Saskatchewan·Future 40

Latest CBC Future 40 winners include accomplished researcher, dedicated lawyer, passionate baker and educators

Alana Krug-MacLeod, Brendon Needham, Estelle Hjertaas, Jody Robson and Christa Nelson make up this group of five CBC Future 40 winners.

2020 CBC Future 40 winners announced Dec. 2 to 6

Meet five more of 2020's CBC Future 40 winners in Sask. (Submitted to CBC)

Meet five more winners of 2020's CBC Future 40. This incredible group includes an accomplished environmental researcher, a dedicated lawyer, a passionate baker and two educators who are thinking outside the box. 

Each one of these Saskatchewan people is younger than 40. Each one of them is working to make our province the best it can be.

The finalists were chosen from a larger pool of nominees by a panel of judges composed of CBC Future 40 alumni.

Each day from Dec. 2 to 6 we'll announce another group of the of 40 finalists. 

All of the nominations below were written by members of the public and have been edited for length and clarity. Additionally, CBC provided all finalists with the opportunity to respond to their CBC Future 40 win in a questionnaire. Select answers from these appear below.

Alana Krug-MacLeod

Category: Education

Age: 23

Alana Krug-MacLeod is a 2020 CBC Future 40 winner. (Submitted to CBC)

CBC: How does it feel to know you're succeeding?

Alana Krug MacLeod: This world holds so many treasures worth preserving. For me, knowing that more people are willing to think beyond themselves and make choices to protect special places, and do that while improving living conditions for humans, too, is what makes it worth trying.

Alana's nomination: I am nominating Alana Krug-MacLeod based on her 10 years of contributions to sustainability awareness and action in Saskatchewan.

Alana is 23 and a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan Environmental Biology program. At 14, after traveling to Antarctica on a scholarship, she returned and mobilized to action. She made countless presentations to school and community groups, connecting local actions to global systems.

She developed and implemented award-winning projects for Saskatchewan's Caring for our Watersheds (a school food forest plan to promote sustainable food), Project Penguin (educational geocaches, photocards and videos on climate change), Kickstart Change (helping Grade 8 ScienceTrek students build kicksleds from recycled local materials to support sustainable transportation) and Building Biodiversity (creating signage and building insect hotels with youth and community gardeners).

She represented Saskatchewan as an ambassador for a climate change research group in Finland, an environmental summit in Costa Rica, an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Congress in Hawaii and the Korean Arctic Academy in South Korea. She has volunteered, shared local information abroad, and communicated global perspectives via presentations and publications.

Through summer research projects, she has helped farmers identify ways to profit while maximizing ecosystem services, studied the long-term effects of pesticides and temperature on shorebirds, and produced infographics on international migration routes of Saskatchewan shorebirds.

As a winner of scores of international, national and local scholarships and leadership awards, Alana is an environmental and sustainability influencer–poised to begin graduate work and to become a notable professional ecologist.

Brandon Needham

Category: Education

Age: 38

Brandon Needham is a 2020 CBC Future 40 winner. (Submitted to CBC)

CBC: Tell us the moment you realized your work was successful.

Brandon Needham: The journey toward reconciliation is lifelong endeavour and if success comes, it comes in small increments. The most gratifying experiences I have had in my career is working with very gracious Elders and Knowledge Keepers who have shared their teachings with myself and my students.

Brandon's nomination: For actively working to make a difference in Saskatchewan by transforming his school community into a site where truth and reconciliation can be imagined and enacted, Brandon Needham is most deserving of becoming a Future 40 finalist.

As the principal of Melville Comprehensive School (MCS), Brandon is in a unique position to influence his school's engagement with the TRC Calls to Action. Brandon's passion for educating students and staff about social justice issues that affect Indigenous people has led him to pursue a PhD from the U of R.

Connecting his doctoral research to his role as principal, Brandon led a school-based research inquiry which sought to investigate the role non-Indigenous peoples play in working toward reconciliation. This collaboration represented for Brandon the culmination of years of work to actualize the goals of the TRC.

Moreover, this has led to a change in how the students and staff at Brandon's school understand the colonial history of Canada and in turn has created opportunities to learn from and with the neighbouring First Nation communities, most notably last school year, when Brandon's social class partnered with Peepeekisis FN and the Multicultural Society of Saskatchewan to host powerful and thought-provoking anti-racism event at MCS.

Brandon has been recognized by his school division and the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) for his leadership and excellence in reconciliation education. Most recently, he was chosen to be a keynote speaker at the STF's Closing the Circle conference, to share his experiences as a principal and researcher.

Estelle Hjertaas

Category: Social Activism, Volunteerism

Age: 34

Estelle Hjertaas is a 2020 CBC Future 40 winner. (Submitted to CBC)

CBC: How does what you do make a difference in our community?

