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Program Director (Associate)


Laura LaChapelle (she/her)

Program Director/ITSTARTS Project Lead

Laura LaChapelle is a long time resident of Simcoe County and has been heavily involved in community projects over the past 35 years.   She’s focused on creating community engagement and growth around diversity and inclusivity. Laura has seen the shifting demographics happening across Simcoe County and is truly interested in making a difference in people’s mindset about diversity and inclusiveness. She has a passion for volunteering, community support and empowering youth. After achieving a Bachelors in Anthropology from the University of Toronto, Laura focused on Theatre Arts. She developed local  theatre in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach and saw this as an opportunity to bring youth together in a safe diverse environment. 


She has been a part of several committees including the Wasaga Chamber of Commerce Women in Business and the Town of Wasaga’s Youth Advisory committees.  Laura has also been Publicity Chair for Wasaga Community Theatre, campaign manager for local municipal elections and journalist for both U of T and the Creemore Echo. 


Having already participated with Making Change as an Art Engagement Drama Mentor, Laura is focused, in her associate role as Program Director and #ITSTARTS Project Lead, on continuing to provide support for communities so everyone feels included.

Coordinator/Presenter (Associate)

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Maria Ellis (she/her)

Art Engagement Presenter/Coordinator

Maria brings over a decade of experience in public speaking, training, and facilitating businesses and service providers on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the beauty industry. She is very passionate about advocating the importance of representation of the Black, Indigenous and People Of Colour communities through beauty, arts, and entertainment.


In her associate role, Maria coordinates the Art Engagement Project: Changing the Narrative through the Arts. She is the lead presenter for the youth Anti-Black racism introduction workshop embedded in this program for Grades K-12.

Board of Directors (Volunteer)

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Michèle Newton (she/her)

Director, Co-founder & Chair Making Change

Chair: Education, School Presentations Committees


Michèle Newton is guided by her “better together” philosophy - growing relationships, nurturing collaborations and facilitating partnerships, especially those with a shared focus on strengthening our community. As a community changemaker, she created Our Mosaic Lives™ - a passion project exploring diversity and inclusion, launched Community Conversations – a live D&I interview series, and co-founded Making Change.


Michèle is a Speaker, Expert and Advocate with her public relations and communications agency. She was recognized in 2020 as one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women and a YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka Peace Champion for her community work focused on Black Canadian Women, diversity and inclusion.

Alison Jacks - Board Director and Treasu

Alison Jacks (she/her)

Director & Treasurer - Making Change

Chair: Finance & Business Outreach/Sponsorships Committee

Alison Jacks is an advocate for community work and volunteerism.  She believes that our community is what we make it.  By working together to support and help each other and promote positive change, we will build strong communities that encourage diversity and inclusion.   In her prior roles Chief Operating Officer and  Manager of Finance and Accounting, Alison has developed strong business development skills which allow her to focus on facilitating and growing relationships between Making Change and the local business community. Her extensive bookkeeping and accounting experience make her an asset as the Treasurer of Making Change.


Alison has been volunteering in her community for over 25 years.  Currently she is also a Board member of Barrie & District Christmas Cheer , the Innisfil Lions Club, the Tottenham & District Community Recreation Improvement Committee (C.R.I.C.) and a long-time volunteer in local politics at federal, provincial and municipal levels.   

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Alasoba (Lala) Kelsy-Braide (she/her)

Director  - Making Change

Chair: Community Engagement and Culture Committee

Alasoba Kelsy- Braide came to Orillia as an International student from Nigeria and has made Orillia her home. As a Child and Youth Care student at Georgian College, she was part of the student executive council (Georgian college student association) as VP Community Engagement. She was actively involved in planning and executing many events at Georgian College, some of which include the initiating, plan and coordination of a week long Black History Month celebration;  and the yearly Santa Claus parade; and mental health awareness.

Alasoba also worked hand in hand with the County of Simcoe (Midhurst) through the Community Impact Project in Georgian College Orillia to implement a project called  WIN-WIN (What I need, When I need it). The project created educational awareness to reduce the stigma related to transitional housing for youth, through workshop in alternative school in Simcoe County. She also did her field placement at Simcoe Shore School and Volunteered at the Calvary Pentecostal Tabernacle Orillia. Currently, Alasoba works at Empower Simcoe as a Personal Support Worker.

