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“Reading between the lines” in Canada

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Canadians are defined by their unique Multicultural society, a four seasons country with lots of winter sports and outdoor activities. Over 35 million people are living in their 9 984 670 km²  land. It’s  an interesting mix of cultures from all over the world, with a strong presence and rules defined by the British influence (they got here third, after the french and the first nations), and a solid international reputation as a tolerant country.

As a constant cultural observer, now joining the Canadian life as my family settles in this new life experience, I practice and try to share the little communication mistakes we all do when trying to fit in.

Personally, I find non-verbal communication as the most important skill that many forget to review and practice when starting a new project in a different environment. Here are some of my findings:

  1. Breaking the ice: It’s the basic first words you might say to stranger just to feel less uncomfortable when silence gets to you. Typical breaking the ice subjects: Hockey (players, results, or anything related to the sport that was news yesterday); the weather (How can anyone be inside with today’s beautiful weather). Any event that made first page in the media (Teachers strike in Peel region; Ontario Sex Curriculum).
  2. Sense of humor: Canadians love jokes, the laugh and they actually have a smile on their faces most of the time. The jokes can include public personalities (as Rob Ford), the weather or their jockey team)
  3. Politeness: they will rarely talk loud or scream bad words even when they are in trouble. They argue with respect for the other person, never sending a message regarding race or religion, social status or political groups. This might sound obvious for many cultures, but in some countries it can be accepted to show all your anger and use inappropriate language.
  4. Fears: Yes, as all humans they can be scared by a changing situation, a new person, terrorism and their future. As an occidental society they follow basic nonverbal communication as the principal skill to accept or reject another person. For example, Canadians look into the eye. They hear you but they need to read your eyes. Canadians, as well as many occidental cultures, seek eye contact that will confirm the message they are listening. It is not ruled by social status, age or gender. Women, men and children will look into your eyes when you are talking to them. If you don’t look them in the eye, it can be read as you are lying, you are nervous or insecure.
  5. Kindness for children and women. In many societies there are important differences between women and men that are socially accepted and culturally sustained for centuries. Not in the Canadian Society, because the legal system offers inclusion and tolerance for all citizens and residents.
  6. This society has a special focus on Family, especially children and women, who are on the top of the list. Many women begin social relations as a consequence by the friendly interaction kids develop when they start to play in the park. Women have exactly the same duties and rights as men. You will find women as chief officers in may big corporations, working as construction builders or bus drivers. They compete for the same professional or academic positions as men.
  7. Age: In the workplace get prepared to have a younger boss. The guy might be 26 years old, but he has gained his position with hard work and good communication skills. Canada is one of the most professional regulated countries, so never underestimate the preparation a person might have to be working at any level.  Never underestimate any job, there is an incredible training program behind it.
  8. Time as a concept. Canadians have a great sense of respect for other peoples time. Time is money, and it really is. When there is a dental appointment at 1, the dentist will start at 1, not a minute after or a minute before. Expect this with the Bus, parties and meetings. Being casual with time is not a good call in Canada.
  9. Salaries: Companies CEEOs or Bosses, probably make a few more thousand dollars yearly than their General director and Managers. It is a horizontal economy and society with many differences, but does not obey hierarchical positions (as can be the Asian or the Latin American culture)
  10. Outdoors: Canadians love being outdoors even in winter. They will ski, skate, camp or swim, because it is safe and it’s fun. Women also participate in these activities. Young families prefer going camping than spending the weekend in a hotel. All over Canada, outdoors activities represent an interesting business because people will find a way to have fun as a group or individually. The cities have many trails or hiking parks that are free or have a reasonable price for the parking lot.
  11. Clothing: Canadians feel proud of having multicultural society, but some dresses that cover entirely the women, really make them suspicious. They feel that if in the cultural background of a family it is accepted to have the female body hidden, there might be something they are hiding. This is a controversial subject that I still need to research more deeply, but the feedback I have received from Canadians is that they fear that some extreme covering is not related to a religion but to a sexual interest.
  12. Language and manners: Drinking soup, shaking hands, using cutlery, talking with food in your mouth, the way you hold a glass of wine, it is incredibly important for this culture. It is so, that many companies hire teams of teachers to provide social rules to some employees.
  13. Body smell: this is a difficult one. Canadians have rules about fragances in public offices. Even in clinics, it is recommended not to wear perfumes. Also, it is commonly noted, that body smell, the one you are born with and that you sweat, no matter what, can also bother Canadians. Some cultures use delicious ingredients in their cooking recipes. It happens that they do not notice their natural body fragrance that has a direct link to the spicy ingredients. The rest of the cultures that live in Canada will notice it, and  they will not do it with happiness. The problem comes when this affects your socializing in the workplace or in any public space. People will isolate others because of their body smell. Also, when bringing a lunchbox into the office, watch out for the smells. Many offices do not have a lunch area, so the condiments will be shared in all areas. A cooking training might be something to explore while living in Canada.
  14. Clean clothes: In Canada you might see lot of people out of fashion. Instead, you will not see people wearing dirty or ragged clothes. Closely linked to the smell problem, Canadians like clean and tidy people. A shower once a day, the regular use of deodorant, monthly care for your hair, weekly manicure, would be the rules. Makeup is optional and it’s very flexible but not as important as it is in some other cultures.

