The tireless Emily Vilcsak finally had her moment in the sun.
Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell finally handed out her Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Citizenship Medal, which was announced back in February. The trouble is, the young woman was off in Mexico doing what she does best: volunteering. She FaceTimed in for the ceremony during a break from her work with an international organization called Youth With A Mission.
“Among many things, I help each day in the kitchen at our community’s base and I travel weekly to an impoverished village to bring clean water, and to play with the children there,” she said.
Established in 2002, the citizenship medal marked the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne. It serves to recognize outstanding community service and volunteerism. Recipients are chosen from among the Alberta high school students selected to receive the Premier’s Citizenship Award.
On the province’s website for the medal, Vilcsak is described as “a compassionate, inspiring and ambitious young leader with big dreams and goals.” She served on the St. Albert Catholic High School Student Council where she organized school events and mentored younger students into getting involved in student government. She also started a coding club for students to create a sense of belonging.
Outside of school, she has acted in a dozen large-scale St. Albert Children’s Theatre productions where she furthered her mentorship to new young performers. She has also served as a leader for the youth group YoungLife.
While all of this is amazing in and of itself, it’s nothing compared to living with cerebral palsy. Vilcsak faces her challenges head on every day and seems remarkably boundless in her enthusiasm to continue to serve her community and the world.
In that light, she created a youth empowerment program called Mission I’m Possible that she has now presented to many youth groups. She describes it as a way to help students realize their potential, overcome adversity, and become local and global leaders.
“In this program, which I have delivered to schools around the city, I share my personal testimony about my experiences growing up with mild cerebral palsy, and the strength that it’s given me. I’ve learned that we’re all disabled in some way, not by a physical disability, but by the fear that disables us from following our dreams.”
For this work, she was recognized during We Day 2016 for making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Vilcsak’s father, Chris, accepted her medal on her behalf. Seven other students from across the province also received the medal for their exemplary work in their still-young lives. Each recipient was also handed a $5,000 cheque, a letter of congratulations from Minister of Culture and Tourism Ricardo Miranda, and a letter of commendation presented by the lieutenant-governor.
“These thoughtful and hardworking young leaders offer great examples of the power of giving back. They remind us that we all can play a role in making our communities stronger, healthier and more compassionate places. They’ve already accomplished a great deal and I trust their dedication to active citizenship will continue to serve them well in the future,” Lt.-Gov. Mitchell said.