The Leaders of Tomorrow are here
Volunteer organization announces 18th annual winners of youth awards
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 06:00 am
Every spring, the Community Information and Volunteer Centre celebrates the best and brightest of St. Albert’s young volunteers from the ages of six to 21. There are individual winners for specific age categories and group award winners.
“With the Leaders of Tomorrow program, the Community Information and Volunteer Centre is always excited to be able to celebrate the successes of youth in our community,” said Glynis Thomas, the executive director of the centre.
“But more than that, we believe that the community is in good hands as we look at all that the youth contribute to our well-being, now and in the future.”
The ceremony to celebrate the Leaders of Tomorrow youth volunteer awards and to announce the winner of the Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award takes place Saturday, May 3 at the St. Albert Alliance Church located on Villeneuve Road. Tickets are $25 each. The event starts at 10 a.m.
Please call the CIVC at 780-459-6666 for more information.
This year there is no winner for the 19 to 21 age category. Instead, there are two groups that have won: one for a new junior group category and the other in the senior group category.
The winners are as follows:
Jamie Guest – six to 12
Nothing stands in the way of Jamie Guest stepping up to help others. To him, he’s not even stepping up or going out of his way, he’s really just doing what he’s always done.
“If you ask Jamie why he volunteers, he will look at you in a quizzical manner because it is something that he has always done,” explains his mother, Michelle Guest-Moore.
“[He] volunteers because he has fun doing it and he likes to help people.”
Despite being considered somewhat shy, Jamie has been speaking out against bullying. He made a video on the subject and has been sharing it with elementary classes as well as Beaver Scout and Cub Scout groups throughout the city.
He has also been involved with a number of other volunteer efforts including tree planting and river cleanup, the Hair Massacure, and civic events like Canada Day and the Snowflake Festival.
“He’s always trying to help out,” Guest-Moore says. “When I asked Jamie why he volunteers, he was perplexed. ‘What do you mean: why do I volunteer? It’s what we do. It’s the right thing to do. Everybody should volunteer.’”
Liam Kachkar – 13 to 15
Volunteering is not a dreaded activity that is only done for school credit. Just ask Liam Kachkar.
The Grade 10 student at Paul Kane High School says there are positive emotional benefits.
“Every time I’ve been in a volunteer organization, there’s always the feeling of positive energy coming out from everyone,” he said. “It’s really cool to feel that positive energy where you’re doing something to help others or just to help the community to be a better place.”
Kachkar has been involved with social justice clubs since he was at Sir George Simpson Junior High School. That’s about the same time that he and his family started to volunteer at the Mustard Seed Church in downtown Edmonton and the Free Will Shakespeare Festival.
He’s also been involved with the St. Albert Food Bank and has taken on the role of Junior Forest Warden with the city’s naturalization projects, through which he has helped plant thousands of trees.
There are numerous other entries on his volunteer résumé. He’s looking forward to helping out with the International Children’s Festival as well as a special summer trip right after the school year ends.
During a We Day event last year, he was chosen to go to Ecuador with a teacher and three friends. Together, they will visit the Free the Children community in the Chimborazo province where they will help with community-building projects.
Being a Leader of Tomorrow hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“My mom keeps telling me how big of an award it is,” he said. “I don’t think that I’m going to really fully understand it. It really is encouraging to everything I do in the community to help me keep doing what I do and just encourage me to keep being a positive role model. It really is an honour to receive this award.”
Eleze Munro – 16 to 18
Volunteering has many benefits. Eleze Munro can attest to that. The Grade 12 student at Paul Kane High School says that she gives her time and energy to things that she believes in, not for praise or accolades like being one of the Leaders of Tomorrow.
She was just happy to be nominated.
“I haven’t really gotten any recognition for the work before. That’s not why I do it,” she stated, adding why she accepted the nomination. “It felt good because it made me reflect on what I’ve done in the past.”
She got bit by the volunteering bug when she was much younger. She enjoyed visiting the children’s festival and other school events, and realized that those were experiences that wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of many volunteers. She just wanted to pay it forward.
“I wanted to make other kids feel that way by helping them out by volunteering. I’m just trying to give back.”
Munro has been an avid volunteer since she was 12 when she became a swim instructor’s assistant at Fountain Park Recreation Centre. Since then she has gotten involved with helping the St. Albert Food Bank, the St. Albert 50+ Club, the library and – in true paying-it-back fashion – the International Children’s Festival.
She has also become strongly involved with her school’s social justice club, was a founding member of SOARing and is on the committee for the Amplify Youth Festival that will be launched for the first time in the fall. These are just a few of the many activities for which she has volunteered.
As she finishes up high school, Munro is preparing to start her post-secondary education at NAIT in the ultrasound technologist program. She also plans to continue volunteering, an activity that has enriched her life by giving her an opportunity to know so many wonderful people.
“I really enjoy the friendships that I’ve made through volunteering,” she said. “I get to know so many amazing people that are like-minded. We do try and do things for our community and for other people that couldn’t have happened without the volunteer work.”
William D. Cuts Junior High School Leadership 9 class – junior youth group category
It’s good to get an early start on being a lifelong volunteer. That’s what the Leadership 9 class at W.D. Cuts is all about.
JoAnn Blachford, the school’s vice-principal and one of the teachers of the leadership program, said teaching kids to give back to the community is a great way to empower youth.
“You want them to feel good about themselves,” she began. “A lot of research about self-esteem says that you can’t really teach it but you can learn about feeling good about yourself by doing things for other people.”
The students in the class are tasked with finding ways to make the community at large a better place throughout the school year. They do this by volunteering at the food bank, the 50+ Club, the Hope Mission and the Mustard Seed Church, among many other opportunities including other seniors’ facilities and elementary schools.
One of the criteria is that the students are meant to volunteer outside of school and the class.
“Lots of them go to the Youville and go back to seniors’ places, help out with the SOARing program… it’s a win-win situation for us. I can’t say enough about [what they do].”
“The other thing is that I hope we instil in them the sense of community and that we want them to be lifelong volunteers. Ultimately, that’s our goal. We want them to be good community citizens: caring and wanting to give back.”
BAM (Building Assets and Memories) – senior youth group category
When it comes to engaging youth in their community, BAM is surpassing expectations.
The members of the “youth for youth” group work to involve their peers in coming up with interesting things to do and working together to get things done. It’s all in an extended effort to build the 40 Developmental Assets, a kind of life enrichment program put forth by The Search Institute based in the United States and endorsed by the City of St. Albert.
Asset development is a philosophy about what youths need to grow up in the best way possible. It focuses on positive personality characteristics and behaviours while trying to counteract risky behaviours and experiences.
Ben Huising, the youth co-ordinator of asset development with the City of St. Albert’s Family and Community Support Services, said the kids are really just trying to have the best lives possible.
“Recognition is always great. It’s truly not something that was sought after by the group. They didn’t even know they were being nominated.”
The group recently won the Heroes of a Safe and Caring World Award from the Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities.
Last year, its 80-plus members put in more than 5,000 hours of work in the community, from organizing or contributing to events like the Sturgeon River cleanup, the Road Rage ball hockey tournament, the Canada Day longboard race, a slip ’n slide down Seven Hills or BAM U, a way for youth to teach other youth.
BAM is also planning a music festival to be held in the summer.
Huising said, despite the high profile of a lot of the group’s work, it’s not about seeking attention.
“We do what we do without trying to self-promote,” he said, adding that the award means a lot to the BAM members. “When somebody else in the community recognizes the work that they are doing, it’s a special thing.”