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Steven Lorenzo Baileys, winner of the 2021 VCLA Belonging and Engagement Award

“Whenever I go into a room, I make a point of acknowledging everyone, hopefully individually if I can,” explains Steven Lorenzo Baileys, the 2021 winner of the Leadership Victoria award for Belonging and Engagement. Making someone feel heard and recognized, says Baileys, “can be as straightforward as just giving [them] full attention and eye contact.”

Baileys, who has worked for the Inter-cultural Association (ICA) of Greater Victoria for nearly two decades, has oriented his leadership around building connections and making people feel welcome. Recently, Baileys sat down with Leadership Victoria to tell us how he does it.

“I’m a big fan of finding ways to bring a smile to people’s faces,” says Baileys. “It may be a little bit corny at times when I attempt that, but it can also get people to feel relaxed.”

When he meets new people, Baileys is always interested in learning more about them: what their interests are and what they’re involved in. This is important for building relationships, but Baileys is also constantly thinking about promoting new connections within the community. “I’m always looking for ways in which we can make connections with other connections that I may have,” says Baileys, in order to “build collaborations.”

When chairing a meeting, Baileys tries to set a tone “at the outset to make people feel welcome, relaxed, and we’re going to have fun with doing this. It can be serious work, but it doesn’t have to be work that forgets that we have joy to share.”

Baileys, who grew up in Los Angeles, before his family moved to Victoria in his teens, learned many of his welcoming behaviours from his mother. Becoming involved in team sports at a young age was also “a life changing connection for me, in terms of shaping who I am,” says Baileys. Dedicating his time to team sports helped him learn discipline and motivation. His aptitude for sports also helped Baileys get his first early leadership role as a camp counsellor at the YMCA, at the age of 19. Baileys remains deeply grateful to the camp coordinator who took a chance on him, despite other, more qualified candidates.

After graduating from university, Baileys travelled around Central America and Mexico, which, he says, “awakened in me a larger sense of community.” When he returned to Victoria, Baileys harnessed this newfound interest in community and began volunteering, which opened doors and “gave me an appreciation of what our community was all about,” he says.

“I really encourage those who are starting off on whatever course they’re on to

always find different opportunities through volunteering,” says Baileys. “You never know what windows or doors open up for you. As long as it resonates with one’s passion and values and interests … Just showing up can make opportunities appear.”

Looking ahead to the future, Baileys is inspired by the passionate youth leaders he sees in our community. “I’ve been able to meet and work with an incredible array of young people,” says Baileys. “They’re more aware, they’re more committed, they’re more passionate than I ever [was], at that age especially.” Baileys advises that we “find opportunities to give place and space and time to these young leaders,” so they can “assume as much of a leadership role as possible.”

You can learn more about Baileys’ work with the Inter-cultural Association here:

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