Celebrating 40 Under 40 Waterloo
Congratulations, Meaghan Coneybeare!
Meaghan Coneybeare, GoGirlfriend's community manager, is an aspiring travel writer, volunteer extraordinaire and an all-around amazing woman. This month, she's being honored in Waterloo, Ontario as an honoree in the 40 Under 40 Awards Ceremony, sponsored by the Kitchener Waterloo Record.
Jane Barkley, creator of Fresh Endeavors, asked me if I'd recommend Meaghan for the award. This is what I wrote:
I met Meaghan less than a year ago when she applied for an internship position with GoGirlfriend. Of all the people who applied for this position, Meaghan intrigued me by her creative energy and authenticity. Meaghan is a bundle of creative, positive energy and incredibly focused on how she can empower others. She brings everything she has to the table and never gives less than everything.
I think Meaghan should win this award because she understands that by helping others, she helps herself. She believes that wins are a team effort - even if we're not always sure who's on our team. That generous, other-focused kind of thinking Meaghan brings is the kind of thinking that will change the way we do business in the future. I'm honored to put my name to any document that testifies to the amazingness of Meaghan.
It is with great pleasure, we present what the award means to her, in her own words.
Meaghan Coneybeare - change-maker extraordinaire
Where were you born, and how long have you lived in Waterloo Region?
I was born in Scarborough ON and have lived in Waterloo Region for 8 years now.
Can you give us a snapshot of your career path?
Five years ago I went into make-up artistry while also volunteering with different events in the community. I was noticed for my passion and skills in events by the KW Pregnancy Resource Centre who offered me a position as their operations and fundraising director. Through this position my passion for events and marketing ignited.
I went back to school for events management at Humber where near the end of that program I was offered my current position with Socially Responsible Safaris at their tour and marketing coordinator. My newly found passion for public relations and social media has connected me with GoGirlfriend, a blog that focuses on travel for women where I'm their social media manager.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Be proud of your scars, for they make you who you are today.
Can you tell us a bit about the personal Meaghan?
I've been married for 5 years. I come from a family of three on my related-by-blood side and a family of 4 on my related-by-heart side. I left home at the age of 15 and went into foster care where after 4 years of trying to fit in wherever I was, a wonderful family took me in as their own and haven't let me go since.
What are some of your interests and hobbies?
Baking is a relaxing hobby of mine. I also love to read when I have some down time. I spend a lot of my time outside of work volunteering for various areas in our community. I have been volunteering with Family & Children's Services for 5 years, assisting with fundraisers such as Tree of Hope & The Glass Slipper Affair as well as speaking at various events. I'm a volunteer with CIGI on their events team during lectures and conferences and have been a part of the media relations team for Free the Children's We Day Toronto & Waterloo for 2 years.
What are you passionate about? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I'm passionate about advocating for children and youth in care. Having been one myself, I know their voices are not always heard nor do they have the ability or confidence to do so. What gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that I can be that voice for them to help ensure their future is a bright and happy one.
What was the greatest challenge you've ever faced?
My greatest challenge that I've faced was my time in foster care and being a crown ward. Having entered the system at the beginning of high school, I was thrown into a world of court dates and learning how to survive and be heard. It was a miracle that I graduated high school. I think my strong faith and determination to not be a statistic pulled me through the tough days. It also helped when I found a truly loving family who accepted me as their own and never let me feel less of anybody because of how I got there.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I have to say every day is an accomplishment. I find myself being reminded after every new experience or job or accomplishment that I've come so far and am so blessed.
What do you consider your greatest strength?
My greatest strength would be my openness to new experiences. You never know what new passion you may find or new direction it may lead you but it's always worth trying something new!
Describe yourself in three words.
Compassionate. Energetic. Fun.
Why do you believe you were nominated - and selected - for Waterloo Region's 40 under 40?
This is a tough one. I can't even believe I'm nominated let alone selected among this group of outstanding individuals. But if I had to say something, it would be my passion for helping others and wanting to make our community & the world a better place, yet also knowing I can't do it alone and do whatever I can to encourage others in the fight!
Have there been any defining turning points in your life? If so, tell me a bit about it/them.
When I was 18, I moved into a new home with a family that has not turned their back on me since. This was a huge turning point in my life because I finally felt truly loved and accepted. Another would be when I started volunteering in Waterloo Region. It put a spotlight on areas that I had a real passion for & encouraged me to pursue my dreams of working in public relations & events.
What are your future goals, both short-term and long-term?
My short term future goals would be to travel back to East Africa with the company I work for to experience firsthand the amazing partnerships we have there. Also to grow our Me to We Going Local group that we've started at FACS for youth in care by finding more ways for our youth to volunteer in our community and experience just how worthy they are to the world around them. Long term goals would be working more in the public relations field and to work towards setting up a scholarship for youth in care who graduate from high school and are pursuing their dreams in post-secondary education. We need to stop being surprised when these kids graduate from high school and start making it a part of the norm.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
I would love to be remembered for how far I've come to get where I am. I would hope that it would inspire others to keep working hard at achieving their dreams.
You seem to be involved with a lot of charities and not-for-profits. Why is giving back to the community so important to you?
I chose to give back to an organization that works with foster children because I was one. Through a foundation similar to the one at FACS of Waterloo Region I was given many opportunities to continue to thrive as a teenager such as attend camp and prom. I want to give back to an area that has given so much to me and I truly believe has helped shape me into who I am today.
Can you tell us more about your experiences growing up, and what foster care was like?
Foster care wasn't easy but it was also a place I found I could finally breathe again. Growing up in a home of abuse and alcoholism and being a second mom to my siblings, I found leaving home and being in foster care gave me the chance to be a kid again. Even though I was dealing with many things a kid my age then wouldn't normally be dealing with I still had amazing support and encouragement, something I never had before. I have no regrets for the way I grew up before care or the time I spent in the system. These are areas in my life that have shaped me into who I am today and give the experience and voice to speak up for those in foster care today.
Can you tell me a bit about your experience volunteering overseas?
My time volunteering in East Africa was life changing. You enter a realm of poverty you can't even imagine until you see it for yourself. Yet those who live in these devastating situations everyday do nothing but smile so you can't help but smile with them. They show such compassion and hospitality even when they have very little to offer you. They are people with so very little yet explain to you that they have so much to be thankful for. We in North America could learn so much from them.
Want to get to know Meaghan better? Read Meaghan's Getaway Guide on GoGirlfriend or follow her on Twitter. Of course, you can always catch up with her on GoGirlfriend's Twitter and Facebook channels too.
Congratulations Meaghan! We're glad you're on our team!