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CLAIRE, HANNAH, AND ASHLEY DOEL

Hello! We are Claire, Hannah and Ashley Doel. We are three sisters who are competitive dancers and high school students. Claire and Hannah are 18 years old identical twins in Grade 12, and younger sister Ashley is 15 years old in Grade 9. We began our dance experience at the age of 3 and have been dancing competitively for 10 years now. We began our dance journey with 8 years at Sue’s Dance Centre in Newmarket, then 6 years at A2Y Dance Inc in Aurora, and in 2017, joined the team at Elite Danceworx in Markham. We are all tremendously grateful for everyone who has helped them
in our dance experience this far and are excited about our journey ahead.

We sisters are all proud and humbled by achievements we have accomplished in our dance career thus far. Most recently at the 2017 Candance North American Championships in Orlando Florida, Hannah was 1 st Runner-Up Senior Miss Candance, Claire was 3 rd Runner-Up Senior Miss Candance and Ashley was 3 rd Runner-Up Teen Miss Candance. In addition, at the 2017 American Dance Awards National Final in Orlando, Ashley won 4 th Runner-Up Teen Dancer of the Year, and Hannah had a Senior Top Ten Finish. Finally, we were also finalists at The Dance Awards 2017 in Orlando, where we all competed in The Best Dancer competition. This was just 2017! Our previous years’ achievements include numerous other podium finishes at Candance Nationals including Ashley winning the Junior Miss Candance North American Title in 2015. We have also been runners-up or winners at numerous NUVO, JUMP and 24/7 conventions, and Ashley also placed in the top ten junior solos at The Dance Awards Orlando 2016. We were honoured to be asked to represent Team Canada in South Africa and are Bursary Winners of York Region’s Celebration of the Arts.

As with every journey, there have been challenges along the way for us. Most notably, Claire experiencing a serious injury in 2014 with a fracture to her ischial tuberosity (the bone at the base of her pelvis). It was a very slow-healing injury that kept Claire out of full dance for 1.5 year. During this time, Claire learned of her deep passion for competitive dance and what it means to persevere through challenges. She never gave up on her recovery, and never missed a class as she worked on the side lines to heal. It was also difficult for Hannah and Ashley to see Claire go through this, but it also taught us a great deal about taking care of their bodies and injury prevention.

We can tell you that growing up in the competitive dance community is a very special place to be. Even today, we can easily recite a long list of names of older dancers who inspired us not only as dancers, but as good people and role models along their journey. Now that we are maturing in the sport, we are conscious of setting a good example for younger dancers around us, and helping, encouraging and supporting them at every opportunity. This is what it’s all about.

We have a personal message for Canadian Youth – about leadership and goals towards dreams. We want to share how important it is to follow your dreams, never give up, and put your full effort behind whatever you choose to do. We also promote staying positive, supporting others and remembering that the real competition is with yourself – to be the best you can possibly be!

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MAC SHEPHERD

Hailing from Georgina Ontario, I began taking piano lessons at the tender age of 5, followed by guitar at age 8. Since then, haven't looked back. Vocal lessons soon followed as did my passion for songwriting. By 13, I approached my local music store asking for a job, and shortly after was teaching my own students. I continues today, teaching: vocal, guitar, piano, drums, and ukulele. I have enjoyed performing at many venues, including the York Region Celebration of the Arts where he performed with his sister and won Best Duo or Group 2013, the Magna Hoedown Showdown, winning 1st prize in 2016, Tin Pan North, Music in the Streets and most recently at Stars and Thunder in Timmins Ontario. I love performing live and is most relaxed on stage, for someone who has been told many times that he is an old soul. 


When not performing, writing or recording in my basement , I am a member of the "Free the Children" club at my High School, along with being a co-chairman of the "Me To We" Club. I even traveled to Tanzania, Africa in July 2017 with Me to We to help build a children's school! Even in Africa, I somehow found a guitar and performed not only for the school children but for the Masai tribe that I lived with. I relate my experience in Africa with my music and I convey a message of creating opportunity for young kids living in poverty.

I site many influences for my music, such performers and songwriters as John Mayer, Chet Baker, Amy Winehouse James Bay, Amy Lee, Kendrick Lamar, and Stevie Wonder just to name a few. Songwriting is something I take seriously, and spend so much time on. I was given the opportunity last year, to record original songs I wrote with Beverley Mahood and Jamie Warren. Looking ahead to later on in 2018, I am hoping to get back into the studio to record more of my original songs. I am a hard working young man, and at 16, I am willing to work even harder to attain my dream of working in the music industry and sharing my passion with others. I can't imagine doing anything else. A quote I can relate to and pass on to the youth of Canada undoubtedly, comes from Irish Playwright, George Bernard Shaw -  " Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself".