I will write about the Hi, the hand shake and the head nod in a next post!


Target´s reputation: learning with the Canadian Closure.

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I´m a real Target client. I visit their store at least once a week, and I have to admit my shock when I heard the news about them closing their 133 stores in Canada.

Despite what might have happened with Target´s business in Canada, I wonder why this was so badly communicated in-house and for the external audiences. What I have read in the Canadian Media, International media and by the comments I still hear while shopping in the store, I feel a few things were not made to minimize the reputation impact this will have on the brand.

I assume Target has a big PR agency working for them, but honestly, as an outsider, I feel some steps were not followed or, perhaps, the possible reactions were taken for granted. The news spread within social media, and traditional media, before the employees were aware of it. I witnessed as one client shared the news to an employee who had no idea and was not even able to breathe.

I feel surprised because this is not the first time, or company, that announces a huge closure as this one, and there are many experiences that have taught what to do and how to do it to protect the company.

Today some Target stores have closed aisles for the groceries; employees still have no corporate message or training on what to say about this. If Target found out that the business was going to be profitable by 2021, as mentioned on the Financial Post ( ), why was it so difficult for them to adjust for that to happen. By the way, is commonly know that the 5-8 years is the basic North American time frame to see some profitable growth on any business.

Trying to share something about the complex communications and PR field on this blog and looking forward to read some feedback, here are some of the Basic Crisis communication strategy things you can think about before announcing a big closure:
• Establishing the creative and “decision making” team, including Canadian CEO, Legal Advisors, HR, and PR or communications team. Determine the responsibilities as spokespersons and set their ability to be reachable 24/7. Media training (this first step should have been done at least 3 months ago).
• Develop strong key messages that serve as the backup to explain the decision. Numbers, statistics and any information with the options the company managed to survive before. Next steps (the Calendar).
• Creativity with a detailed FQ&A inspired with what would internal and external audiences would worry and ask about.
• Prepare immediate Media relations, offering one on one session with top Canadian Media and opinion leaders for the business.

A Person on the Road

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By Lucia Lecuna

I love planning, programming and having all figured out within a year or a decade. That is my ideal world, but not the real one. My reality made me get trained to be able to adjust to changes in a pace that was absolutely complicated and uncertain, almost every day.

In Venezuela, the country were I grew up, the last thirty years have been actively changing times. I will not give you all the details, because they will lead me to write about economics and politics, two words that should never be together but they are; but I can say that planning only worked for some gift list and dinner plans.

I have to acknowledge that I got very good at adapting and I consider myself as a very flexible person. So my comfort planning zone changed to the unknown reality. Flexibility has come to be absolutely necessary in the changing world we live in, especially in the international business fields.

Recently I finished a Scott Pilates course that will lead me to get my Instructor Certificate, something that I always wanted to do, since exercise has been one of my passions, and that. So, why would a journalist want to teach Pilates, since she has grown in a career in PR?

The extra income will sure help me, but I will do it because I enjoy teaching and I know this exercises really help people with back pains, posture problems and getting more strength in their stability muscles. Yes, I love finding health related information, sharing it and making it grow, but along the way, I have found that balance in my life requires extra activities that can actually complete the 24 hours a day with something more than sleeping.

