Christina’s role on Upopolis has evolved over the years since she co-created the concept, mission and purpose of the program with her father in 2005. Christina is an important part of relationship management with Upopolis partners, funders and donors – those who generously give to support so that youth can continue to have access to its amazing and impactful benefits.
Over the years, Christina has been part of the development, delivery, rollout, operation, processes, marketing, management and funding of Upopolis. She feels blessed to have been able to see the program from conception, to where it is today; impacting youth at over 30 hospitals and healthcare organizations.
Christina is co-founder of Kids’ Health Link’s Foundation (KHLF), the organization that developed Upopolis with the help of partners like TELUS. KHLF is a non-profit and charity she started with her father Basile after her diagnosis of, and recovery from, an acute illness in her teens. She was inspired to help other youth and enhance their hospital experience through peer-to-peer connection, knowledge and empowerment – using technology.
Upopolis Program Manager
Krista Naugler is a Certified Child Life Specialist and joined the KHLF team as Upopolis Program Coordinator in October 2015. In June 2016, she took on the additional responsibilities of Upopolis Program Manager.
For over 20 years, Krista worked in the child life department at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, serving in units including emergency, cardiology, orthopaedics, NICU, surgery, the paediatric medical unit and neurology. Over the course of her career, Krista has taken several opportunities to extend her expertise beyond the traditional child life specialist role. She spent three years developing the framework for and coordinating a Microsoft initiative at the IWK Health Centre called the Child Life Interactive Computers for Kids program (CLICK). Krista has also worked with a team of researchers and augmentative reality developers to create an application allowing medical professionals to determine if a patient would be a candidate to undergo a procedure without sedation.
She is an advocate for youth grief peer support opportunities and co- facilitates grief support groups for youth 10-17 years of age. In 2014, Krista founded Camp Kedooopse at Brigadoon Village, a grief support camp for children and youth ages 8-17 years.
When asked why she is passionate about her work for KHLF, Krista shares that she recognizes the need to meet teens where they are at. Today, that means accepting their use of technology as of means of connection and expression. She is also aware of the importance of independence and peer relationships during adolescence. It is these things that fuel her passion for her work with KHLF.
Upopolis Program Coordinator
Jessica Miller (Poesch) joined the KHLF team in October of 2015, currently she is in the role of the Upopolis Program Coordinator. In July 2016, Jessica also took on a contract with KHLF’s initiative Upedia, and has expanded role with that program, as Upedia Coordinator.
Jessica joined the KHLF team with over 15 years’ experience as a Certified Child Life Specialist. Her experience in clinical settings includes; outpatient oncology, nephrology and multi-organ transplant, general surgery, emergency and 7 years on the inpatient oncology unit at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).
Jessica’s education and experience goes beyond the scope of clinical child life practice. This includes her role as Program Manager for the Child and Teen Program at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, and Adjunct Instructor for the Child Life Program at McMaster University. In 2009, Jessica received her Masters of Arts from Ryerson University where her thesis examined children’s perceived understanding of death through the experiences of Child Life Specialists. Jessica has also furthered her education with specialized courses in pediatric palliative care and cultural competence.
When asked why she is passionate about her work for KHLF, Jessica expresses that it’s her firm belief and experience that knowledge can empower youth to overcome and deal with fear. This coupled with her desire to connect with teens using their modality; technology, made Upopolis and KHLF an ideal avenue to pursue her passions. Jessica is extremely proud to be involved with KHLF, and contribute to Upopolis, and Upedia.
Sibling Group and Social Lead
Tija Praulins is a Certified Child Life Specialist who joined KHLF in February 2019 as the Sibling Group and Social Lead for Upopolis. She expressed that she was drawn to Upopolis because it recognizes and supports technology to educate and connect youth and shares this same belief with her KHLF team.
Tija’s current role at Upopolis is complemented by her full-time work at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH), where she coordinates programming, entertainment and in-kind donations for hospitalized patients and their siblings. Prior to this, Tija worked in the pediatric emergency department and in pediatric inpatient settings including general medicine, oncology, surgery, and the intensive care unit, and has also supported children of adult patients in the acute setting.
As a group facilitator for the Youth Advisory Council at MCH, Tija developed her passion for working with youth who have had hospital experiences. She says that being able to learn about their interests, understand how they perceive healthcare and illness, support their relationships with each other, and empower them to make a change in their community, has helped make her a better clinician. Tija is thankful that she learns as much, and more, from them as they do from her.
Tija is very grateful to have the opportunity to extend her passions into her work with Upopolis and KHLF and is committed to helping youth use technology as an outlet for expression.