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Alumni Spotlight: Leanne Prendergast (BA ’16)

Alumni Spotlight: Leanne Prendergast (BA ’16)

Leanne Prendergast

Leanne Prendergast is an anti-bullying advocate, author and motivational speaker who works to empower young girls and address issues of bullying, low self-esteem and other mental health issues. 

Why did you choose to study at York? 

I chose to study at York University because I liked the idea of being close to home while being able to attend classes and keep my part time job. At that time, there weren’t any trains running, however, there was one bus that went through my neighbourhood, down my street and its last stop was York. I often felt God was looking out for me because he knew it was a struggle to make it to my early classes. So, having the convenience of taking one bus helped me to be on time and focused in school. I had also visited many universities in Canada and the United States, but York just felt like home. It had a unique spark and excitement about it that ultimately made me choose to stay locally. I always saw York University as a very forward-thinking school and so I knew I wanted to be in that learning environment. 

Describe how your York experience influenced the path you’re on today. Did you have any favourite courses, professors or experiences that were particularly meaningful to you? 

I would love to say I was one of those students who soaked in the entire university experience, got As in all my classes and in the end graduated with highest honours; however, my undergraduate journey at York was the complete opposite. I switched my degree twice, was on academic probation and had a delayed graduation. Looking back now, my journey of finding myself has shown me the importance of perseverance and resilience. These are the same values I embrace today as it has reminded me to be patient with myself when I haven’t figured everything out. It has taught me that the most important thing is to get to the finish line no matter how you get there.  Overall, my York experience was exactly what I needed to be the confident, persevering, and resilient person I am today.   

You were selected in part because you are changemaker. In what ways do you hope to contribute to your community/the country/the world in a positive way? 

To be recognized as a changemaker is truly an honor. It has always been my desire to see women live to their fullest potential. However, I believe we must begin the process of empowerment long before they reach university. By working with schools and communities, I would like to see policies and strategic plans implemented to support girls’ learning and provide them opportunities for leadership and collaboration with their peers and community. Additionally, I would like my research to influence country policies by implementing practical ways to prevent mental health disorders from increasing in girls and children of colour.  It is my hope that the model I have created and the initiatives I will create in the future can be used internationally to protect, promote and provide opportunities for groups to live empowered and prosperous lives.  

How do you see your work (be it career/volunteer/philanthropic) progressing in the next five years? What are some of your future goals? 

I see my work progressing immensely in the next five years, as I believe the past decade has been preparing me for the work I am doing now. As an executive director of a grassroots non-profit organization, I am excited to collaborate with other organizations, school boards, universities and associations to create safe spaces for those who need it most. I am looking to expand the organization to reach communities by using technology and provide fun, engaging and relevant initiatives that will improve their quality of life. After my doctoral studies, I hope to open a private practice in North America which uses the model I have created and incorporates the research I have done to inform therapeutic practice. The sky is truly the limit.  

What advice would you give to students who are just beginning their university experiences? 

I would tell new students that are just beginning their journey that I wish I didn’t take myself so seriously and I embraced every victory and failure as a part of getting to the finish line. So my advice would be, embrace every opportunity you can while at York. Listen to your heart and be ok with the idea of being different or unconventional. Overall, know that although education is extremely important, your mental wellness and passion is important as well. Take in as much of the university experience as you can, be patient when you don’t get it right the first time, and know that the finish line is the goal.  

Leanne was named one of York University's 2024 Top 30 Alumni Under 30. Learn more about the program and the impressive young alumni on the list.