My relaxing zone comes after work and after exercising. I love doing crafts too and I have a small business creating earrings, which gives me a great satisfaction too. Being a mom it’s actually my other professional career. And it may have uncertain moments too, but it’s a lifetime career.

One thing I would love to share: the road is now more different that it was for my parents or grandparents. To be certain about what’s going to happen in the next ten years it’s impossible. I know that more scientific developments, mobility and technology use, as well as social progress focused on equality and safety are going to impact the world we live in. I only hope nature holds on us as we get to reduce our impact on it.

Lucia Lecuna is a PR and journalist professional who has worked in the Global International corporate world. She moved in Canada in 2013 and joins several social justice organizations as a volunteer. She follows health organizations along the world and in Canada, finding her passion when new ideas and solutions help different communities. After years connected to the fitness and health business, she will include Pilates Instructor in her complementary professional profile.

Yoga and Pilates for Kids

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By Lucia Lecuna

With the cold days knocking at our doors faster than we thought, I started reading about Pilates and Yoga to help me prepare and gain more interest for indoor activities. Actually, I discovered not only I will get benefits, but I can adapt and guide my kids to be more active and gain strength, balance and have fun with simple exercises.

My kids are closer to Lego than video games, at least at home, but if they don’t have too many options or they remain inactive for two hours, I am the one that starts to worry. How can we motivate our kids to get more active with a fun and inexpensive option, without pushing them to do a task.

There are lots of great body positions either in Yoga or Pilates, that can be easily performed by young kids, making them laugh, move and exercise without noticing your guidance. Yoga postures make kids see the world in a different perspective, imagine a fantasy and perform different characters or animals in the natural environment.

All you need is some indoor space, and a mat to work on. Imitating the walk of their favorite animal, like the Elephant, frog, eagle, fish, dog or even Dinosaur, will be a lot of fun for many minutes. You can set some music for the background, with a low volume, and counting seconds to hold on an animal walk.

Prepare the room:

Probably you will need to move some furniture and fragile objects. This is an adult task, but some older kids can help specially to set things back where they were. The room has to be in a comfortable temperature, not too warm or cold.

Beware of hanging lamps or electrical cords, like the telephone ones. Some of these activities can include jumps and crawling.

Houses also have lots of distractions. It is better if you turn off the TV, computer or video games.

Appropriate clothing:

No shoes or socks. Socks are nice during these cold days, but can make you or your kids slip and fall, and you don’t want an accident. Actually, pediatricians are promoting bare foot, specially at home, which develops the toddlers feet arcs.

Use comfortable leggings, shorts and shirts. It’s easier with stretch clothes or tight t-shirts’, that wont go to your face when standing upside down..

Create an agenda:

A very basic one. It could be a list of the positions you will do, such as the warrior, the dog, or the monkey. 30 minutes might be enough time for small toddlers and kids. They will probably want more, but you can always repeat apposition or get inspired in the moment.

Some positions


Tell your kid to seek the position of a frog that is resting. They have to bend both knees and put their hands next to their feet. This is a very comfortable position for most of the kids. Then at the count of 3, they have to jump as high as they can. Do it 10 times, allowing 5 or 8 seconds to rest between every jump. If you are doing this with your kid, you can make him/her follow you to different spots in the room.

The sandwich

Can be done with a kid and an adult or with two kids.

Locate  yourself back to back, sitting on the floor. One kid  will relax over the other, while that kid tries to touch his/her toes. They have to do it slowly, and not pushing all their weight over the kid that is below. This is a great stretching position. Allow them to bend their knees if they feel pain.

Creating circles:

With legs, arms, hands and hips, slowly draw circles. You can hold hands when doing this and move coordinating the movement with music.

Stretch arms:

Gently circle your arms, on top of your heads, breathing in when you put them up, and breathing out when your arms come back down. It can be done in the beginning and the end of the routine.

The Robot squeeze:

Put your shoulders up to your ears, first 5 times with one, holding 5 seconds for each. Then pull both and walk around lifting your toes, and straight legs, feeling like a robot.

