Real Life Stories with Real Life Leaders: Salena Starling

Real Life Stories with Real Life Leaders, a limited podcast series on Because & Effect, is a partnership between CanU Canada and The Winnipeg Foundation.

CanU is a Winnipeg-based charitable organization that inspires hope and confidence in the leaders of tomorrow through its out-of-school mentorship and educational enrichment program for youth.

The Winnipeg Foundation is committed to fostering collaborative relationships and supporting leadership under the Community Champion pillar of its 2023-26 Strategic Plan.

This podcast series will highlight five stories from incredible storytellers connected to the CanU program leading up to CanU’s Imagine Stories Gala on November 15, 2023.


  • Divya Sharma, CanU Imagine Stories Gala Committee Member
  • Nolan Bicknell, The Winnipeg Foundation Communications Advisor

Producer: Daniel Reimer, CanU General Counsel & Creative Director

Listen or Watch Episode 1

“Thinking of your identity as an obstacle is the worst thing I’ve ever done. […] These are actually good things that are going to move you forward – It’s just using them as a way to move forward in your life. Being Indigenous, I didn’t know that could be a good thing.”

In this episode, Salena Starling shares her story of resilience and determination, condensing her incredible journey from foster care to leadership into a powerful narrative.

Salena shares that she started her life in foster care in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but her life took a transformative turn when she joined CanU in the fifth grade where she met other youth with similar experiences and backgrounds. Through this program, she discovered her passion for public speaking and found her true self. By the time she reached 12th grade, Salena was speaking at events across Canada.

Salena’s path as a leader has been marked by overcoming hurdles, especially as a young, queer, Indigenous woman. She emphasizes the importance of embracing her identity as a strength rather than viewing it as an obstacle. She now uses her lived experiences to inspire and educate others, particularly through workshops that address the history and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Salena’s journey is an inspiring example of resilience, leadership, and the power of using one’s story to drive positive change. She is determined to continue making a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth in foster care and to raise awareness about critical issues facing Indigenous communities in Canada.

To hear more stories like Salena’s, join CanU Canada for their Imagine Stories Gala:

CanU Canada:

The Winnipeg Foundation:

With content provided by CanU Canada.

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