Most people want to make a difference, but not everyone knows where to focus their efforts or start. Anna-Kay Russell du Toit’s advice is simple: volunteer.
“The best way to test out something and have the room to make mistakes and learn from them is through volunteering. That’s the way I’ve discovered my passions and likes and dislikes,” says Anna-Kay. “There are so many organizations out there that need extra support to do good work, and it never hurts to get in there and do something new to see if it’s the right fit or type of work for you.”
This approach has certainly helped Anna-Kay turn her education into a career dedicated to creating a livable and socially-just future for Canada. After graduating with an iBA in Environmental & Health Studies from Glendon in 2015 and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto in 2018, she has worked in a variety of roles in the policy sector – most recently as the Manager of Public Affairs for WoodGreen Community Services. She’s also a regular commentator on CBC, co-founder and Director of Sponsorships for the Canadian Black Policy Network, and is the former Director of Strategy & Governance for Leading Change Canada. What her educational experiences, career, and volunteer work share is a focus on policy, equity, and sustainability.
“The work that I’ve been doing and truly thrive in doing lies at the intersection of all three areas,” explains Anna-Kay. “What I’ve come to realize is that we won’t achieve a sustainable future if it is not equitable, and to achieve an equitable and sustainable future, we will need good and effective public policy. I aim to achieve this in my work moving forward, because I think it’s the key to truly achieving a livable and socially just future for all.”
When you’ve got a big vision for the future, it can be hard to set a strict timeline for its success or to even define what success looks like. Rather than get overwhelmed by this, Anna-Kay has taken a thoughtful approach to making choices about her volunteering activities, work life, and personal life.
“I’ve never been one to set myself very strict timeline goals,” says Anna-Kay. “Instead, I’ve been driven by my passions and what my moral compass is leading me to do to make this world a better place. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I, like I’m sure a lot of other people, have really begun to reflect on where I place my energy and if those activities and initiatives are aligned with my values. I didn’t used to think that my values mattered all that much, but they’re quite important!”
Rapid fire round
Who or what inspires you?
My family inspires me. They are the most resilient and genuine people I know.
What is your favourite place on campus?
A bit cliché, but the Glendon cafeteria. Could always find my friends there!
What is your favourite city in the world?
My hometown – Kingston, Jamaica!
What are your life goals?
My main life goal is simply to be a good human being.
Neya Abdi, BA’16 International Studies
Published in February 2022