OUR TEAM

Empowering Minds: Our Team

At Empowering Minds, we come from different backgrounds with different experiences and personalities, but we are united in our passion and commitment to working with youth. We strive to live what we teach as we practice personal development and set a strong example of leadership and confidence to the young people we come in contact with. All of our instructors are Rapport certified meaning they receive extensive training and comprehensive coaching to ensure that all of our programs are successful.

Deanna Werklund MBA, ICD.D
President & Board Chair

A visionary leader with an entrepreneurial spirit, Deanna Werklund is founder of Emergenetics Canada (2013) and Empowering Minds (2012).


Drawing on her experience as a successful businesswoman and her passion for helping others, Deanna helped found the Werklund Foundation in 2006. Deanna envisioned the Werklund Foundation as highly entrepreneurial in nature, investing in (and growing) initiatives with the capacity to yield the highest returns on our most important asset: our youth. Deanna’s bold vision for excellence in leadership education has led to the Werklund Foundation’s support of youth leadership initiatives in Alberta and the creation of Empowering Minds.

Deanna graduated from Queen’s University EMBA program in 2014. Deanna is also a graduate of the Institute for Corporate Directors, a Master Graduate of Rapport Leadership International, and a graduate of the highly distinguished Judy Project – an initiative led by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Currently, Deanna is a part-time student as AUArts (formerly ACAD) in the glass department taking glass blowing.

A mother of two (super great) grown children, Deanna enjoys spending time vacationing with her partner Rob Finot and their beautiful Rottie, Dani, anywhere there is a beach and warm weather.
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McKenna Simpson
Program Manager & Trainer

As a passionate young woman, McKenna has over 6 years of experience with youth leadership training and is dedicated to impacting and empowering people every day.

She has been involved in many ways within the community and always finds time to give back. With focusing on creating a safe environment for youth to find their voice and true potential, McKenna is an avid believer of our future leaders. She has a confident and unique personality and is passionate about the training she does with Rapport Leadership International and Empowering Minds. McKenna loves learning new things and sharing positive energy with the people around her. If you don’t find her hard at work or training a class she is most likely traveling the world and putting, even more, check marks on her bucket list.
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Alexis Paproski
Manager of Operations

Alexis has 25 years of experience in designing and delivering systems to support the development of adult leadership. She has been instrumental in developing the

processes to support programs that transform the way the learners work and live. She is excited to support youth to prepare them to become ‘Future Leaders’ who have the confidence, resiliency, and the focus required to thrive in today’s world.

She has been the backbone of supporting an international non-profit for the last 15 years. Making it possible to educate thousands of girls and women to read and write. Her way of creating a bit more peace in the world.

She is passionate about Process Management, Coordination, Coaching, HR Management, Customer-Service and is an Organization Specialist.
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Our Board

We are extremely excited to attract and retain such a well-respected and influential group of leaders to our Board of Directors.

Deanna Werklund MBA
President & Board Chair

A visionary leader with an entrepreneurial spirit, Deanna Werklund is founder of Emergenetics Canada (2013) and Empowering Minds (2012).


Drawing on her experience as a successful businesswoman and her passion for helping others, Deanna helped found the Werklund Foundation in 2006. Deanna envisioned the Werklund Foundation as highly entrepreneurial in nature, investing in (and growing) initiatives with the capacity to yield the highest returns on our most important asset: our youth. Deanna’s bold vision for excellence in leadership education has led to the Werklund Foundation’s support of youth leadership initiatives in Alberta and the creation of Empowering Minds.

Deanna graduated from Queen’s University EMBA program in 2014. Deanna is also a graduate of the Institute for Corporate Directors, a Master Graduate of Rapport Leadership International, and a graduate of the highly distinguished Judy Project – an initiative led by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Currently, Deanna is a part-time student as AUArts (formerly ACAD) in the glass department taking glass blowing.

A mother of two (super great) grown children, Deanna enjoys spending time vacationing with her partner Rob Finot and their beautiful Rottie, Dani, anywhere there is a beach and warm weather.
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Denny Chow
Board Director
Capexco Inc.

Mr. Chow is currently the Chief Financial Officer for Capexco Inc., a real estate developer focused in Calgary, AB and San Diego, CA.

Mr. Chow has extensive Chief Financial Officer experience in both private and publicly listed corporations including: the CFO of Firmus Contracting Inc. - which provides construction services for major industrial, commercial, and residential multifamily real estate projects, the CFO of Morro Bay Resources Ltd, and the CFO of RMS Systems Inc. (an energy equipment and services company) from September 2008 to November 2013. He was also the Corporate Controller of Teine Energy Ltd. from February 2006 to June 2011. Mr. Chow is a Chartered Accountant.
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David Ghoris
Board Director
Calgary Economic Development

David Ghoris is Business Development Manager for Agribusiness for Calgary Economic Development.

In this role he is responsible for Investment Attraction specific to the Ag sector as well as ecosystem building by building, developing and actioning Calgary Agribuisiness strategy. David gained his experience in Economic Development with the City of Red Deer and was previously the Head of Content for dmg::events, primarily responsible for driving cutting edge and innovative content with C-Level Executives and key government figures throughout the event portfolio, as well as leading the conference teams growth into Latin America.
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Robert Finot
Board Director
West Jet

A WestJet Tech Ops Director for 12+ years, along with other manger and leadership roles spanning over 33 years in the airline industry and corporate charter.

Team collaboration, along with team growth and development opportunities have always been a focus in creating annual objectives and strategies. Health & Safety are synonymous with his aviation career, where Rob has been a Safety Officer and presently resides as Employer Chair with WestJet’s OS&H Committee. Rob’s team oversight has included Technical Training and Licensing for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, where his interests and time include working with local technical schools and grade schools in promoting interests into the aviation industry.

A family man and Father of two successful young adults (Kristin & David) and two “bonus” successful young adults (Shae & Rhet), Deanna and Rob’s family is rounded off with their Rottie, Dani. Our home is the common gathering place for our friends and family where many dinners and social gatherings are treated with our passion to cook, great food, love and laughter.
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Marius Ghinescu, P.Eng., MBA, PMP
Director, Engineering and Technologies
Raytheon Canada Limited

Marius has over twenty years of international experience in the defense and commercial industries,

occupying leadership roles on complex programs in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and ASEAN countries. In his current role at Raytheon, he is engaged in strategic development activities including outcome-based growth strategy definition, innovation portfolio management, business development and key programs execution. Marius has a proven track record in the development of digital and advanced technologies and has a deep understanding of Open Innovation and System of Systems (SoS) development using various architectural frameworks. His major strengths include strategic planning and leadership, identifying convergent opportunities, operations management as well as building high performance teams. Marius is regularly invited to speak and write about creating a culture of innovation and how to leverage emerging technologies to strategically grow businesses. Marius is frequently leveraging his extensive network to connect local small business and not for profits to secure necessary funding and in-kind resources. He is also engaged in community development growth through volunteering, mentoring and coaching. Marius enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter and whenever possible he is pursuing his interests in fly fishing and scuba diving.
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