Peace Community: Vanessa Baez

Hi my name is Vanessa Baez and this is #MyCanada.

I would describe myself as passionate, goal driven and a socially conscious person. Losing both my mom and dad at a young age and being on my own by the age of 16, I was torn between staying on a path that pretty much lead to a future of little reward and accomplishments or pulling up my socks and taking the harder path to rebuild my own destiny. I chose the harder path, which would be a path I would chose often and still do in life.

I have always been a very athletic woman even at a young age. I looked up to other women who were strong and athletic and showed a strive for sportsmanship. I was always playing soccer and volleyball in school and when I was 18 I got my first gym membership and never looked back. Over the years I have had experience in many different types of ways to stay active, from running to now powerlifting.

After high school I went to college for dental assisting and end up working at Mount Sinai Hospital downtown, helping to run a developmentally delayed patient clinic where we saw various types of learning and behaviour disabled patients. It was there that I found my calling to become a teacher. I decided to go back to school and pursue my undergrad in liberal arts with the goal of getting into teachers college and working specifically with special needs kids and/or aboriginal students. It is what I feel I am most passionate about. Providing a open and accepting environment for children who maybe feel that they are not understood. To support and inspire those students who feel like they will never be able to do anything with their life or get to where they want to be and maybe even feel like they're not worth the effort. I want to be a teacher who's remembered for being tough but awesome, just like the ones that pushed me through to be successful when I felt like there was no one there. I never felt like I was good enough or book smart enough to go to university but I did and I successfully graduated from York University's bilingual campus Glendon last June. I now attend Lakehead University, I'm in the faculty of education program there and will be graduating in 2017 and hope to teach either in the Simcoe Board or the TDSB. I love Lakehead's environmental philosophy of teaching and also the emphasis they make on supporting our aboriginal communities in Canada. Children are our future and if I can impact and inspire just one child to not give up and believe that as an individual they are worth the effort then all of my hard work was worth it.

I am a Canadian girl, through and through, an outdoor girl to the very core. I have a passion for nature. I feel my happiest surrounded by water, trees and animals. I camp, hike and have no fear of getting dirty. With that said I also love my city. Toronto is beautiful in every way, from Parkdale to Rosedale there is beauty to be found in every part of the city and the people who fill it. I try and always support my friends and their local business and entrepreneur endeavours. I believe in buying local and supporting those who promote sustainability and natural resources as well as those who give back to the community. I live my life based on these goals because it is important to me.

Just over two years ago I had hit a plateau in the active section of my life. It was then I discovered powerlifting. It has brought so much happiness into my life, it's hard to put into words. I have competed in numerous powerlifting meets in Canada and the U.S.A. My best meet totals are: squat 225lbs, bench 121lbs and deadlift 300lbs at 132lbs bodyweight, all natural without the use of any substances. I have met so many inspiring people especially women in the sport and I have had other women say I have inspired them to get stronger, to not be afraid to lift heavy or reach for their goals. This is something that fulfills my soul. Knowing that I can inspire another person to keep going, to not give up and to be strong inside and out. As women we are often told what we can or shouldn't do to maintain our femininity. This is wrong on so many levels. We should never be afraid to push ourselves because perhaps it's not what is expected of us. I want to continue to inspire women to be strong and be independent. Whether it's buying that dress that makes you feel like a million dollars, eating your favourite burger because you want to or deadlifting 300lbs. I try and see the positivity in all situations and I'm proud of my accomplishments.