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U For Change: Change Makers With Passion



(Barry Avrich, Vanessa Craft, Sylvia Mantella, Mikhael Kale, G. Scott Paterson (Photo: George Pimentel Photography))

An organization that strives to help young individuals discover their creative passions within an inclusive community. U for Change’s vision is that every young person confidently pursues a future, rich with opportunity. The Talk event had no shortage of inspiration, creativity and passion buzzing in the room with Toronto’s Mayor John Tory, the five brilliant panelists, graduates of the U for Change program and various spectators from the Toronto community, all coming together in celebration of this program. Mayor Tory opened the evening with remarks on his support of the program: “Creativity and education are fundamental for the image of the city, in order to bring the best and brightest to Toronto. Having creative people fosters innovation and inclusiveness”.

All the panelists come from uniquely creative backgrounds: Producer/Director/Advertising Professional Barry Avrich, ELLE Canada EIC Vanessa Craft, Fashion Designer Mikhael Kale and Tech/Finance Entrepreneur G. Scott Patterson. Moderated by Philanthropist and Mantella Corp CMO Sylvia Mantella.

From The Talk, we learned about the history of the panelist’s stories, their passion, their successes and failures and the lessons that came from all of their unique experiences.


(Photo: George Pimentel Photography)

The passion that each speaker exuded, could be felt in the room. Amongst all their differences, there was one striking commonality, they are all passionate dreamers. The common theme in many of their answers was that they were undoubtedly in the right career, and each had defining moments in their childhood that led them on their various paths. For Barry – his father’s love for the entertainment business had pushed him to his film career, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Barry discussed his early years with his father: “Going to the movies with my father, he taught me to stop watching the show and focus on the audience and their reactions, he taught me the art of reading people”. Although his father pushed Barry to explore the arts, he was also a firm believer in Barry pursuing a career that would be lucrative. Barry recalls his father sitting him down at the young age of 8 and pulling out the September Vogue issue: “He flipped to the ads and pointed ‘look at all of these ads, you need to go here, into advertising’”. Barry’s says he owes so much to his late father who influenced so much of who is he today, where he has had an immensely successful life mixing his passion for both film, and advertising.

Mikhael recalls not being interested in playing hockey with his brothers, rather playing with his moms’ sewing machine at the age of 7. He said there was nothing else he ever wanted to do, Fashion had always been it for him. He later explained to the audience that inspiration has always been a breeze for him. Having to pump out multiple collections within a semester at University of the Arts London was something that came naturally. So naturally, that he once made an entire collection inspired by the flesh of an unpeeled orange.

Scott’s love affair with investing began in his teens when his grandmother gave him a trust. At that time he was upset that he didn’t get a bike like all his other friends because his gift wasn’t tangible in the moment. However, since then, he’s learned to be forever grateful as that was what started his passion for investing and ultimately sparked his interest in his successful career.


(Photo: George Pimentel Photography)

The panelists also opened up about their struggles, failures and advice that kept them going. Vanessa moved to England when she was 18 years old, with $800 in her bank account. She worked temp office jobs while she tried to break into writing. When discussing her success as now, Editor in Chief of ELLE Canada, she stated: “If you want to get results other people don’t have, then you need to have the balls, the time and the determination that others don’t”. She pushed herself out of her comfort zone moving, at times feeling isolated, worked multiple jobs and wrote on the side. She is now the first and only black female Editor in Chief at any ELLE internationally.

With the immense success these individuals have had, fueled by their drive and passion, it would come as no surprise that they were each able to lend some inspiring advice to the audience:

Mikhael – When asked advice he would have liked to been given: “Think less. It can interfere with productivity and trip you up”.

Scott – “Don’t judge your life on a bad day”.

Vanessa – “Don’t dull your shine to make other people comfortable. You need to remember that it is nothing to do with you if people are uncomfortable by your dreams, hopes and goals”.

Barry – Quincy Jones gave Barry some advice on letting go of a bad work experience: “Every great picture has a negative – let it go”.

The purpose of U for Change is to ensure that young people are given the proper tools, inspiration and confidence to learn and pursue what they want. Hearing the panelists speak from their hearts, openly and honestly, about their careers, struggles, successes and advice fit the exact mission of this amazing organization. A huge thank you and congratulations to everyone involved in this successful event.


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