spiritual philosophy and knowledge in Canada, and Palestine as a site of global concern. As these conversations build and draw on the diverse range of previous and current research that I have undertaken in my program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, it has been of great benefit to share this knowledge with others. Many have stated their lack of knowledge or awareness of such topics and have expressed their gratitude to understand and build on their current knowledge base. This sharing, I believe, works as a promotion of greater understanding and as a sharing platform for individuals, much like the ecosystems of nature, to engage and disperse beneficial information and awareness.

We are all connected in the web of life on the planet earth and it benefits us all to work towards greater good by understanding what is happening on a greater scale in our world.

As students spend a great deal of time incorporating information and learning about the world, the on-line discussion meetings of the Awakening Project serve not only as an information hub, but as a space to safely discover new issues, people and places. We live in a world with wonderful diversity and this is an exercise in tolerance, patience, and expansion. In the Montessori method of my teacher training, the cosmic web of life is a primary focus for peace education and living in wonder with our universe. Our students and individuals interested in the Awakening Project are those who are open to building bridges between communities and faith groups – in a dialogue promoting peace, awareness, and love for our planet and each other.

And this, in essence, is a true act of advocacy and tolerance.

Journey of the Awakening Project — by Michelle Ally, Educator

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