Sunshine stretch

Starting with the hands in a prayer position, standing up. Lift your hands stretching them over your head. Then exhale and fold forwards bending your knees and put the hands in front of your feet, keeping the palms of both feet and hands flat. This could make them feel some stretching on the back of the knees. Kids are usually more flexible than adults but let them bend their knees if they want to. You can try the Elephant walk when joining this position with your kids. You can make them follow you until you reach a certain spot slowly, as Elephants do.

The Dog:

Staring with both knees and hands on the floor, as a crawling baby, fingers wide and spreading the body weight into each hand. Breath in and out, lift the knees of the floor and draw a triangle with your body.

You can make them walk around like dogs, and even lift the legs one by one, and then the arms. Also, you can move using different speed levels, not as a “car race”, but making them feel the possibilities their body has when rhythm is included.

NOTE: There are several books at the Library that can help, even created for the family and kids. You can also register for a Yoga-Pilates program with your children. As the body learns you will need more and there is always some risk to get injured if you are trying to perform a complex position at home. Check local programs!

Colombian Kids Receive Help From Local Ontario Fundraising Events and Donors

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By Lucia Lecuna


Cleft lip and cleft palate are terrible malformations that occur in the first months of the pregnancy, leaving the lips and palate of the baby with a noticeable hole or space.

During the first trimester of the intrauterine life, the palate undergoes the process to close, as well as the descent of the tongue and the fusion of all the tissues. An alteration on them produces cleft lip and cleft palate malformation. Several Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate surgeries are confirmed for next December in a small town in Colombia.

According to Mayo Clinic and the feedback of Dr. Darío Garzón, a Colombian Oral Maxilofacial Surgeon, head of Drawing Alegria (Dibujando Alegría) Colombia, and from the International Centre of Dental Implants, the increase of the likelihood of a baby developing a cleft lip and cleft palate includes: Family history, nutritional factors of the mother, obesity and exposure to certain substances (smoke, intake of alcohol or certain medications). Recent studies reveal that “this malformation is more common in Latin American native and Asian race babies, being the black race babies less likely to develop it. Also, male babies are twice as likely to have cleft lip without cleft palate, being this particular double malformation more common in females (Mayo Clinic)”.

Dr. Garzón, with over 19 years of experience joining several groups of maxillofacial surgeons that visit small poor suburbs towns in Colombia and other Latin American Countries, explains that: if the family knows their history regarding this malformation, they should evaluate the risk and care for the expecting mother, emphasizing on her nutrition during the first three months of the pregnancy, controlling chemical factors that she might be exposed to.

Q: Does this malformation interfere with the nutrition of the newborn?
A: “Nature is incredible and the babies I have seen find a way to adapt their mouth so that he or she can breastfeed. Probably it will not be perfect, but the baby usually gets the nutrients. There are limitations if there is an infection and if the baby is placed in the right way” said Dr. Garzón.

Some complications of cleft lip and cleft palate include: gagging or some breast milk might come out of the nose. There is also the possibility that the baby develops ear infections that could end in ear loss, due to their susceptibility to middle ear infections. Researchers have also seen severe dental problems, as a consequence when the cleft extends on the upper gum, affecting the teeth formation.

The cleft palate also limits the normal process of speech development, because many sounds need the complete palate to be achieved. Finally, there are several social and behavioral problems due to the difference in the appearance and the stress of the medical care.

Q: How can a family prepare for this?
A: “Delivering the diagnose can be an emotional moment that will require time for the family to overcome the denial phase, the hurt and responsibilities, to begin the willingness to find solutions to the problem. The first solution is to ease the visual aesthetic alteration in early age”.

Q: What does it take to perform the surgeries you are doing in Colombia?
A: We gather a volunteer multidisciplinary group of health professionals that includes: Social workers, psychologists, audiology or hearing specialists, speech therapists, dentists, maxilofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, pediatricians and administrative personnel, among others. We all work as a team in different steps of the procedure, starting with diagnose and helping the family all the way until the baby is adapting to a normal life. Sometimes a patient will require 3-5 surgeries to obtain the proper location of the bone and skin tissues.

Q: Is $250.00 enough to perform each surgery?
A: Yes, that could cover the basic costs, because we have gathered an excellent professional team that joins us as volunteers. The budget might move from $250-$400 depending on the facilities we will need for each visit and the circumstances of the patient.

