Jonathan John


Executive Director & Founder

Jonathan has over a decade of leadership experience working in youth development programs and has developed a strong passion and desire towards serving underprivileged and marginalized young populations. He believes remarkable results can be achieved when underserved populations are provided meaningful, supportive and life changing programming opportunities. Jonathan also believes in the importance of collaborative community support and has a keen interest in engaging with stakeholders across a variety of sectors. 

Valerie Maltais, PMP


Chairperson, Board of Directors

Valerie has extensive experience as an environmental earth scientist, having coordinated numerous Corporate Social Responsibility and environmental programs in Canada and the US. Valerie is also an avid community volunteer and has served in a variety of capacities with multiple organizations including, Toronto & Region Conservation; the Toronto Street Needs Assessment; as a crisis support volunteer providing support & assistance to individuals suffering a crisis; and as an advisory member for community health improvement. Valerie has a keen interest in ensuring young people have enriching and positive life experiences that will ensure their future success. 

Nisha Thomas, MSW, RSW


Vice-chair, Board of Directors

Nisha has significant and diverse experience within the social work sector. Nisha possesses a high level of academic, clinical and community based experiences serving a variety of populations. Nisha's practice is informed by an anti-oppressive, ecological/systems perspective, strength-based, client-centred, trauma-informed approach. Nisha has a well-informed belief in the importance of clinical, therapeutic settings in transforming the lives of marginalized populations; along with a genuine desire to serve young people. 

Patrick Lee


Treasurer, Board of Directors

Patrick has immense experience with policy and governance work especially within the youth development sector. Specifically, Patrick has been involved with analyzing the educational system and how it impacts the success rate of marginalized youth; and in turn how this affects students entering into post-secondary institutions. Patrick also brings with him a wide array of experience from within the financial sector, having served in a variety of capacities.  Patrick is excited and eager to continue serving the community and providing positive support to marginalized and at-risk young people. 

Michelle Micks


Secretary, Board of Directors

Michelle has years of experience working in the technology sector where she was actively involved in developing and implementing child safety initiatives. She was also heavily involved in developing a resiliency program for employees exposed to traumatic content through the course of their job duties. Michelle is now pursuing her Masters in Criminology at the University of Toronto, where her research project focuses on Internet Child Exploitation Police Officers' perceptions of Canada's child pornography legislation. Michelle considers herself a children's rights advocate and is passionate about eradicating child sexual exploitation. Michelle is interested in working with young people in the context of online safety to ensure they have positive experiences. 

Christine Goodwin-De Faria, PhD



Christine’s academic and professional background is in the area of youth justice. She previously worked in a youth custody facility and as a youth diversion coordinator. Christine completed her undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Child and Youth Studies, and holds a PhD in Policy Studies.  Her dissertation research examined the experiences of Indigenous youth at a unique Indigenous focused youth court, and during diversion. Christine currently teaches university courses pertaining to child rights and social justice. Christine is passionate about providing support and advocacy for youth, and is excited to be involved with Youth Rising Above.

Nisha Mendonca



Nisha has a background in psychology, human resources and has most recently

worked in the field of Diversity and Inclusion doing extensive sociological research relating to equity initiatives for women and underrepresented minorities in Canada. She has spent several years working with marginalized sections of the population including youth, women, children and the elderly at international

social service organizations in Dubai, Canada, Peru, Argentina and India. Nisha is a trained and experienced crisis centre Helpline responder and believes in the importance of affirmation and encouragement to build confidence

in young people, something that has personally helped her in the past. She is keen to work on core issues that affect growth opportunities for young people and help provide them with the resources and support they need to succeed in their life journeys.

Karen Ngo


Administrative Coordinator

Karen is a design consultant; her work has focused on addressing unemployment in at-risk communities and improving accessibility for underrepresented youth. Her practice mixes strategic foresight with human-centred design to identify unmet needs and to strategically plan sustainable and competitive service opportunities. She has an interest in a more holistic approach to youth development and dreams of a more accessible future for marginalized youth. As she assists with daily operations of the organization, she looks forward to translating challenges into new opportunities and learning and growing with the community and team. 

Brennon Thompson


Partnership Development

Brennon comes from the world of Media, and has a background in youth development from his ongoing involvement as a leader in the Canadian Cadet Organization and the Canadian Armed Forces.  In his professional career; Brennon is an Operations & Development Analyst responsible for the overall training/ process implementation for internal employees across Canada. He’s also a key member of the Diversity and Inclusion committee at Bell Media. Brennon has a strong passion towards Youth Rising Above, as he believes that youth require a solid foundation in order to contribute to society in a positive and impactful way. He's keen on helping ensure that our youth have remarkable experiences and role models to support their future success. 


Christian Dinelli


Program Coordinator

Christian has spent several years working within the local community serving marginalized and at-risk populations. His experience includes working with a number of large scale social service organizations in capacities that include case management, counselling, intake and program support. Christian also brings with him years of business experience, having served in operational and sales capacities in the past. Christian believes in the importance of transforming marginalized young people through meaningful and engaging initiatives that support their continued growth. He is especially interested in group programming and the positive attributes it can instil within participants. 

Zara Magalhaes


Social Services Coordinator

Ruzbeh Irani


Youth Council Coordinator

Ruzbeh is a third-year Industrial Design student at Carleton University; and currently serves as a designer for a start-up called "Launch Pad Designs". His favourite part of the job is tackling the challenges that are associated with start-up companies, whether that involves establishing brand identity, or accommodating a client's input on designs. He especially enjoys developing technology based products that help ease people's everyday lives. Ruzbeh has also been involved in numerous community development and youth initiatives, and has filled a variety of leadership roles at these organizations. Ruzbeh is eager and passionate to give back to the youth development community, a community that has made a tremendous impact on his own life.

Philippe Bicos


Digital Media Coordinator 

Philippe has extensive experience with a variety of small and large scale multimedia projects; everything from photography and videography to graphic design. His work has been used for a diverse group of organizations, businesses, individuals and community groups. Many of his digital projects have gone viral across the country due to his impeccable creative design and talent. Philippe also has extensive experience in administrative services and logistics for large scale institutions. Philippe believes in the importance of communicating about the plight of marginalized populations in dynamic, engaging and impactful ways that will not only encourage action but help communicate for those who may often be suppressed. 

Rex Abergas


Program Support Coordinator

Rex has been working in the health and wellness industry in the past 8 years. He's worked in commercial gyms, private settings, online coaching, fascial stretch therapy and also has experience in  the e-commerce business. Growing up in Scarborough, Rex fell in love with physical activity in which he believes has helped him with his growth into adulthood. He hopes that by using his experience and passion in health, he can help impact the youth of Toronto by helping them be more active and creating an awareness in the importance of physical activity,