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HALEY PERLMUTTER

My name is Haley Perlmutter, and I am a First Year Commerce student at the Smith School of Business.  Prior to attending University, I played high level basketball and was a competitive dancer.  Balancing both experiences shaped me into the person I am today. I was eight when I started my basketball journey, playing on the same competitive team with many of my original team mates. I was honoured to have the opportunity to be team captain. Our team had success, securing a first-place provincial ranking for the last four years in the Division One category with theOntario Basketball Association. In High School, our Varsity Team was titled York Region Athletic Association Champions for four consecutive years (2013-17). 

Individually I was privileged to be named York Region All Star (2015-16), Newmarket High School Varsity Girls Most Valuable Player (2015-17), Nike Nationals ‘All Star’ (2016), Ontario Basketball League All Star (2016-17) and Queen’s University Basketball Tournament MVP (2016). One of the challenges I had to overcome throughout my basketball career, was not fitting the typical basketball ‘stereotype’. I am not six feet tall, nor am I the fastest girl in the gym. Therefore, I had to shape my own destiny and do my best with the tools I had. My commitment was to be the best player I could be, and to be the hardest working girl in the gym. I made sure that I was optimistic and enthusiastic at every practice. My enthusiasm was contagious and collectively elevated the energy level. As team captain, it was my role to unite the team as our cohesiveness was the main contributor of our success. In realizing my choices directly impacted the spirit and success of the team, I had to maintain a calm and positive attitude during high pressure situations, and formulate solutions as needed. Integrating these extra-curricular’s into my everyday life taught me the importance of time management, particularly prioritizing school work in order to remain on the Principal’s Honour Role and for my future at University. 

I felt it was important to give back to my community, therefore I donated many personal hours to my home club York North Basketball Association. Volunteering allowed me to share my passion for the sport and provided youth guidance while helping to develop their fundamental skills. Coaching younger girl’s teams, allowed me to serve as a role model, empowering them to achieve what they believe. One should never underestimate themselves or their potential. Focus on the positives of a situation, and determine what your path looks like to achieve your goals. I believe, if you put in the effort, remain self motivated and work hard, you will achieve results.

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AFYZ MOHAMEDALI

Never one to shy away from an argument- or as I would call it, a verbal joust- and much to my mother’s discontent, my passion for the art of debate was fostered from quite a young age. Be it the unspeakable injustice of cleaning my room, or the ennui that resulted from a mere mention of the words “bed-time”, my young brain thirsted for opportunity: to engage in arguments is understandably a perplexing pastime to most, yet to me, it was antithetically addictive. The tantalizing skirmish that is debate became an aperture in the usual means of discourse; frustration could always be framed in such a way as to present logical conclusions. Similar to a mathematical equation of sorts, specific vernacular functioned as the input, and provided the impetus for others to see my point of view. As I matured, I realized that this skill I had developed fundamentally served as a barometer. 

Rhetorical analysis allowed me to stand up for what I believed in. Naturally, the next extension of this passion was taking it to the structured level: competitive debate. Over the years, I was lucky enough to be extremely successful at the competitive level; some of my highlights include being a four-time national debater, a member of the Canadian National debate team, and the captain of my school’s own club. Four years, and many incredible experiences later, I am extremely fortunate to be able to own some of the aforementioned achievements listed above; however, these achievements would not have been possible without the immense amount of support I received throughout the journey. Specifically, my debate coaches Neil Bryant, and Rachel MacInnis played an insurmountable role in my development, not only as a debater, but also as a student. These incredible individuals have had my back for many years, and have continually motivated me to be the best version of myself, both in academia and externally. I truly have no way of expressing how sincerely gracious I am for their oversight, and friendship. To this day, I value their rich feedback, strive to emulate their actions, and cherish many of the moments we shared together. 

My success in debate has ironically enough yielded yet another crucial conclusion; I feel as if its overwhelmingly important to value the art of expressing oneself judiciously. Most of us know not the horror of autocratic rule or divisive governments, however, it is important that we are always thinking rationally and with a global perspective. Debate has truly taught me that certain topics will always seek to exist behind a veil, unless challenged by young minds. Often the highly political world in which we exist acts as a façade, shielding us from important ethical issues. Remember, no issue is a single sided matter: they are open for discourse, and we as youth must be the champions of this dialogue.

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RILEY DILLON

My name is Riley Dillon. I am a competitive Wakeboarder who gets to travel around the world and follow my dreams. I am 16 years old and I live in Ontario. I started wakeboarding at the age of 11. I was a competitive snowboarder and my coach wanted me to get into a cross training sport. I gave wakeboarding a try and didn’t expect anything of it. I loved it. I rode everyday that summer at my local cable park, The Ranch Wake Park, and fell in love. I was getting good very quickly and was enjoying it as much as snowboarding. At the age of 14, I decided to pass on my old dreams of professional snowboarding, and go all into wakeboarding. The past two seasons have been surreal. US u16 national champion, 8 national medals, Plastic Playground world champion in England, and third place in u19 at the Cable Wakeboard World Championships in Camsur, Philippines. It’s been a ride the past few years, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. 