Alasoba strongly believes that inclusivity and diversity are important tools to create a safe community where everyone thrives regardless of their age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

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Keisha-Ann Shaw Hill (she/her)

Director & Acting Secretary - Making Change

Chair: Communications Committee

Keisha is a partner at Lexon Law Professional Corporation in Innisfil, where she is proud to both live and work.  She practices in the areas of Real Estate, Wills & Estate planning and Corporate.  Her goal is to always be happy and excited about her work, because as they say, if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life!  She aims to find that balance between work and family as those are the pillars of a happy life.  

Keisha is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Ontario Bar Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Jamaica Bar Association and the Rotary Club of Innisfil.  Keisha attended the University of Toronto’s Internationally Trained Lawyers’ Program (ITLP), and is proud to be the first call to the bar for the ITLP.  As a former In-house Counsel for the Town of Innisfil, one of the largest municipalities in Simcoe county, Keisha developed a wealth of expertise in all matters relating to land development, commercial real estate, planning, procurement, civil litigation and general municipal matters.

Keisha is passionate about life and never misses an opportunity to give back. Along with volunteering as one of our Board members, Keisha also serves as Vice President on the Board of Nottawasaga Futures.

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Bethlehem Telahun (she/her)

Director  - Making Change

Chair: Governance Committee


Energetic and experienced professional with the grit to empower herself and others through policy changes that affect our governments. Bethlehem has over 10 years of cumulative knowledge from working in the business, non-profit, and government fields. Her desire is to affect federal policy developments in the education and business sectors. She believes that successful education and economic institutions are two of the founding pillars of good government. Her background has exposed her to diverse worldviews that enables her to relate and analyse situations with tact and balance.


Bethlehem holds a Bachelors in Political Studies from Trinity Western University and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London, UK. When she’s not working or completing her assignments, she runs a small social media platform on Instagram where she interviews people from various backgrounds to share their truth called

Youth Ambassador opportunities include but are not limited to:

Social media takeovers with community partners, Making Change interviews and panels featuring Youth. Assisting with social media channel content on a regular basis and around significant events/happenings. Assisting to coordinate events and activities for BHM and year-round.

Legacy Youth:

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Keliah Casey Yout Ambassador Making Chan

Keliah Casey


Shondra Durrant - Youth Ambassador with

Shondra Durrant


Our Founder Story

Michèle Newton                        Stephanie Gourlie                        Shelly Skinner

In 2019, with nothing on the horizon for Black History Month again, our founders decided to lead the change they felt was needed. They organized a Black History Month kick-off event, with collaborators and partners. In February 2020, they added a team of volunteers and organized three events: The Art Engagement Project targeted for youth, Voices of Black Women in Business for the business ecosystem, and a BHM Celebration at Five Points for the community. These events and their passion have sparked discussions and conversations about inclusion and diversity all across Simcoe County and beyond. Our three co-founders (Michèle Newton, Stephanie Gourlie and Shelly Skinner) incorporated Making Change as a not-for-profit organization in July 2020.

Board Member Opportunities

Board and Committee Opportunities

 Making Change is recruiting additional board members with backgrounds in Education, Fundraising/Philanthropy, Corporate/Governance. Here's an overview of the requirements. Please complete the application link or contact us for more information. 

Committee Volunteer Opportunities

 Making Change is recruiting volunteers for working committee membership. Our committees include: Education, School Programs, Communications & Marketing, Business Outreach & Sponsorship, Culture  Community Events, and Finance. If you're interested in volunteering and have relevant experience please apply here .


Purpose of the Corporation

1. Educate the general public about racial prejudice and discrimination through seminars and workshops
2. Organize and implement conferences, workshops and other symposia about institutional and individual forms of racism, discrimination, and stereotyping
3. Host discussion groups open to the public that raise awareness of racism and model alternatives to stereotyping and prejudice
4. Establish and maintain peer support groups among members of the Black community as well as members of the public to address issues of discrimination and the elimination of racism
5. Participate in and support a network made up of organizations supporting anti-Black racism and promoting positive race relations aims in order to share research, informational materials, or expertise and act as a resource to groups interested in developing these capacities
6. Organize and host activities meant to expose members of the general public to Black culture

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