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 the founder and CEO of Emergenetics Canada (2013) and Volunteer President and founder of the charity for youth leadership, Empowering Minds (2007).

Deanna is an alumni of Queen’s University EMBA. Deanna is also a graduate of the Institute for Corporate Directors, a Master Graduate of Rapport Leadership International, and a alumni of the highly distinguished Judy Project – an initiative led by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

Deanna sits on three Boards - Calgary Counselling Centre, WEDO Canada and Empowering Minds. All of these organizations do important work that align with her values of helping others succeed and improving mental wellness.

She is a proud mother of two children and two step children from her husband Rob Finot. Now that the kids are all grown, Deanna enjoys spending time with their beautiful Rottie, Dani, anywhere there is sunshine and warm weather.
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Tracy Aylesworth
Executive Director

Tracy is the Principal Owner of Shindigz Ventures Inc, a firm concentrating on event management, fundraising and business development skills.

Raised on the family farm north east of Hussar Alberta, Tracy learned the values of hard work, fairness, creativity and compassion which has carried through into her business career.

Over the past 17 years Tracy has directed Shindigz to hone a niche in the fundraising industry by creating and executing campaigns and events for clients such as Hospice Calgary, The Calgary Stampede, The Canadian Olympic Committee, Juvenile Diabetes, Foothills Academy for children with learning disabilities and Las Vegas Events.

While being married and mother to two young daughters 10 and 13 years old, Tracy finds time to volunteer. She has previously sat on the Board of The Janus Academy, a school for autistic children & 10 years with the Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Committee as the Eye in the Sky Coordinator. She spent 10 years as a Board Member of her family foundation - the Nickle Family Private Foundation Board.
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Alexis Paproski
Senior Operations Manager

Alexis has 25 years of experience in designing and delivering systems to support the development of adult and youth 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, which was her way of creating 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.

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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Ruth Pogue
Board Director
(Human Resources Consultant at Shift Capital Inc)

Ruth holds a Bachelor of Commerce (BCOMM), Finance and Human Resources from the University of Alberta.

Her 20 year career in the oil and gas industry was with Dome Petroleum, Amoco Canada and Crestar Energy. She held various positions in many different departments but her favourite was Human Resources. After a 10 year hiatus from the working world, Ruth liked the flexibility of consulting. In the past 10 years, Ruth has worked as a Human Resources Consultant. Clients have included two oil start-ups, a Charter School and a couple of charitable organizations. During the tax season, Ruth can be found at the Kerby Centre, helping low income seniors to file their personal income tax returns.

Together with her husband, Greg McLean, they have a combined family of four sons. Ruth enjoys the outdoors with activities such as golfing, pickleball, hiking, kayaking and walking.
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David Ghoris
Board Director
(DMG Events)

David Ghoris is the Director of Content for DMG Events.

dmg events organises more than 80 events across 25 countries, attracting over 425,000 attendees and delegates every year. The company’s portfolio of products includes many industry-leading events in the energy, construction, hospitality & design, coatings and transportation sectors.

David leads the content strategy for existing and launch events in North 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
Board Director
(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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Lauren Gross
Board Director
(Chic Geek)

Lauren is the Digital Marketing Lead at Chic Geek, a Calgary-based non-profit organization supporting the retention of women in technology.

As an avid entrepreneur, her business works with clients across Canada to establish their voice and online presence by developing digital marketing strategies.

Currently, Lauren is attending the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree specializing in Business Analytics and Computer Science, as she is passionate about the future of marketing with the implementation of data and technologies.

A graduate of the Empowering Minds Youth Leadership programs, Lauren is looking forward to supporting the future initiatives of Empowering Minds, specifically leading the marketing initiatives of the organization's annual fundraiser Live & Unsigned.

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Our Instuctors

Grant McLarnon
Teen Leadership Breakthrough Program Master Associate Trainer

Grant dedicates time to teaching intensive leadership programs to adults and teens, helping them get the most out of their own lives.

He has over 20 years of technology and business consulting experience from around the globe overseeing teams of enthusiastic, ambitious and competent technologists; building exciting and modern solutions for customers based on Microsoft technologies.

Grant formerly was a Managing Partner in Adxstudio and CEO of Adoxio, both of which were global players in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem. He is passionate about building capable, hard-working, and fun teams. He has worked with numerous organizations in multiple industries across North America, Europe, and the Middle East bringing innovative yet practical solutions to help organizations achieve more.

Grant calls Calgary home as it is where he enjoys spending time with his adult children.

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McKenna Simpson
Teen Leadership Breakthrough Program Master Associate Trainer

As a passionate young woman, McKenna has over 8 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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