Sara Boubekri was inspired to start an organization to support underprivileged youth because of her own struggles growing up. “My experiences with socio-economic inequalities remarkably shaped my vision of life,” says Sara. With her initiative The Change Makers, Sara advocates for equal access to education, while motivating young people to make change. She has raised funds for the Relay for Life, been a UNICEF representative, and started SYNAPSES, a scientific journal dedicated to using technology to revolutionize the healthcare field. In August, she will enter medicine at Université de Montréal and will continue to lead projects to make this world a better place.
“You don’t have to have a perfect life to help others,” says Sara Ebenezer. She started For the Love of STEM, an organization which provides free tutoring and mentoring to students, while spreading a love of learning. Through her volunteer work she was appointed to the Student Advisory Council for the Ministry of Education, which drafts policy recommendations aimed to improve the education system. Sara is also the founder of Girl Power, an initiative aimed at empowering young girls, particularly from marginalized communities. Sara hopes to expand her reach by studying international development and life sciences in university.
“One of the first words I remember learning as a child is ithar,” says Maleeka, “an Arabic word that loosely translates to the selfless concern for the happiness and well-being of others.” Maleeka raised thousands for the Relay for Life, ran a coin drive for the Rohingya refugee crisis, and crafted hand-made jewelry for Syrian refugee fundraisers. She is the founder of a tutoring non-profit whose proceeds are donated to the Yemen humanitarian crisis, and is a teaching assistant for minority kids at her local language school. Maleeka also co-founded a support group for young Muslim girls, and Youth Be Heard which provides resources and guidance on how to make a difference. Maleeka hopes to become a pediatrician and researcher. “Whatever my future endeavours may be,” says Maleeka, “I know that ithar will be at their core.”
“It is my ambition to eliminate teenage homelessness,” says Mary England. Working with Covenant House, Mary’s efforts include fundraising, food drives, and the Covenant House Sleep Out – a program which has raised over $60,000 to fund initiatives for at-risk and homeless youth. A member of the YouthLAB committee, Mary advocates for troubled teens in her community and is a certified First Responder at her school. She also has a passion for STEM, tutoring students at her school and in the community, leading the Math Club, and experimenting with new technologies for the FIRST Robotics Team. She will be studying Engineering at McMaster University where she can build things that will have a positive impact on the lives of others.
A traumatic childhood left Sarah Howe determined to protect other kids. Based on that Sarah strives to “look out for those who might be experiencing similar obstacles.” Passionate about providing a safe space for kids, Sarah mentors children as a YoungLife leader and coaches youth at her local hockey club. Sarah has raised funds for the Missions Services women’s shelter, Relay for Life, and the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario. Sarah has applied to the nursing program at Queen’s University and hopes to work in pediatrics.
For Sarah Labadie everything changed after she disclosed the abuse she had experienced to a teacher. Sarah not only reported the abuse but vowed to turn her experience into something positive. As the founder of Holding Hope, an organization focused on improving child welfare Sara works with a team of more than 20 people to raise funds, increase awareness, and create care packages for children who report abuse. Sarah is also involved with the Cancer Center, and Passion 2 Action. She is currently entering her second year at the University of Regina in the Bachelor of Education program. Since reaching out to a teacher made such a difference in her life, she hopes to pay it forward by becoming a teacher herself. “I was a victim of abuse,” says Sarah, “and knowing that I can use my story to make a difference for other kids is what gives me hope.”
As someone who battled mental illness, including an eating disorder, for many years, Abby had grown accustomed to the silence about mental health in her community. After undergoing treatment, she decided it was time to start much-needed conversations about the struggles so many face. “My openness helped others feel less alone with their own struggles,” Abby says. This experience inspired her to raise awareness about mental health. Abby helped organize a wellness week at her school, was a social support volunteer at her local hospital, and was part of the Connect to Care group, educating others on the impacts of mental illness. Abby also volunteered in the Best Buddies Club, a group that provided community activities to students with disabilities at her school, and brought international and Canadian students together in the Cultural Connections club. Abby aspires to work in pediatric medicine, where she can give back to the medical community that saved her life.
Arriving in Canada as a refugee, Malena Mokhovikova thought the struggles of physical abuse and racial discrimination she experienced in Russia were behind her. But Malena continued to suffer from PTSD, depression, and financial insecurity, and it was only with the help of her community she was able to find a new path forward. “My East Vancouver community is the reason I am here, so giving back is very important to me,” says Malena. She volunteers for many organizations including Girls Who Leap, which encourages inner city girls to follow their passions, and Alternative Creations, which showcases art from the developmentally disabled. Malena also provides food and clothing to the unhoused, writes letters to the elderly, coaches kids basketball, and raises funds for the Tessa Beauchamp Foundation. Malena will be starting her first year of university in September – the first in her family to do so. She hopes to study psychology at UBC so she can help others struggling with mental illness.
“At the heart of my actions lies this philosophy,” Aiman says, “what I did not have, I want to create for others.” Between working multiple jobs, she volunteers for a number of organizations aimed at helping vulnerable students get back on their feet. In her time as a University of Alberta Ambassador, she assisted campus visitors, students, and alumni, and also facilitated a food bank drive. To actively promote thought leadership and STEM opportunities, Aiman helped organize a TEDxUAlberta conference and was selected as a Canada-wide Science Fair Ambassador. She is currently studying Psychology and Art & Design as a first-generation student, and will be entering her final year of studies at the University of Alberta.