Hardships come more often than I'd sometimes like. Falling on competition runs, hurting yourself, and not reaching my goals. My biggest hardship was the World Championships in 2016. I was riding really well and was so close to the final. In semi finals, I was on a really good run, and I fell on my last trick. I didn't get the score I needed and was bumped out. It was hard. I had travelled all the way to the competition (Mexico in this case) and I didn't achieve what I wanted. The hardest thing I've learned in sport is how to not let hardships bring me down, and how to use them as a push instead. You just have to let it push you to work that much harder and be that much more focused. 

Sport is fun. Doesn't matter what sport, pushing forward and working on goals is the best feeling. Although, you have to make sure you love it. If you love a sport, and are committed, chase it. Work hard, meet people, and treat everyone well. My sport has already taken me around the world and I don't know where I'll go to next. You never know where it could take you.

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EMMANUELLE TASSY-BUNYAN

Since childhood, I was always described as constantly lost in her thoughts, someone who likes to daydream and who has a lot of imagination. I started writing short stories as early as 7 years old. At least once a month, there was an “art show”, where I would read stories out loud, enact plays, dragging my little sister into my art projects in front of our parents, whether they liked it or not. As a natural introvert, writing stories was a way for me to express myself. At the age of 10, I wrote a short fictional story about two young loves going to all kinds of adventures, and had it read to all my classmates. At the age of 11, I started writing my very first novel about a slave girl, turned warrior during the Roman Empire, and at the age of 14, I wrote a second novel about a love story in modern Quebec. However, as I grew older, I became more and more anxious about the reactions to my books. I became shy about it and for many many years, I wrote for myself and nobody except my immediate family and very very close friends knew about it. At the age of 22, I decided to get out of my shell and share my stories to the outside world with my third novel.

I got the inspiration for this book at the age of 15 during a family trip in New York and Washington DC. I started writing after the trip, and seven eight years later, I contacted Bouquinbec, a self-publishing company, and one year later, it was published. The title of the book is “Medium” which refers to those able to see and communicate with the dead. It is a very controversial, dark and dismal book set in an apocalyptic futuristic world. This world is dominated by social classes, with the Angels and the Demons at the top, and the Mediums and Humans at the bottom. The main character is Genevieve, a Medium girl with a bounty on her head who hides daily from the repressive regime, until she decides to make a change in her life. She will then meet a Demon with a tortuous past, and a desire for revenge, and together, they will try to build a better life and a better world.

I am very proud of this book because it is the result of eight years of hard work. Furthermore, the published version symbolizes my wish to face my fear, which was sharing my stories to the outside world. I started writing by myself without any help because I loved to write, but it took awhile for me to build enough self confidence, to stop hiding in the dark, and write for others as well. Working with Bouquinbec was a very nerve wracking, fulfilling, and learning experience, and when I finally held my printed book in my hands, after years of thinking that it will never happen, it gave me such a euphoric feeling that I began to think that if this is possible, then everything else is. 

In a not so distant future, I plan to publish the other two novels that I wrote before, and even publish the short story that I wrote at the age of 10 as a children's book. For a while, I have wanted to leave a mark into this world, leave something behind for my children and grandchildren and now, after years of hiding it is finally happening.

Everything is possible. Everybody can achieve something. But it is up to you to put the hard work and believe in yourself. Of course, there are still a lot of challenges and experiences on my journey. I published my book, I now need to work extra hard to promote it. I recently created a facebook page called ETBbooks (you are very welcomed to like and share my page). In addition, I booked two days at the Salon du Livre de Montreal for promotion, and I have other projects in my mind.

I give a big thank you to Youth of Canada who is giving me the opportunity to promote my book and share my story to the world.

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AVERY AKKERMAN

My name is Avery Akkerman and I am and student-athlete with a hearing loss from Toronto, Ontario. I enjoy playing sports, especially rugby for the Lawrence park Panthers Rugby Team, and advocating for a better, more positive world. 

Over the years I have played many sports from rugby to curling and I have been very successful despite my hearing loss. I don't let my differences define me for who I am, instead I use them to push myself and to prove that anyone can do whatever they choose if they put in the effort. I was lucky to be able to compete for the top spot in Ontario for multiple sports. I use my optimism as my motivation and to inspire others not to let anything stop them. My biggest accomplishment for me is being the only player on my teams with a hearing loss and showing to everyone that I can do it! Outside of sports I have competed in speech completions and voiced myself against world issues like education for all, hunger prevention and mental health issues. 

