Social Development

Connected North: Engineering engaging education in our most remote communities

Willa Black (Connected North, Founder)

As Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and CSR for Cisco Canada, Willa Black is responsible for strategies to drive Cisco's brand relevance and transformational impact.   She leads CSR programming with a focus on Education and Healthcare, building strategic partnerships and reinforcing the company’s commitment to social innovation working with governments, non-governmental organizations, and communities across Canada.


Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence for 2011, one of the Canadian Board Diversity Council’s 2015 Diversity 50, the Federated Press Canadian Woman Leader of the Year for 2015, and the recipient of the 2015 Canadian Aboriginal Business Council’s Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations, Black has held Marketing and CSR leadership roles at Cisco Canada since 1999.  She has developed and led award-winning programming including the “25 Transformational Canadians” campaign to mark Cisco’s 25thanniversary, in partnership with CTV and The Globe and Mail; and the One Million Acts of Green campaign in partnership with the CBC.


In 2014, Black led the development and launch of Connected North, a ground-breaking virtual program showcasing innovations in the field of learning with the aim to reduce Indigenous drop-out rates. The program connects students and classrooms in under-served, remote Indigenous communities with students in Canada’s south via Cisco Telepresence Technology driving educational and mental health programming.

Justin Chin-You (Connected North, Engineer)

Justin Chin-You is the Sorcerer of Chaos (Engineer) for Cisco’s Toronto Innovation Centre. As part of Cisco’s Innovation Centre group, Justin combines Cisco’s experience in engineering and innovations with customers and partners to develop industry changing solutions that transform not only businesses but customer experiences and interactions.


For the past 3 years Justin has been a part of the engineering team for Connected North, helping to design, plan and deploy the Cisco Telepresence Infrastructure that powers the program.

Green Dome Greenhouse: Brainstorming ways to resolve food insecurity in your home

Samantha Villalon (Growing North)

Samantha Villalon is a team member of Growing North with a passion for charitable work. She is currently in her third year as a Marketing major at Ryerson University. Samantha focuses on facilitating outreach and events to bring attention to food insecurity across Canada and raise awareness of Growing North's active role in tackling food insecurity. Samantha has had the opportunity to participate in the Northern Canadian operations and contribute to the Green Igloo's daily maintenance as well as the educational programming.