Megan MacLeod

Community Lead, Engagement and Collaboration

Megan MacLeod grew up on Boularderie Island and now lives in Cape Breton after 12 years living elsewhere in Nova Scotia and abroad. When she’s not tending to her garden or enjoying the natural beauty of the Maritimes, shes fermenting something new in the kitchen and cooking with local products from the food hub and farmers market. She has a master in Food, Culture & Communication: Human Ecology & Sustainability from the University of Gastronomic Sciences and studied Human Nutrition at St. Francis Xavier University.

Her past work for a variety of businesses, social enterprises, and non-profits has included education, community-building, and food systems. She is passionate about further understanding the relationships between people, food, environment, and health. Megan is excited to be a part of the momentum that is already building behind Northside Rising and to get to know more people on the Northside. Stop into the office and say hello!

Contact Megan: 

Jody Nelson

Community Lead, Strategy and Facilitation

For the past several years, Jody has been coordinating collaborative systems change across Cape Breton-Unama’ki. In her role as a Community Food Coordinator for Ecology Action Centre, Jody has brought momentum to the food movement, using food as a lens for broader goals around community well-being and resiliency. She now brings her passion and meaningful relationships to Northside Rising, and works with the backbone team to amplify all that is great on the Northside. “I have worked with many wonderful people, on the ground, as a network, and influencing policy, but I get really excited about creating pathways between these layers and various sectors within our communities. Working together in new ways really can unlock change.”

When Jody is not working with community, she is feeding community. “I have run a small-scale vegetable farm for 10 years. My farm has always been at the heart of how I give to and connect with community, friends, and family.” 

Contact Jody: 


Eric Leviten-Reid

Community Lead, Research and Evaluation

Eric Leviten-Reid is a Facilitator of Community Engagement and Collaboration for New Dawn Enterprises, and our Research & Evaluation Lead for Northside Rising. He has worked as a community development researcher and practitioner for 30 years with a particular focus on collaborative approaches to complex issues. Born and raised in Cape Breton, Eric has worked both in local communities and elsewhere in Canada. Prior to coming home, he served as Learning and Evaluation Coordinator for Vibrant Communities, a national initiative exploring community-based strategies for poverty reduction. In addition to his work for New Dawn, Eric is Board Chair at Community CARES Youth Outreach. Eric lives in Sydney with his wife, two children and two cats!

Contact Eric:


John Garcia

Community Lead, Healthy Public Policy

John Garcia joins Northside Rising as the Community Lead for Healthy Public Policy.  At the time that John joined Northside Rising, he was working in the School of Public Health and Health Systems, at the University of Waterloo (UW) as a professor of practice and leading professional graduate programs. However, he has decades of real world experience in various public health, health promotion, tobacco control, and chronic disease prevention roles.  John worked at local, provincial and national levels in Canada and the United States; in leadership, policy advisory, advocacy and senior management roles; for and with public, private and voluntary sector public health organizations.   With three degrees from the UW including a PhD, his research and practice interests include capacity building and community organization, healthy public policy, and knowledge exchange for evidence-informed public health practice.

John and his wife are happy to make Sydney Mines their home.  He is excited to be joining the Northside Team and contributing to the vibrant movement for healthy community development on the Northside.

Contact John:


Suzi Oram-Aylward

Community Engagement Coordinator

Suzi Oram-Aylward  is the community engagement coordinator and newest member of Northside Rising. Suzi is a recent graduate in Community Studies as well as a visual artist living in Unama’ki-Cape Breton. She explores art as a mechanism for engaging youth and the community in social change; particularly on areas such as climate change. In addition to her studies, Suzi has also worked as an outreach worker in various organizations across the Maritimes including Welcome Housing and ACAP Cape Breton.

Contact Suzi: