Simon Chang named EMSB Ambassador of the Year
by Wendy Singer
Since Simon Chang became the title sponsor of Inspirations in 2020 he has visited a multitude of schools, inspiring students and staff alike with his wealth of knowledge, creativity and positive outlook. In recognition of Chang’s dedication and contribution to the special needs community of the Greater Montreal and surrounding areas, he has been named the English Montreal School Board’s Ambassador of the Year.
Known primarily as a Canadian fashion designer with national exposure, Chang is also an innovative philanthropist, who uses his imagination to evoke positive change. He has been gifting scholarships to fashion and visual arts students for over 40 years and has raised over $1 million for breast cancer research in collaboration with singer Céline Dion. Chang received the Order of Canada in 2008 as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for his philanthropic efforts and social engagement.
In 2018, Chang and his business partner Faye Swift created the Simon Chang Foundation for Change, which would act as his own vehicle to give back to causes he believes in with his unique, hands-on philanthropic approach, and bring awareness to the many ways that positive change can be made in communities.
Chang’s Foundation features an Arc of Life program, which aims to better the lives of individuals and families at each stage of the lifespan. Current projects include improvements for families at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, and the Moment in Time program, which grants wishes to residents at the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre and the Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Centre.
Chang’s work at Inspirations falls in the middle of this arc. He is playing an active role working with students with special needs. Some of his projects have included acting as lead fashion consultant for the Mackay Centre School’s Fun Fashion for All show, donating fabric and making puppets with students at Galileo Adult Education Centre, creating aprons at John Grant High School, organizing a speaking tour for autism advocate Steven Atme, honouring a teaching team at Parkdale Elementary School and helping them create sensory boxes, and working on a video project with Summit TECC’s Video Model Productions program.
Chang has the unique ability to engage with anyone, no matter who they are or what their abilities or interests are. Messages he imparts are inspiring as he encourages students to keep trying, to take chances and think outside of the box. The Inspirations team was so inspired by his messages that they created the Simon Chang Difference Maker Award as a way to recognize people in the community who make a difference.
“My aim was to be original, inspirational for the kids; and it seems to be a great approach. They’re lovely kids,” said Chang in an interview at a volunteer award dinner at St. Pius X Career Centre on April 25. “I encourage students just to be themselves. You don’t have to follow anybody. Be original. Be happy with yourself.”