What is your name, title and how long have you been working in your current role here?
My name is Mylaine Tsaprailis, Chief Executive Officer at Calgary Alternative Support Services. I have been in this role since July 2019.
What other roles have you had with the agency?
I began my journey at CASS in 1998 as a practicum student for my Bachelor of Social Work. I had the fortune of being accepted into the residential program. Since that time, I have worked as a support worker at Langin Place, within the employment program as a Career Consultant, a Job Marketer, and the Assistant Manager of the Program. I then moved into the position of Program Manager for the CARS, CADO, and CAPA. In my current role of CEO, I oversee CCLA, CAES, and the CASS counselling therapist, among my additional duties as an agency Director. My diverse experience over 22 years with CASS has allowed me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, and to truly embrace the essence of CASS.
What frontline experience do you have in this sector?
I began at CASS as a practicum student in the residential program, and worked directly with four different individuals. My first employment experience with CASS at Langin Place allowed me the opportunity to work with various tenants, all of whom were experiencing mental health and addiction issues. Throughout my time with the CASS employment program (approximately 10 years), I worked with clients, employers, and numerous other stakeholders towards the goal of inclusive supported employment.
Moving into a program management role with the CADO, CAPA, and CARS, was a much more indirect level of support. However, due to my current tenure at CASS, I was very familiar with a vast majority of clients, and, as such, was inevitably involved with the direct mentorship for new staff.
Aside from my frontline experience with CASS, I was also a supportive roommate for another agency in the sector for approximately 2 years. Since 1998 I have worked off and on as a respite provider for various agencies within the sector.
What do you want the community to know about the people we serve?
CASS supports “marginalized” populations. This is a term I truly feel to be inaccurate, as this is a “centralized” population. The people we support walk with us and amongst us everyday. They contribute and make us all better human beings. Pushing these communities to the side only causes harm to all of society. Honouring the gifts and knowledge that the people we serve, and have to offer, is paramount to our growth; understanding that we are all, potentially, a moment away from being labelled as they are.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and Barack Obama, to name a few, have been great historical and political leaders who have influenced my life.
On a personal note, My Baba [paternal grandmother] who taught me Ukrainian cooking, how to work hard, but to also have some fun. She loved me without boundaries.
My parents, both medical professionals, adopted 4 children of different ethnic backgrounds prior to my birth. They have gone on to establish an international charity: Medical Mercy Canada, supporting refugees and marginalized groups throughout the world.
Our former owner, Steven Law. A man who greatly contributed to my dedication to this sector. Always as the “top dog” he continued to engage in front line work. To never forget the reason why he started CASS.
Finally, the leadership team whom I am honoured to be currently working with. They are, barre none, an extraordinary team of individuals who encourage, inspire, and mentor me every day to be better.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the people we serve?
So many things in life are out of our control, particularly with the population we serve. The systemic barriers faced on a daily basis create such a greater challenge.
The most important thing I have learned from the people we serve is “RESLIIENCY”.
Looking back, what have you achieved at CASS that you are most proud of?
Starting my journey in 1998 at CASS, I am so proud to still be a part of this organization. I truly feel incredibly fortunate to continue along this path. It is difficult to name one particular achievement that I am most proud of. However, the relationships that I have acquired along the way will be life long. Both personal and professional. Clients, colleagues, and stakeholders alike.
What three books can you recommend on leadership?
What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
Plants, plants, plants! Inside and out. I enjoy watching things grow and flourish.
I truly enjoy cooking. Especially when I have a full weekend cooking bee with friends. We prep and cook for two days straight with fun in between. We fill up our freezers to feed out friends and family.
My fur baby is my joy! Lapa, our big fuzzy rescue dog brings me fun, relaxed time, outside of work.