Alex’s Story

20 September 2022News & Announcements, Stories of Impact

From a very young age, Alex Mitchell was driven to make a difference. As an Abbotsford Collegiate student, she signed up for just about every extracurricular activity you can imagine. From participating in the leadership team to joining various clubs to playing multiple sports, she truly wanted to experience everything. 

She admits that she was never the best athlete, but she might have very well been the most dedicated. When she didn’t make it on the basketball team in grade nine, she asked the coach if she could attend every single practice that year. Her hard work and dedication paid off, and she made it on the team the following year. 

Alex also recalls taking the bus to city hall after school to participate in Abbotsford’s Environmental Advisory Committee. She was eager to know how cities worked and how she could make a difference. This is where she fueled her passion for civic impact and climate issues. 

As a bright young woman, Alex saw her early experiences as a way to help determine what she wanted to do in life, what resonated for her, and how she wanted to spend her time in the future.

Deep roots in community and heritage 

When grade 12 rolled around, Alex knew she wanted to attend post-secondary. That’s when she chose to apply for an award through Abbotsford Community Foundation’s Student Award Program. She was particularly keen on applying for the Fraser Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society award, given her Ukrainian heritage. 

Pictured: Alex with Jean and Elwood Jury, founding members of the Fraser Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society

Alex shared that she vividly remembers the moment she received the award at her graduation ceremony. She had also received another prestigious award of high value as one of 30 young Canadians to be recognized as a Loran Scholar. Still, when she looks back, receiving the Fraser Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society award at convocation was a shining moment. As a proud Ukrainian, Alex practiced and taught Ukrainian dance while also volunteering with the Fraser Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society. That’s why she felt honoured when two representatives from the society presented her with the award. Alex didn’t grow up with her grandparents in the same province, so many of the Ukrainian Society members were like grandparents to her over the years. 

With multiple student awards, Alex was eager to take on the next stage of her education. She decided to attend the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study political science. Through her education, she learned she enjoyed both local grassroots work and international relations, mainly as it related to trade and investment as well as climate change. 

From challenging experiences to important lessons

Alex also learned important lessons outside the classroom. She started a media company with a business partner at just 18 years old. The company had some great initial success but after the first year it ended up where many other print media companies did – closed. Looking back on this experience now, she recognizes that this was a critical point in her journey where she learned the value of hard work and when to walk away. She also learned first hand how difficult it was to let staff go, building a deep sense of responsibility within her that she has brought to all of her enterprises since then.  After getting a master’s class in what to do and not to do while running a business, she took those crucial lessons and moved on, completing her undergraduate studies at UBC.  

After graduating with a degree in political science, she moved to India to work as a research analyst for the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She worked as a media and policy advisor, driven by her passion for international policy related to climate change. She sat in on meetings with elected officials and senior government leaders advising and advocating for various agreements. Looking back, she recognizes that this time was inspiring; to be in the room where global climate negotiations were occurring was something very few people have ever had the opportunity to witness, yet she shares it was incredibly deflating at the same time. Through this experience Alex felt like she was seeing behind the curtain, realizing that these senior leaders, while brilliant in many ways, were still just human beings trying to tackle complicated issues in the best ways they knew how. 

The best journeys lead you home

After working in international relations, she decided she wanted to shift gears and focus on local politics. After moving back to the Fraser Valley, she worked for the City of Abbotsford in economic development for approximately three years. She loved the work, recalling how meaningful it was to connect one-on-one with local business owners to talk about their challenges and how to navigate them best. She then moved on to work for the City of Surrey, later completing a Master’s in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University. After this, she briefly did consulting work before moving back to the City of Abbotsford to work in public relations and innovation. Throughout these experiences, she honed her skills in strategic communications, working directly with media, and trying to embed greater transparency and connectivity with the public. 

Alex is now an Account Director with Hill + Knowlton Strategies, a global public affairs and communications firm, where she works with clients on crisis communications, building corporate reputation, managing issues, much more. When she thinks back to her earlier years, she expected her career would be linear, but in reality, she has had many exciting experiences that are now connected and woven together. 

Alex hopes to apply her expertise to her community as she recently announced her bid for a council seat in Abbotsford’s municipal election in October. Just like when she was young, she’s eager to have a voice and bring a fresh perspective to create change. Alex is passionate about how we can build Abbotsford for future growth through economic development and investing in livability and public safety. She also recognizes that many community members don’t trust their government, which is precisely why she’s passionate about making the city more accessible and connected with its residents.

When asked who she’s thankful for, Alex shared her appreciation for the Fraser Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society, which kindly provided her with the student award through the Abbotsford Community Foundation’s Student Awards Program. She also shared her gratitude for her parents, as well as her high school history teacher Karen Sanger, who was highly supportive, and city councillor Patricia Ross, who inspired her to have a voice. Alex is currently a volunteer on the Abbotsford Community Foundation’s Marketing and Communications committee as a way of giving back to the organization that helped with her post-secondary education success.

To learn more about the Student Awards Program, click here.

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