Ideally these surgeries should be performed in a fully equipped Hospital. But these patients live in poor towns that don’t have a proper Hospital and the procedures are often performed in a Walk-In clinic with more limitations on cleanness and equipment than the ones you can visit in Canada. The families don’t have the financial resources to travel to a large city, so all the volunteers of “Drawing Alegría” travel to get there with all the equipment.

We can perform 10 surgeries a day, and with the $250.00-400.00 we cover the costs of anesthesia and the surgical equipment. The financial support also helps Drawing Alegria with other costs linked to the surgical journey, which include hospitality, meals and transportation for the volunteers.

Q: How many surgeries have you and your team performed so far?
A: I have been working in these field surgeries since I was in training, over 19 years ago, because it gives me a priceless satisfaction. I try to schedule two to three field trips a year, allowing us to achieve 60-100 procedures in each trip. I have worked with three different groups during these 19 years, and we have recorded over 4.500 surgeries in several countries, meaning over 180-300 kids/year.

Sending financial aid from Canada
There are many ways to make these surgeries a complete success and the financial support is a must. You can get in touch with Francisco Garzón, brother of the Colombian Surgeon, who has been living in Canada for over 10 years as a successful Real Estate Broker in the Greater Toronto Area. He and his family have organized many “Drawing Alegría” events, relying on the support from two recognized Non Profit Organizations, such as The Canadian Children’s Organization, as the local Canadian Charity, and Conexion Colombia, the Charity that receives, delivers, and follows up on the financial and legal aspects for Drawing Alegría.

The Canadian Colombian Children’s Organization is a Canadian registered charity with over 15 years gathering and sending financial support to Colombia, seeking to provide good education, basic nutrition and health support, so low income Colombian kids can graduate from high school and begin their careers as apprentices in trades and professions.

Conexión Colombia is a Colombian registered Charity with over 10 years connecting and helping Colombians from all over the world with their country, seeking and financing projects that will improve the life of vulnerable Colombians.

For more information, visit: (905) 275 9400 (416)621-6299. 940 The East Mall, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario, Canada – M9B 6J7.
Charity # 83206 2145 RR001

Accidents Happen, Despite Increased Training

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By: Lucia Lecuna

Is Canada adapting to the changing face of health and safety? Canada is one of the most regulated and safety-conscious countries in the world, crisis, accidents, serious injuries and even death, should be rare.

In reality, life-changing medical accidents, workplace mishaps and psycho-social tragedies, like violence and self-harm are not diminishing. Despite a national increase in training for first-responder safety skills, crisis intervention and sensitivity training workplace accidents continue to occur.

As a new Canadian, I admire the safe model Canada has developed in any field that involves humans, nature, law and industry. As a researcher, I wanted to find someone who could respond to my questions. I searched and found Alec Gardner, Clinical Director for Stratford Health Support. He has analyzed from a Sociological and Scientific approach, modern health and safety issues related to workplace.

When interviewing him I found out that he wrote for the Ontario Association of Psychotherapists. In his research, he discovered an increase in aggressive posturing and risk-taking, both at work and in the community. He found bullying tactics, desensitization and other disturbing trends across society in his findings. Gardner explained, “I also examine how emotional stress can be a direct threat to physical health and safety. Consider an angry worker going to his job after fierce argument with his partner; this situation of underlying domestic unrest is weighing on his mind throughout the day, and later in the afternoon, distracted by his morning altercation, he ends up rushing, and gets his hand caught in an industrial saw. This in turn requires emergency First Aid and results in many other problems including lost work time and frustration. While this is a bit of a contrived example, you can see where I am going with it.”

I asked Alec, “Do you, as a professional safety trainer in CPR, First Aid and Crisis Intervention, feel that increasing levels of legislation requiring people to take physical and social safety trainings is effective? Are you disappointed with the results?”

He replied, “Not at all. The numbers of accidents, injuries and other dangerous events is probably more reflective of our population simply becoming so much larger, especially in Ontario. In fact, there is more need now, with an aging population displaying cardio-vascular, diabetic, dementia-congruent health problems. Today, more than ever before, training in core safety skills, like CPR and First Aid is needed. I would strongly recommend that people also look for training in a Non-Violent Crisis Prevention and Intervention Course.”

