One of the hallmarks of a great leader is acting today instead of waiting until tomorrow. For this and so many other reasons, the Community Information and Volunteer Centre wants to put a group of St. Albert youths on a pedestal and shower them with praise as some of our greatest citizens.
As the agency is just beginning to tout its adult candidates for its annual Volunteer Citizen of the Year, the CIVC is wasting no time in announcing the winners of the Leaders of Tomorrow awards. Glynis Thomas hopes their inspiring accomplishments make everyone think harder about how to give back to the community and world.
"I'm always in awe of what the Leaders of Tomorrow volunteers accomplish," Thomas said. "When we look at that as adults in our community, we begin to recognize that our future is in good hands. These youths do an incredible amount of community service every day, every week, every year and we should be very thankful for their contributions."
Here is a look at this year's Leaders of Tomorrow in each age category.
Ericka Rurka: Six to 12 Years
Ericka could probably make a successful argument against the famous quote that youth is wasted on the young. This 12-year-old student at V.J. Maloney seems to waste none of her time on frivolous pursuits, instead showing a precocious devotion to helping others and animals. A dog lover, she helps out with purebred dog rescue and works with other animals at the Edmonton Kennel Club. She complements that by volunteering at the Pet Expo as a dog handler. As a Girl Guide she helps compile Christmas hampers each year. Ericka also gets up early every day to help prepare breakfast in the school cafeteria. This is just the tip of the iceberg. She has also assisted children with disabilities, fundraised for the Hair Massacure (and shaving her beautiful long hair too), sorted clothes for the Share & Wear Clothing Exchange. If it wasn't enough for her to handle all of those responsibilities with ease, she is also known as being super nice and a really cool kid.
Brandon Handfield: 13 to 15 Years
Brandon must have a social conscience made of steel. The Grade 9 student at Sir George Simpson plays a major role in, even founding, many of the school's environmental and community activities. With the Social Justice Club, he works to support Free the Children, an international development network to improve education for youth in struggling countries. He is also integral to the Edge of Extinction Club, a cause that benefits threatened and endangered animals. He then spends his lunch hours as part of the recycling committee, cleaning and sorting recyclable garbage to make the school just that much greener. Never afraid to stand up and speak his mind, he walks the talk. As one of his teachers put it, "If he is the future, the future is very bright."
Emily Sigvaldason: 16 to 18 Years
Emily takes her participation in the Girl Guides seriously, giving about 1,600 hours of volunteer time, learning about being a role model and putting it into action. The St. Albert Catholic High School student goes well above and beyond to provide leadership and support to both a Brownie and a Spark group as well, making a significant and positive difference in the lives of young girls from five to eight years old, guiding them on how to contribute responsibly to their communities. Emily shows her spirit in other group activities, helping out with local cookie drives as well as district events. As a Ranger, she took the initiative to build a garden bench for a local seniors' care facility and left the project with the last coats of varnish still freshly spritzed on her fingers. Her group wants her to become a fully-fledged adult Guider when she turns 18 this summer. They should be so fortunate.
Michelle Chornell: 19 to 21 Years
Scientists should study Michelle to develop a new source of endless energy. The third-year University of Alberta student is a vital volunteer throughout the community. She helps out at her church's Sunday school; at the St. Albert Senior Citizens' Club, she is a youth director on that organization's board and assists with different activities. There is a little girl who got to fulfil a fantasy of dancing on stage, all thanks to this wonderful young woman who mentored her through the Ballerina Dreams program of the Cerebral Palsy Association. While in class, Michelle takes notes for a fellow student who is unable to do so. Since she's at the U of A, she also volunteers at the Stollery pediatric surgical unit by playing with the kids and visiting with their families. Then there's her volunteer work with the St. Albert Festival of the Arts, Rock'n August, the Weekend to End Breast Cancer, the Northern Alberta International Children's Festival and the Bissell Centre. If that wasn't enough, she has also been involved at the Sturgeon Community Hospital for the last two years. Recently she visited an elderly man to provide regular companionship. As they developed a friendship, he told her war stories about his time in concentration camps during the Second World War. She wrote them all down for the man's family to hold as a historical keepsake. Someone should do the same for Michelle.
Change for Africa: Group Award
The student club at Paul Kane High School has made a consistent and concerted effort to improve the lives of the students at the Ikonge School in Kenya. Through repeated initiatives, the 30 club members and teacher Ruby Solomon have raised more than $1,600 to help with construction costs. Their next step is to build up enough to pay for furnishings, a clean water well and build some bathrooms. They will surely achieve this goal by running the concessions at various school functions and, of course, collecting loose change on the last Tuesday of each month. A sock drive in December netted $750 and another fundraiser is in the works.
Volunteer Recognition Awards
Saturday, May 1 at 10 a.m.
St. Albert Alliance Church
Tickets: $20; available from the CIVC,
#10, 215 Carnegie Dr. (near Sturgeon Valley Athletic Club)
Call 780-459-6666 or visit www.stalbertcivc.com for more information