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Fresh out of journalism school, at the “ripe old age” of 24, Fran Ross found herself the editor of a newspaper in the town of Olds. “Talk about learning about community, and community engagement,” she says. “That was quite the introduction for a city girl.”

Embedding herself in a tight-knit community taught Fran the value of connecting with one’s neighbours at a formative age. “I used to go to the diner every morning and have coffee with the mayor, and the leaders in the community would gather there,” she says. “It’s kind of like Corner Gas. You have a coffee, and you talk about what’s happened that week. It was a really great experience.”

These days, Fran is the chief communications officer for Covenant Health, the province’s Catholic health provider. That job title encompasses all of the things that come to mind when you think of communications — overseeing public and media relations, social media, writing for the web — as well as some things that might not, like coordinating the 3,000 volunteers who give their time to Covenant facilities across Alberta. “I’m absolutely astonished and humbled by the work our volunteers do.”

For her portrait, Fran asked to be photographed at the Braemar School, a public school site that partners with the Terra Centre for Pregnant and Parenting Teens (where Fran is also a board member). She believes strongly that healthy, resilient families are critical for the future of our communities — which is why people like Terra’s clients need to be front and centre when it comes to public engagement. “Their experience can teach us so much,” she says. “They are our future, and we need to hear from them.”

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