Through my research I found that one of his most recognized courses is Crisis Prevention and Intervention. According to Alec, this blends his love of psychologically pro-active safety measures with concrete tactics to re-stabilize any situation that may have gotten out of hand. Alec recently had an article published in The Crisis Prevention Institute’s magazine Supportive Stance. In the article he describes the mind of someone who has lost control, describing in detail why it is medically safer to keep a hands-off policy in place.

“What individuals, agencies and companies need these days is safety training and preparedness assistance solutions that are reasonably priced, time flexible and geared to their needs. Though I started in the caring professions back in 1979, it wasn’t until recently, actually in the past ten years that I have taken my training to areas including hospitality, manufacturing and administration.” he explained.

I continued my interview and I learned that like most people in the caring professions, and like most Instructors, he didn’t get into this business to make a fortune.

Alec joked. “I often found myself loading my teaching equipment into my old car and going to meet the people needing training where they were located, keeping mileage and fees as moderate as I could.” For Alec, this was about improving physical and emotional safety and well-being; for without those core hierarchies in place, people cannot develop and grow in other areas of their lives.

Alec offers ‘geared-to-income’ counseling through his Stratford Health Support.
Many people out there in immediate crisis may not have:

• The money for expensive psychotherapy
• The time to sit on a waiting list for several months

Alec tries to get his referrals in as fast as he can so that he can do, at least, a basic assessment and treatment triage.

I asked him what his reaction would be if a client had no money. “That’s what ‘geared-to-income’ would mean.” he said. That sounds like pro bono to me.

I left Alec after wading through a massive file folder of unsolicited Letters of Appreciation from those he has helped pro bono over the years. I saw that these letters were predominantly for his work in therapy.

There were other letters thanking him for providing free community CPR courses for organizations and associations.

Alec Gardner nourishes the needs of his clients with energy and strength, doing the work he loves, helping when and where he can.

For more information, please visit: or visit Alec’s LinkedIn profile.

Spanish Speaking Education Network (SSEN) and their 6th Congress of Education: STEM

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By Lucia Lecuna

Changes in this Digital era never seem to stop, scientist all over the world are constantly creating more and more devices to help people managing time and space with more accurate precision than ever.

The race began for Canada many years ago and taking part of this technology race keeps all Canadians close to the innovations that are getting in the market. It is just in time, and we are learning to enjoy the innovations and make good use of them. We are learning to think outside the box when it comes to planning our future.

Educators are now emphasizing the need for more professionals trained in the STEM professions, Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics). We need to be competitive as a nation and continue to adapt to the new challenges we face in the future.

The Spanish Speaking Education Network (SSEN), is a non-profit education promotion group founded in 2005, they are actively working within the Latin American immigrant communities, living in the GTA.  They recently announced their up-coming 6th Congress of Education, which will take place at the University of Toronto on November 8th; the focus of the congress will be on STEM.

Educators, principals, social researchers and local Toronto police representatives, will be promoting this Congress. The purpose will be to share the importance of Latin American Immigrants being pro-active and prepared to never lose the opportunity to be part of Canada’s technological future.

Esthela Cuenca, SSEN´s secretary and founding member, explained that, “The best way to help our children, and guarantee a better future for Canada and our Spanish Speaking communities, is through education. Canada is a country that has all the resources to help us to prepare for a competitive future, and we have to share the importance of education focusing on STEM with the families that will participate in this challenge”.

The cultural, professional and religious diversity that Canada offers is unique and is a great environment to learn and share; creating and leading with innovation.

In a city with over 5 million people, elementary school students and high school students are beginning to realize the importance of the preparation needed to help them succeed in the future.

There are several government programs that help low income families help their children to get through college or university. This is opening hundreds of possibilities to get them trained in one of the STEM sectors, hopefully one of their career preferences.

SSEN has been working alongside both parents and students helping them move towards the academic success of the community they represent.  They have been facilitating seminars, workshops and specialized programs for parents where they are becoming more active in their children’s education.

Canada has 18 Nobel Prices for Physics, Chemistry and Medicine. Statistics show it rates 12° in the world for most Internet users worldwide (over 84% of the population). It´s considered 3rd in the world leading in Aerospace Research (Canada was the third nation to send an artificial satellite into space, after the Soviet Union and the United States of America).

The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace and Canada is adapting.  Communities like SSEN will be on track helping this new generation to be part of the new era  through education and commitment.