I had to deal with being different and standing out from the crowd which was difficult at first. Now I have started to just overcome that and embrace myself for who I am to show that I can be a leading role model. In rugby for example I am the only player who wears a scrum cap but I wear it so that I can hear and be a part of the game. Over the years I have also had some surgeries that have put me out but during that time I cheer on my teammates and come back stronger then ever before. My hearing loss is a part of me but I don't let that impact me and I keep going strong to be the best of my ability.

To all Canadian youth out there I want to say that you can do anything that you put your mind to no matter what anyone else says and never give up! Sometimes you have to try more than once but one day you will get it and don't let your differences get to you. Try new things everyday and keep learning, always strive to be the best!

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KAYLA PECKHAM

My name is Kayla Peckham and I am an aspiring musician from Ottawa, Ontario. I started violin at the age of 10 and have never looked back, when I started it felt like an extension of my arm. I am also a full-time student at Canterbury High School, as a music major.

Overtime, it was hard to catch up to others my age that play violin. Everybody had so much more experience than me. However, I didn’t let my late start get in the way of my goals. In just two years of playing, I had won two music awards and had completed my Grade 5 exam for music. I decided to join groups in order to share my passion with others. Little did I know, that I would be denied opportunities because of when I found my passion. I am lucky to have found mentors who have seen and channeled my talent. Some of my biggest accomplishments this year are playing at the Viennese Winter Ball, and alongside the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Starting violin late made everything harder than it should have been. I have been denied a solo, and leadership positions because of the length. Not only that but the aspects that every kid picked up naturally from a musical childhood I did not have. However, the one thing that I had and they didn’t was an unbelievable love for music. Yes, I have had setbacks but that just meant that I’d practice more. I do not want to, and will not give up on my passion. In five years of endless practicing in rehearsals, I am very proud to say that I have completed my grade 10 exam and am working award the ARCT diploma.

My message to all of the youth in Canada is to give it a shot. If you really love it, you will do it. Times will be tough, but perseverance will get you through it. Hard work and dedication is what makes the difference, talent is not as important as everybody thinks it is.

 

JASON AMRI

Hi! I'm Jason! I'm an entrepreneur, an innovator, and someone with a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. For as long as I can remember, I have had an insatiable curiosity for the world around me. Ever since I was a young child, I just HAD to know how things worked. Over time, this developed into a true passion for STEM and will soon be a career and a hobby.

It’s no surprise that I enjoy sharing my love for STEM with others. I think everyone should get to feel the joy, satisfaction, and sometimes frustration, that comes with learning something new. That’s why I started groups in my school that empower students to explore STEM. I lead our school's Math club, Coding club, and Maker club. Collectively, these clubs help students explore STEM’s potential in different ways, and find their own potential. They give students an opportunity to meet with others who have the same interests as their own, in an inclusive space.

            I am most proud of my entrepreneurial contributions to this field. As a maker, and lover of technology, I enjoy tinkering with hobby electronics and building my own non-linear solutions to the problems and challenges I see. Unfortunately, like many others, I found it hard to find the right tools and parts at a reasonable price. To help make hobby electronics more accessible, I started my own company, Diy5.ca. Diy5 provides all the benefits of buying from international markets, with much less risk. With detailed product descriptions and a comprehensive return policy, customers buy with confidence. In starting my own business, I am learning about the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur.

            When Diy5 launched, I struggled to grow my customer base. I tried various forms of online advertising to no avail. A breakthrough came when I took a step back and thought about the purpose of Diy5. I didn't want to just be another online store. I wanted customers to be truly confident with their purchases. So I decided to change our strategy. I choose to tap into existing communities of hobbyists online. This lead to a very positive result, and showed me the benefit of focusing on what makes you unique, and being genuine in your marketing.

STEM can open up new doors for someone and give them new opportunities and connections. In STEM, it doesn't matter who you are, or where you come from. I'd encourage ever youth in Canada to explore their passions. Find ways to try new things, and challenge yourself. Most importantly, never give up! Keep working at each problem you face, and always focus on what you enjoy.

