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Shealyn Varnes is a Northside Changemaker

Interview provided by Northside Rising, an Inspiring Communities nested initiative.

Tell me a little bit about yourself 

Well I’m twenty-four, and I was born and raised in North Sydney. I grew up playing competitive sports such as soccer, those experiences now translate into coaching. I have coached the Junior Varsity Memorial team for the last three years. 

My boyfriend Mitchell and I recently just adopted a cat. His name is Lionas and he is eight years old. 

I am a Memorial University Graduate, where I studied Fine Arts Theatre, with a concentration in acting. 

I love to ski, I love to hike–anything being merged in nature is right up my alley! Being from Cape Breton, the ocean is my solace, my mom and I went swimming as late as last November and I always have a bathing suit in the trunk of my car just in case. 

I am a crafter, I enjoy sewing and making homemade cards for loved ones. I love to read quite a bit. My favorite being feel-good or drama, I’m a bit of a romantic (not classic cheesy, but in the summer I love light reads), self improvement, memoirs… I like to sprinkle my taste around! 

How did you hear about this program? What drew you to applying? 

I was fortunate enough to receive one of the Northside Rising’s Rising Tide Funds for my project, “ the Ruby Project”. The Ruby Project (Accessible Theatre) provides free theatre programming and workshops to communities that need it most in Cape Breton, online and in person. 

Through that connection, I was recommended to apply to the Northside Changemakers Program. I was interested in joining a group of likeminded people, who could bounce ideas off of each other. I have always known I wanted to make some sort of change whether through community, environmental or art-based means. This program connected a community of people with that same vision, and that in itself was so appealing. 

Working from home the past year had made me really miss the interaction with others: even being in a Zoom call with ten other people sounded really exciting to me!

What do you love about the Northside? What makes it special? 

I love the Northside for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is simply because people are so friendly. When you’re walking down the street, people don’t just say hi ,they go out of their way to greet you. The small town-ness of it, people being active in the community, knowing my neighbours, and the space you can have on the Northside. There is just something special about the Northside, and I am proud to tell people I am from there. 

When you think of the word Changemaker, what comes to mind? 

Someone who isn’t scared to stand up for what they believe in. Someone who is able to say, “hey, we need to look at things differently.” People who are able to implement change they wish to see. 

What are your hopes for the Northside? Why is that hope important to you / the community? 

I would love to see more art programming for kids and adults. To see the Northside access art (more) readily, like people can in Sydney and other areas. 

I want to see our sense of community flourish. We have done such a good job at holding on to our sense of community, but for the people who have lost it–I hope they find that connection back to the Northside. Even if we can’t gather, we can be a community in unison. 

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Rapid Fire Questions

 (Adapted from Brene Brown Rapid Fire Questions)

Fill in the blank: Vulnerability is _______________ 


You’re called to do something brave, but your fear is real and stuck in your throat. What’s the first thing you do? 

Sing in the car

What is something that people often get wrong about you? 

They think I don’t need my alone time cause I’m so extroverted. 

What’s the last show that you binged and loved? 

Not a binger–my brain melts! But I enjoyed Bridgerton and the Handmaid’s Tale. 

Give us a film you really love? 

Little Women 2019 

What’s your favourite meal? 

Pasta, any 

What’s on your nightstand right now? 

A coaster, a book (Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman), a glass of water and a pair of earrings 

Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you great joy? I really enjoy driving by myself, even just for 15 minutes. Listening to a podcast or music and singing. I love going for a drive on snowy days–it’s magical, it’s my (me) time. 

What are you deeply grateful for right now? 

Financial security, having a warm home and my mom.

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