Alumni Blog: Sara Casselman

Sara Casselman, Leadership Waterloo Region Alumni

What is your name, and who do you work for? What sector do you represent?

My name is Sara Casselman. For the last decade I’ve been the Public Relations & Operations Manager at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region.  Passionate about social justice and community building, I represent the Social Profit Sector.

What brought you to Leadership Waterloo Region?

Too often communities operate in silos. By definition, community is about having mutuality with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Leadership Waterloo Region (LWR) brings together representatives from the business sector, the government sector, and the social profit sector, creating a network of informed, community-minded leaders. I was drawn the Core Program not only to enhance my leadership skills, but to get out of the Social Profit silo to engage more fully with other sectors. There’s so much to be gained from sharing wisdom, resources and expertise across groups. Leadership Waterloo Region promotes this idea; as I write this blog, we have four LWR alumni from diverse sectors active on our Centre’s Board of Directors. Their expertise, connections, and passion for service to our community have been invaluable to us.

What challenges do you feel the community faces?

Like any other municipality, Waterloo Region faces many challenges that need to be addressed to build a healthy, resilient community. My focus for many years has been on addressing violence against women and children. In 2013, Waterloo Regional Police Service responded to 563 sexual assault reports and 6041 domestic violence reports. When you consider that only ten percent of sexual assaults are reported to police nationally, you begin to glimpse the magnitude of gendered violence across Canada. This violence has a profound impact on individuals, families and communities. Violence against women is universal, but it’s not inevitable. In fact, it’s preventable. In 2007, I was part of creating what has become our Centre’s Male Allies Against Sexual Violence (MAASV) program, an innovative program working to engage boys and men as leaders in the work to end gendered violence. Now in many of our schools across the Region, MAASV and programs like it will create a better future for our daughters and our sons.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

One aspect of leadership that I value is a commitment to continued learning. This fall I’ve enrolled in the Senior Leadership and Management in the Not-For-Profit Sector program at Conestoga College to continue to build my management and leadership skills.

I also value mentorship and continue to seek out professional mentors, and to mentor others in my field when the opportunity arises.  

What advice would you give to anyone looking to be a part of Leadership Waterloo Region’s Core Program?

If you’re contemplating taking Leadership Waterloo Region’s Core Program, I recommend diving right in.

In my experience, the program brings together community-minded people from sectors often separated, enhances their understanding of local needs and nurtures their leadership skills. Alumni leave the program with the tools, understanding and connections they need to contribute to their community in concrete ways, in the areas they’re most passionate about.

Helen Keller said: “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.”

The program doesn’t simply encourage people to be charitable; it promotes the idea that the people in our community are all connected and, as such, we have a responsibility to one another. Leadership Waterloo Region contributes to creating well rounded leaders that are equipped with the knowledge to make Waterloo Region a better place to live.

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