 

AMY SPEARMAN

My name is Amy Spearman and I am a high school student at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé in
Winnipeg, Manitoba. I speak English, French, Spanish, basic ASL and am currently leaning
Italian.
When I began high school, I entered with the desire and drive to acquire a global education
and worldview. Having been raised in a family that hosted international students, from a young
age I was exposed to different cultures, languages, traditions, and world views. This made me
very aware of the vast world we live in, including the beauty of its diversity but also the unjust
situations within our world. When I was 15 and 16 I traveled to live and study in Chile and Italy
as part of International Exchange Programs, and it was here that I witnessed societal issues still
very much prevalent in today’s world, such as racism, homophobia, gender violence, as well as
living under the poverty line, and the daily struggles which accompany it.
Upon my return to Canada, I became heavily involved with advocating for an end to these
issues that I witnessed and began educating my community about them. It is here that I started
collaborating with the humanitarian organization World Vision, and as a result, I was selected to
travel to Ghana as a Youth Ambassador to witness their field work and the positive progress
being accomplished. This experience was truly life changing and fuelled my passion to advocate
for social change and quell ignorance and discrimination wherever I go. I am now proud and
honoured to represent World Vision at political and communal events, as well as at conferences
to advocate for the extraordinary humanitarian work that they do. Examples of this are when, I
spoke to Canada’s Traveling Finance Committee to advocate for increases in international
development funding, traveled to Vancouver to attend the largest conference on gender equality
in the world, and helped draft the UNICEF, child-friendly Convention on the Rights of The
Child.
As a tenacious human rights defender and advocate, I was determined to find opportunities to
connect with other likeminded youth and project my voice on a national and international scale. I
was successful in doing this when I became a member of the Canadian Council for Young
Feminists (CCYF) and an International Canadian Youth Correspondent for the Inter-American’s
Children’s Institute (IIN) based in Uruguay. With the help and support of these organizations,
and the networks I’ve created over my years of humanitarian and human rights advocacy work, I
achieved my lifelong dream and most proud accomplishment to date: representing my country
and speaking at the United Nations. I had the opportunity to do this when I was selected and
sponsored by Child Rights Connect, a Swiss Child Rights Agency to attend the Day of General
Debate (DGD) Child Rights Conference in Geneva as a representative of Canadian Youth and as
a young Child Rights Defender/Advocate.
As I aspire to pursue my post-secondary studies in international relations and diplomacy, I
knew this experience would be life-changing and know that I will look back on this experience at

the UN as the first stepping stone to realizing my career goals. It will forever be a powerful
moment that I will cherish.
I would like to end by expressing that over the past years I am incredibly proud to have
accomplished many great things, but want it to be known that it was not an easy task, and that I
had to overcome many obstacles and specifically challenge countless social norms. The most
recurrent obstacle was challenging ageism. As I am quite young, and was even younger (between
the ages of 14-17) when I was doing the prime of my advocacy work explained above, I would
encounter many situations where I was not taken seriously or where my opinions and views were
simply discarded and not valued because of my young age. This was certainly tough to deal with
as, as an advocate, the goal is to get through to people and change their opinions and views on
various subjects, and it’s incredibly tough to do so if you are being viewed as not-credible and
simply “too young to really know anything”.
I want all the youth of the world to know that, your opinions and voice does matter and the
only way this negative perception of youth will change, is if we ALL use our voice and demand a
seat and voice at the table. For the first time in history, the largest demographic on earth is the
youth population, and therefore we have an incredible amount of power and responsibility. As a
youth, I call others to action to find their voices and become educated and explore the world in
which we live. Going into university, I will continue advocating for human rights as I am
committed to the belief that human rights are for every human on our planet. I am, more than
ever before, empowered to stand up and voice my views to affect positive social change.
“I can assure you that there are resilient and inspiring youth all across the globe that are not only
our future, but our present”

 

VYSHNAVI RAJEEVAN

For as long as I can remember, books have been precious to me. I would spend hours reading one after the other, never seeming to grow tired of any I came across. I was attached to more fiction as a child, but I began to resonate with poetry when I started growing older. Coming from a childhood filled with inspiring stories and quite a vivid imagination, it only seemed inevitable that I would end up having a creation of my own. 


When I was around 14, I started writing little excerpts of poetry online as an outlet for all the colliding words that liked to swirl around in my head with nowhere to slip away. Consequently, I named it "Afterthought". Within my poetry pieces, I wrote mostly about my experiences. Whether it was about growing up, falling in or out of love, struggling with my own body or mind, I wrote about it all. I suppose it was an attempt to organize my feelings, but I quickly learned that there is no such thing. That didn't mean it was any easier to write though. I had to constantly keep in mind that I would be writing down my darkest thoughts, sharing my loneliest hours and being at my most vulnerable in front of an audience, which was terrifying. 


I never expected anyone other than myself and a few friends to read what I had written, but after a few months, my view count started to jump! I began gaining around 2,000 new views per day on that single book, with comments from readers who expressed a great appreciation for the things I wrote. The feeling of being able to reach out and touch my readers hearts the way they told me I did was one of the most heartwarming feelings in the world, something I still consider to be a privilege. To this day, I don't think I would be here, with one published book and another on the way without the full support and engagement that my readers have given and for that, I am endlessly thankful. 