When Ruby Pilatzke was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a young child, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation helped her so much that she has since devoted herself to giving back. As a youth ambassador, Ruby has raised over $25,000 for diabetes research – through bottle drives, bake sales, direct canvassing, and most recently, through virtual events during the COVID-19 lockdown. She has also supported the Candlelighter’s Childhood Cancer Support Program and is Co-President of the Student Athletic Council at her school. In the fall she will be attending Nipissing University with hopes of graduating in education and becoming a high school math or science teacher. But no matter what her future holds, her fundraising efforts will continue: “Should a cure for diabetes be found,” Ruby says, “I want to be able to say I was part of the solution.”
It was having a hidden illness that inspired Andrew Poirier to make change. While trying to cope with the pain of juvenile arthritis, Andrew saw others interpret his behavior as weak or lazy. It made him realize how much stigma surrounded other invisible illnesses such as mental health and inspired him to speak out. “It is okay to not be okay,” says Andrew. “Sharing our challenges with others and supporting one another makes us stronger as a community and as Canadians.” Andrew ran a mental health awareness week at school, is a member of the Haldimand County Accessibility Advisory Committee, and volunteers at the Good Shepherd men’s shelter. He has also raised over $10,000 for Wounded Warriors Canada to aid veterans by building birdhouses made of repurposed wood and license plates. Inspired by those who helped him at McMaster Children’s Hospital, Andrew will be pursuing a degree in nursing.
“My long-term vision is to fundamentally reconstruct the concept of disability,” says Nik Provenzano. Born without a left hand, Nik is an ambassador for the amputee community, speaking for the War Amps of Canada, Lime Connect, and mentoring young amputee athletes for Nubability Athletics. He is also a founding member of the first-ever bionics design team at UBC, where they are currently designing a prosthetic hand from scratch. Growing up in a small town and being the first in his family to attend university, Nik is aware of how difficult it can be for amputees to gain access to prosthetic devices. He aspires to exploit advancements in 3-D printing technology to rapidly manufacture prosthetics for those in impoverished communities. In September he will be entering his 4th year of Biomedical Engineering at UBC.
“I overcame the pain I went through with humanitarian work,” says Hailey Rose. As a trauma survivor, Hailey knows how important having a safe space to talk is for the healing process, so she began reaching out to others who were suffering in silence. Hailey facilitates mental health workshops in her community, creates mental health care packages for youth, and hosts her own podcast to raise awareness on mental health. She has facilitates workshops across Canada for the Assembly of First Nations, the Students Commission of Canada and the WeMatter Campaign. “There is something very powerful and healing about connecting and helping others,” says Hailey. As an Indigenous Plains Cree woman, Hailey is also passionate about revitalizing native languages, and received a grant from TakingITGlobal to start a Cree language class in her high school. She hopes to continue her advocacy work by pursuing a degree in politics and law at the University of Saskatchewan.
As an advocate for mental health, Julia helped launch the Youth Forum, a mental health pilot program at her school, and leads the Youth Ambassador Committee with Halton Women’s Place, a local women’s shelter. She co-hosts the Youth Pod podcast which sparks conversations about healthy relationships, self-esteem, and mental health. She cares deeply about helping others, volunteering at the Good Shepherd Venture Centre, the Acclaim Health Seniors’ Day program, and with special-needs students as part of the Best Buddies program. Having dealt with family illness, Julia refuses to let her obstacles bring her down: “I am grateful for the adversity I have faced because it has shaped who I am and where I want to go.” Julia hopes to pursue medicine to broaden her impact even further.
It wasn’t just the pollutants coming from a local mill that inspired Keeley Shipley to act, it was also seeing that a nearby First Nations reserve was directly impacted by the industrial waste. “Environmental racism was occurring right in front of my eyes,” Keeley says. Deeply passionate about equity and environmentalism, Keeley founded Pictou County Fridays for Future, where she advocates for environmental action, leads climate strikes, and educates others on the impacts of climate change. A member of the Youth Climate Council, Keeley also speaks about environmental issues to a local town council, ensuring town decisions have minimal impacts on the environment. Keeley also organized the Girls Club, a safe space for students to meet, raised funds and volunteered in Nepal for the Himalayan School Project, and volunteered for Karma Closet, where she helps provide free food and hygiene products to students. Keeley plans on pursuing a degree in education at the University of New Brunswick.
“Being diagnosed with cancer at 11 years old, I spent a great deal of time in the hospital,” says Melissa Vella, “and while receiving treatment I saw the need to help other children.” When she was still a patient at the Hospital for Sick Children, Melissa took care of the younger children and helped out whenever she could. Based on her outstanding work, she was made a hospital ambassador, and has now spent years advocating for sick children through fundraisers and speaking engagements. Most recently she ran a fundraiser with Team Canada’s Beach Volleyball team to raise funds for the SickKids Hospital Foundation. Melissa is also the Co-Chair of the Children’s Advisory Council at the hospital, meeting regularly with the CEO about the needs of young patients. She hopes to continue her involvement with SickKids Hospital as a doctor. She will be starting a degree in medicine at The University of Western Ontario in the fall.