Our Story is more like a journey.
Loretta Cella incorporated Passion Foundation in 2007 (thanks to Sam Adkins, McCarthy Tetrault Vancouver) after working in the field of child and youth care since 1998.
When you meet Loretta Cella, the Founder of Passion Foundation, you can sense instantly that she is passionate about making a difference in the lives of young women; providing them with the tools they need to live powerful lives. What you might not know is that her passion comes from a personal place. Loretta’s story shows that no matter how difficult a young woman’s journey might be when she is present and engages from an authentic place, there are no limits on how far she can go.
As the child of middle class immigrant Italian parents, Loretta felt caught between her parents’ “old school” traditions and modern Canadian culture. Her sense of being “separate” carried into school, where she was teased and felt “stupid” for needing extra help with reading. Over time, sadness morphed into an anger and depression that permeated her world. Fighting, bullying, and self-harm were part of her life from an early age. Moving from a small Catholic school into a large public high school, Loretta fell into a popular crowd and a scene of drugs and alcohol. Her maturing at an early age also brought on body issues stemming from unwanted attention from men. “It felt like everyone seemed to want something from me, but I never felt heard or important, and I didn’t know how to make things better,” recalls Loretta.
After a series of extremely trying events, feeling lost and alone, Loretta dropped out of high school and entered a 12-Step program. There she met a group of women who provided her with the space to be heard and the wisdom she needed to make a shift in her life. But it wasn’t until her boyfriend died of an overdose six months into their relationship that she fully understood the meaning of community. Her new support group gave her the critical backing she needed. “I was learning the importance of building community from the inside out,” Loretta says. “It wasn’t easy at the time, but when I look back, I can see how powerful that lesson was.”
At the age of 19, within a two-month time span, Loretta was laid off from her job, ended a relationship, and had a serious health issue that required surgery. All of this left Loretta desperately seeking escape from her life. Instead of taking the easy way out, she took a bold leap and went to Italy to live with relatives she’d never met. With a hundred dollars in her pocket and far from her familiar surroundings, she gained a new connection to her culture and family while working and traveling. By the time she returned home, Loretta knew that her life’s purpose was to help young people deal with some of the issues she’d had to contend with.
Loretta began connecting with more people who she saw as shining stars. Mentors like Gary Pharness challenged Loretta to be present, think abstractly, and define “success” in different ways, igniting the spark that would eventually become Passion Foundation. After finishing high school and completing her training in child and youth care, Loretta moved to Ontario and worked for the YWCA, creating innovative programs for women and children in an inner city of Scarborough. A course in Life Skills Coaching uncovered her natural talent for coaching and with the encouragement and sponsorship of her instructor; Loretta went on to pursue her formal training.
Loretta’s love of travel has since taken her around the globe, learning and sharing her insights with other women in need of encouragement to thrive. Through her travels to India and Kenya, Loretta really learned that, “when we are most connected – when we take the time to connect with ourselves and what’s important to us – we can connect to just about anything at any time.”
Today, Loretta provides a hands-on process for girls and young women through Passion Foundation. Using coaching skills and an abundance of resources gained through her education and life experiences, Loretta provides the tools to girls and young women to live life fully and to give back to the world passionately. In addition to her own experiences, Loretta brings an array of community supporters to support her work and that of the young women connected to Passion Foundation.
“I could have easily given up along the way,” Loretta says, “but thanks to the people who championed me and my dreams, I can now do the same for so many young women in the world who, in turn, will go out and do the same for their peers.” Now that she’s firmly on her path, Loretta Cella is unstoppable.
Loretta is designated as a Canadian Career Development Practioner, ICF trained Life Coach with over 1500 hours of coaching, and has spent numerous years working in government and non-government agencies supporting the success of youth, adults, and community. She won the Ruby Award by the Soroptomist of Langely in honour of her work with girls and young women, was a winner for Edelman Canada’s Little Give. Loretta is currently working toward her MA in Leadership at Royal Roads University.
(Special thanks to Hilary Mandel for documenting our story)