The summer before I turned 16, I decided, almost impulsively, that I was going to publish my book professionally. The honest intent behind publishing my first book was not for profit, but purely just to satisfy the desire to physically hold my own creation in my hands. Afterthought had imprinted itself onto me through the impact it seemed to have on its readers and I wanted to be able to make it a real product.  However, once I really started re-writing, editing, reviewing, formatting and more, I began to fall in love with the process of publishing and the way it ignited a writer's spark within myself.


It was long and hard work since I was new to being an author, but the fact that I didn't mind the work only pushed me to work harder because I realized my passion for the project was so strong that I couldn't seem to stop. I had also found a platform that allowed me to learn step by step how to publish and sell my book on Amazon while allowing my creative freedom, which was personally crucial. It surprised me, how by bearing enough courage to ask yourself, "why not?", could lead to new experiences, and for me lead to one of the most life-changing and eye-opening times of my life. Overall, I can say that Afterthought has not only changed my life but taught me that when passion is involved with creation, there can only come greatness. 


A huge thank you to Youth of Canada for providing the opportunity to share my book and journey. 

 

ASHLEY TAYLOR

My name is Ashley Taylor. I’m 12 years old, and I live in Guelph, Ontario. I have always been an outgoing kid, and loved performing and being on stage. I started taking gymnastics and ice skating lessons when I was 3, then moved on to competitive cheeerleading, and eventually, acting. I got signed with a talent agency, and had appeared on Tv shows and commercials, both in Canada and the US.


At school, I have always been a strong student. I love all subjects, especially Music and Art. Outside of school, I hone my citizenship and leadership skills through the Navy League and the Air Cadets program. I think I’m well-rounded. When I was 11, I applied to compete on CBC’s Canada Smartest Person Junior. The show was open to applications from kids aged 9 to 12 from all over Canada. Out of over a thousand applications, I made it to the Top 12, to compete in front of the Live audience. The show aired nationwide in the fall of 2018.


Through acting, I have made a lot of friends, and most of us keep in touch on Instagram. Through Instagram posts, I saw that lots of kids around my age were walking the runway for fashion shows. I also found out that they had to pay a lot of money to be on the shows, sometimes over $1,000. That number overwhelmed me, as I thought to myself that I’d rather donate that money, if I had any, to a charity. Then an idea hit me. I have a lot of actor and model friends. What if we walked the runway, and donated all the money we make to the charity?


The idea seemed like a fantasy, but there was no harm in trying, so on 8 October 2018, I posted my idea on Instagram and asked if any of my friends would be interested in helping me realize my vision. In 2 days, 40 friends had said yes, plus a couple fashion designers and photographers! I couldn’t believe it.


That meant we had a lot of work to do. We all helped spread the word, and by the end of the year, the project got so big, we had to ask our parents to help out. The adults helped us write the Business Plan and registered us as a Not-For-Profit Organization, “Kids T.O. Kids”. We looked for a charity we wanted to support, and found an organization that we all fell in love with. “Million Dollar Smiles” builds the playground in a backyard of the families whose young children are battling serious illnesses - the children whose immune system is so low from the various treatments, that they are not able to go to a public playground and play. We reached out to everyone we knew, or didn’t even know, to ask for their support. We had nothing to offer them, but we were all hearts. We quickly learned that when you are doing things from the heart, people can feel it, and people are generally very willing to help. 


On 30 June 2019, the very first Kids T.O. Kids Runway of Hope took place at the Montecassino in Woodbridge. 45 young actors and models of Southern Ontario walked the runway. 10 different designers either donated or loaned us the wardrobe. 5 professional Hair and Makeup artists volunteered their time. Our 4 hosts included Peter Papapetrou from the Marilyn Denis show, YouTube superstars the Caleon Twins, and Miss Teen Globe Canada 2019 Mahta Gharaei. Singers Girl Pow-R, Rhyan Douglas, and Julia Middleton performed at our event. At the end of the day, we raised enough money to build 3 playgrounds for 3 families. We couldn’t believe it. Everyone of us volunteered our time, and nobody got paid for anything at all, but to see how much money was raised was so satisfying, and to us, it was way more important than being paid.


To the youth of Canada and everyone reading this, I hope my story will inspire you to do something to give back to the community. My friends and I had absolutely no money when we started the project, but with our good intentions and good hearts, we asked for sponsorship, and we received many. We had more than 70 sponsors support our event! You may be young, and do not have any money to donate, but you can make money to donate. Look at us. Look at what we have achieved. It’s not enough to think good, you have to get up and do good as well. One day, or Day One -

you choose. ️

 

GALICIA GORDON

Hello fellow youth, my name is Galicia! I was born in Vancouver, BC, and have a passion for student success and pro-bono work. I am currently a French-immersion high school student, Founder of the non-profit Leading Learners, writer, and avid volunteer.


