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New Directions Speakers’ School was founded in 2008 through an initiative of the Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers’ Support Group in collaboration with various community partners, including the Lakehead Social Planning Council and the Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic.


The school’s main purpose is to develop public speaking and leadership skills and to raise awareness of social justice issues. The school is open to anyone who is an injured worker, living in poverty or facing other economic challenges. The school attempts to address and overcome barriers to participation and promotes an atmosphere of peer support and mutual aid.

This free 14 week course runs twice a year teaching public speaking and leadership skills in an environment of peer support and within the context of education in social justice issues; guest speakers present on issues relating to disability, poverty and unemployment.  The training consists of exercises focusing on effective communication, public speaking and group facilitation combined with substantive lectures on social justice issues and other related topics presented by community trainers. Speakers’ School also coordinates and facilitates monthly meetings of the alumni who wish to continue developing their skills and broadening their knowledge once they have graduated from the school.




Since 2008 approximately 100 students have successfully completed the program.  Graduates have spoken on a variety of relevant social justice issues including discrimination, living with HIV, the sex trade, financial hardships faced by widows, Aboriginal accomplishments, faith, poverty, and addiction.


Students have repeatedly reported that the program has increased their self esteem, self efficacy and confidence.  Many have gone on to volunteer and work in the City.  The presentations given by guest speakers in the community has improved awareness of community services and programs available.


New Directions Speakers’ School is currently governed by a volunteer board.  The members come from a diverse background, each bringing with them a unique perspective from the community.


Research Report on New Directions Speakers’ School


In July 2014, a report was prepared by Regina Belloso for the Board of Directors of New Directions Speakers’ School. The objective of the report was to highlight key findings from a research project on how the NDSS has helped some of its participants in overcoming isolation by giving them skills to help promote effective community engagement. The report, I Want to Find My Voice Again: The Experiences of Students Who Have Graduated From New Directions Speakers’ School can be accessed here.

The 2022-2023 Board members

George Drazenovich, Co-Chair

Serena Essex, Co-Chair 

Beth Ponka, Secretary

Genevieve Desmoulin, Treasurer

Syndyn Baxter

Karli Brotchie

Ted Bobrowski

Eugene Lafrancois

Ann McGuire

Previous board members include:

Steve Mantis, Angie Lynch, Shane Esarik, Brian Walker, Anne Chuchmuch, Rayla Moonias, Rhona Stock, Greg Snider, George Dravenovich, Robin Faye, Claire Littleton, Aaron Park, Susan Haavisto, Mary Veltri, Joan Williams and Leslie DeMuelles. 

We’ve been fortunate to have fantastic facilitators/teachers of this course, including our current facilitator, Ryan Sigurdson.

Past facilitators have included: Richard Togman, Robin Faye, Rhonda Stock, Karli Brotchie, Anne Chuchmuch, Brian Walker, Lori Walker and Deanna Ford.


For more information


If you require any additional information on New Directions Speakers’ School or would like to learn how you can participate or volunteer please email at:


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