Estelle Hjertaas: As a lawyer, I am able to advocate for those who would not otherwise be able to afford representation, and who often face substantial barriers to meaningful access to justice, including language, education, lack of phone or Internet, and lack of transportation to court. This means that people facing criminal charges are able to understand the process and make informed decisions, rather than the alternative faced by many people with these barriers who simply plead guilty "to get it over with" or because they don't meaningfully understand their options.

Learning about the barriers faced by my clients has pushed me to advocate for solutions and get involved in organizations that provide them, like the YWCA, as well as raise issues publicly. While I don't always get the outcome I hoped for, I hope that raising awareness, especially of less popular ideas, is helpful overall.

Estelle's nomination: Estelle Hjertaas has dedicated her life to helping people and fighting for those without a voice. As a lawyer with Legal Aid Saskatchewan for seven years, Estelle works with youth and adults in PA, and travels with the Cree court to Indigenous communities to represent those who could not otherwise afford to hire a lawyer. She also volunteers with Pro Bono Law.

These experiences have made the challenges of poverty, addiction, and intergenerational trauma deeply personal and redoubled Estelle's commitment to ensure no one is left behind. That commitment led her to stand as the Liberal candidate in the 2019 federal election.

In 2020, she spearheaded the opposition to Prince Albert's back alley curfew, writing a petition highlighting the potential for systemic racism in its implementation, creating awareness and presenting it to city council. She continues to publicly advocate for progressive positions despite the negativity that taking such positions, especially as a woman, draws on social media.

Estelle has founded two community organizations: PA Young Professionals, which has a mission to create networking and volunteering opportunities for post-secondary and professionals alike, and PA Salsa, teaching dance classes for six years. She's also served on eight other community boards, ranging from the YWCA, to the JMC library, to currently being president of the French association. Estelle reads on a wide range of issues and enjoys outdoor activities including hunting, skiing and paddling.

Jody Robson

Category: Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Age: 34

Jody Robson is a 2020 CBC Future 40 winner. (Submitted to CBC)

CBC: How does what you do make a difference in our community?

Jody Robson: I come from a small reserve community called Okanese First Nation and the most rewarding part about being on the Great Canadian Baking Show has been hearing feedback from the youth of my community.

I didn't set out to be a role model, but being able to interact with youth of Okanese, encourage them to bake and get the chance to bake for them has been so rewarding. Last year, during the Okanese Winter Festival, I made a ton of cookies and different coloured icing and set up a station where I helped them decorate.

Numerous times, I have received messages on social media from parents of Indigenous youth telling me their child looks up to me and that seeing me on TV baking has given them more confidence to bake. That's a special feeling because I remember being their age and looking up to my kohkom because she was so accomplished in the kitchen. It's like being able to return that same inspiration I received.

Jody's nomination: Jody has proven herself multi-talented. As a finalist on CBC's Great Canadian Baking Show, her charisma and enthusiasm has won her fans all over the world. Her talents in cuisine have earned her partnerships baking for the mayor of Regina, MLAs and other high-profile clients.

She's a graduate of the U of R/First Nations University with a degree in business and numerous certificates including communications. She used her drive and education to make a difference at the federal crown Farm Credit Canada where she helped establish the company's diversity and inclusion research.

Jody is also an accomplished beader, getting requests to bead for people from all over the country. She is establishing her own business called Bakes and Beads and her networking skills have her meeting with multiple connections via zoom on upcoming projects, meaning she's got a lot more on the horizon.

As a mother to two daughters, she uses every chance to teach them baking, beading, knitting and their traditional languages of Cree and Nakoda. From the Okanese First Nation, Jody's role on the Great Canadian Baking Show has given her a chance to be a role model for indigenous youth, taking time to do baking activities and answering messages from parents who say she has inspired their children to bake.

With her eyes focused on the future, and how she can continue to inspire, she has remained motivated in uncertain times. She is a leader to our family and a leader to others.

Christa Nelson

Category: Education

Age: 39

Christa Nelson is a 2020 CBC Future 40 winner. (Submitted to CBC)

CBC: How does what you do make a difference in our community?

Christa Nelson: The work that we do at Wild Spirit Education provides children an opportunity to grow and thrive while learning how to become good leaders, be responsible for their education, and take pride in their lives.

Christa's nomination: Christa has a true passion and drive to make changes in the field of Early Childhood Education. She created and operates Wild Spirit Education, a nature-based independent school in Saskatoon for preschool to Grade 9. Christa has spent the past 17 years of her career guiding students to find their full potential while focusing on their individual needs in learning. Wild Spirit Education focus on meeting the child where they are at, giving them a voice in their education and building a strong community base for safe, positive education for young children.

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