I have been passionate about volunteering from a young age, and still believe it is something that is overlooked. My experience volunteering with children has ranged from being a French tutor at my community library, helping those in grades 1-6 who face socio economic issues, and are unable to afford a paid tutor, being a Spanish teacher assistant, working closely with those aged as young as three, and as old as eleven, building upon their Spanish-speaking skills, and working at charity organizations such as Place des Arts, who provide unique, accessible arts programs to my Coquitlam community, where I have had the privilege to work with local artisans and aid in the execution of events within the Tri-Cities.


Whether I volunteer my time helping young learners speak French, or witness, hands-on, children possessing enough courage to test their artistic abilities, there is always something to take away from every moment I volunteer. It brings me sincere joy seeing children grow and being a part of their journey to self-discovery. Noticing that children smile when they see me, or create their own unique nicknames for me brings me such an unexplainably exceptional feeling inside. Volunteering has honestly taught me so much over the past several years. It has taught me to be methodical, the importance of professionalism, and to not be afraid to step outside of the box. Methodical, in the sense that there are always exceptions in the French and Spanish language, and that the Besherelle is your best friend. Professionalism, because, despite how much you may want to shed tears of joy, you have eight other kids you need to watch over. And, of course, the children have taught me how the step outside of the box —and my hand-made dotted lines. These are only a few of the components as to why I continue, and why I am destined to providing an extraordinary learning experience for students. There is so much that happens during students’ academic years, and I am fortunate enough to be a part of it. With my passion for voluntarily helping others and a love for students’ success, I created Leading Learners —an organization destined to provide students with the resources they truly need during their schooling years.


With my team and I’s non-profit organization called Leading Learners, we facilitate the learning experience for Canadian students during their academic years. We were (or still are) students ourselves, and so we come together to find solutions to troubles students may have. As an example, one key feature from Leading Learners is its “Support Box,” where students can ask any school-related questions and with the support we have from social workers, teachers, and other education professionals, we answer them to the best of our abilities. Due to our resources being online, we answer in a non-biased manner, and genuinely want students to have what they need to succeed.


It is my ultimate dream to see students prosper, whilst including voluntary work into their lives and the lives of others. I would like to see a future where students go beyond the mandatory, and feel inspired to possess this warm, exceptional, and irreplaceable feeling inside from doing good for themselves and those around them. I encourage all students to take the opportunities presented to better themselves when they can. Now, in my penultimate year of high school, I see myself majoring in business to embrace innovations and create proper schooling systems around the world.

 

NAVINDI DE SILVA

Originating from Walnut Grove, I dedicate my time to empowering the next generation of future leaders. I often wonder about others’ hardships and focus on finding solutions to the problems of our community. Hence, I am an executive of many school-based clubs and programs striving to aid others including Student Council and the LEOs clubs. Recently, I co-founded E+N lifestyle, a platform dedicated to assisting youth by providing study tips, essentials, mental health insights, etc. My goal with this platform is for it to become an accessible, go-to resource for youth, a platform I have always desired for myself. I am the Marketing Director of Youth Helping Youth, a non-profit. organization striving to increase awareness of the opportunities for youth. Youth Helping Youth has over 4500+ followers on our social media accounts and have expanded regionally to Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. Furthermore, I am the leader of the VolunTEEN program at Langley Memorial Hospital. Alongside my community commitments, I have also founded an international venture, targeted at donating money to students in impoverished schools of Sri Lanka. I am also greatly interested in our sustainable future and volunteered in Costa Rica collaborating on local projects targeted at the environmental conservation. I will also be speaking at TedxYouth Brookwood about education and self-persistence in regard to my experience as an AP scholar. I have an immense passion for empowering youth and strive to encourage youth to pursue their goals and succeed.


E+N lifestyle is the platform that I have always needed, especially during my senior years of high school. This website is unique in how we do not simply cater to one audience. We cover a variety of topics and areas: study tips, essentials, mental health, recipes, music and books. Within E+N Lifestyle, students can find study tips and education essentials for academic success, as well as mental health writes to assist youth in their mental health journey to discover their identity. Additionally, we supply recipe, music and book recommendations—things for you to discover.


The creation of E+N Lifestyle was difficult; in the beginning, it felt like an overly ambitious dream. Our hardships were primarily related to technology, collaboration and COVID-19. My partner and I did not have experience with software and thus, it took a great deal of time for us to figure out how the software worked. There were times where we were frustrated because the product of our time and hard work was not what we desired, but we watched videos, talked to teachers and was able to achieve our ideal product. Additionally, it was difficult to collaborate because we are two different individuals. However, we were able to work together effectively because regardless of how we may have disagreed with certain ideas, we both have a united goal: to make E+N Lifestyle an accessible, go-to platform to assist youth. Collaboration is not easy, but it is amazing because collaboration represents the union of many incredible ideas between people from different ways of life. Furthermore, COVID-19 became a significant obstacle for my partner and I because we were no longer able to meet up and discuss ideas in-person. Instead, we averted to virtual meetings and took turns editing our site. Though time-consuming, we were able to organize meetings and complete tasks effectively, such as our Instagram page @ennlifestyle_.


My advice to youth interested in becoming involved in the community, is to not be afraid to take that first step. I understand how difficult it is to put yourself out there and take on new responsibilities: I was terrified to apply for an executive position in a non-profit organization. It requires courage because community involvement is not the same as school involvement. Being involved within your school feels comfortable and familiar. Community involvement asks you to step out of your comfort zone and contribute to a bigger community. It is extremely difficult to take that step because you really do not know what you are getting into. Be brave, be courageous and be ambitious. Trust yourself, trust that you can do it, you can do what you see other people your age doing. Have confidence in who you are. You do have a lot to learn but be content with how you’re willing to learn to improve your skills and grow as a human being. I know you are scared, and you do not think you’re enough and capable of great feats, but let me tell you, you are. You are amazing, incredible, inspiring and strong. You can do this. Believe in yourself.

 

MELDA KIZILTAN

Hello! My name is Melda Kızıltan. I’m a highschool student from Kitchener, Ontario and have just finished my grade 11 year. STEM has always been a constant factor in my life. From having a mom who is an electrical engineer to a dad who is an accountant, I was immediately immersed. Despite all of that, me wanting to pursue a STEM career was never the plan. As a child, I didn’t do very well in math, did much better in the social-based classes, and coloured aimlessly in the margins.
Despite that, I have never wanted to be anything but an engineer. It was my goal, ever since we learned about careers in school. There was never any doubt. My hand shot right up, stating that someday, I will be an engineer. It’s still my dream and passion today. About 3 or 4 years ago, I attended a STEM conference talking about the gender gap in STEM subjects. This made me upset. Why weren’t more girls interested in STEM? I learned about the STEM cliff that occurs when most girls are in middle school. They suddenly lost interest in fields that shape our world each and every single day. Had they not felt the curiosity that I had felt when learning about science, technology and how the world works? That’s when I made up my mind. I made it my mission to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM. Since then, I have attended many Code Like a Girl, STEM Like a Girl and Go ENG Girl events at the University of Waterloo. I was also accepted, from a pool of worldwide applicants, to participate in the University of Waterloo’s Engineering Catalyst program. In addition, for 3 years in a row, I have helped to organise and run STEM Like a Girl days and STEM nights within my school and in the community. I spent many hours and days planning such events and making sure that every minute of them was going to be enjoyable. Seeing the smiles and curiosity dancing in the eyes of the students was all worth it. As a result, I was nominated and recently won the Kitchener Youth Action Council Leadership Award for leadership and improving my community. Other contributions also include my position as a 3 year student leader for my school's Audio-Visual Tech Crew for many school and community events as well as my job as an Audio-Visual Technician Assistant where I've worked for the past 3 years as well. My continued work towards my dream also pushed me to strive for the best that I can be. I have gone leaps and bounds academically through hard work and lots of studying, consistently being top of my classes and in the top 2 averages of my school, year after year.

Like everybody, I had setbacks and challenges. However, they pushed me to continue. I constantly found myself as the only girl in the room in tech events and my tech classes. Constantly being underestimated as a female in STEM is beyond frustrating. The feeling of constantly having to prove myself to earn respect when others automatically got it just because they were male was disheartening. I’m working hard to change this. I’m continuing with the school events and working to create more change not only at school but also in my community. As a part of the student leadership council, I’ve created a STEM sub-portfolio in the Equity and Inclusion portfolio which I worked in this year. When working as an Equity and Inclusion Representative, I realised how undervalued and underfunded all STEM subjects are. I’m bringing awareness to not only this, but also making it a mission to get more female students to enroll in STEM classes. I am pushing beyond the stereotypes of it being only a male subject, or that it’s too hard and not amusing. STEM classes are incredibly inquisitive, engaging, and a thrilling challenge. These things are what keep me going towards my dream of becoming a mechatronics engineering professor, so I can inspire generation after generation of students.
My message to all Canadian youth is to not be put off by prejudgements of a certain career or subject. You’ll never know until you try. The only limit is yourself and no matter what, do what makes you passionate. Push your limits. It’s going to be scary at first but once you get past the initial preconceptions and fears, you’ll find that it’s all worth it and if anything, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.

 

©2020 by Youth of Canada.