2014 Spirit Award Finalists

Meet the 2014 Youth Ottawa Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards finalists who are showing that young people are not waiting to change the world they are making an impact now! They each have a unique drive and commitment to their respective initiatives and communities.

Yuang Chen
Finalist, Technology & Innovation

“The youth are the future, if the future isn’t engaged, then it will not be a very good future”

Yuang’s innovative thinking and resourceful nature has allowed him to enlist the help of two professional advisors to complete the proposal he developed to regulate highway systems to minimize gridlock. His project won first place in the senior engineering/computing sciences section of the Ottawa Regional Science fair. It has also been submitted to the ACM and published as part of ACM DIVAnet 2013 traffic engineering symposium. Yuang is also a tireless advocate for musical education in the community. He has founded Music for Kids Ottawa, a charity which provides free private music instruction to underprivileged children through recruitment of young volunteer instructors. The organization currently has 98 registered students and 36 instructors who teach 15 different instruments. Currently, the organization is piloting a new program to integrate music into the lives of autistic children. Yuang is also a SOCAN registered symphonic composer that has premiered works with the Ottawa Youth orchestra in 014 and has written soundtracks for Canadian films.

Cameron Sehl
Finalist, Technology & Innovation

“I am truly inspired and motivated by Peter Farah, as a 32 year old man who suffers from severe epilepsy, yet still manages to bring out the positive in every situation”

Cameron used his entrepreneurial spirit and technological savvy to form Revell Software, an educational software company. He and a friend created an application (App) that helped students be more informed of what was happening at St. Joseph High School. The App brought the morning announcements directly to the students’ phone and gave them alerts to important dates and events. This App prompted the creation of the Teen Tech Club at St. Joseph, which Cameron is currently leading. Cameron is also the founder of Pete’s Place, in honour of an epileptic man he regular visits and cares for. Pete’s Place is a grass-roots organization that focuses on working with people with brain injuries as well as a place for individuals with physical and mental disabilities to meet and find support.

Osman Naqvi
Finalist, Service & Caring

“I am motivated by the countless number of smiles from individuals who face inequalities”

Osman dedicates countless hours volunteering and participating in community building initiatives in Ottawa. He is involved in local youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Children’s Wish Foundation, and Carty House which is a transition home for refugee women. Osman’s volunteer experience has been diverse and persistent over the past several years; he has held organizational positions ranging from a volunteer note-taker for disabled students at Carleton, to a committee member for UNICEF, to a children’s counsellor for a number of local youth camps. Osman is a true leader, and his enthusiasm and dedication to helping others has given him the experience and confidence to undertake several executive and director positions within local community-building organizations. In particular, Osman has recently been provided with an enormous opportunity to construct and direct a youth engagement program through the Caring and Sharing Exchange. Osman has developed one of his most cherished community building start-ups, the Dream Catchers. This project seeks to provide underprivileged youth and children with Halloween costumes collected through donations and fundraising campaigns. Osman has built the project around the dual goals of helping children and promoting youth volunteerism.

Kyra Lambert
Finalist, Service & Caring

“Creating a positive social change begins in your home, which in many cases is the community. So, we must change ourselves, in turn creating a positive impact.”

Sixteen-year-old Kyra Lambert is a fierce champion of equal rights for girls and women. In January, 2014, Kyra took her skills, as the first Hera Mission Youth Ambassador, to a remote village in Kenya, to work with orphans to demonstrate the importance of education. She volunteered for the Ottawa-base charity in Asembo Bay, where 300 AIDS orphans struggle for an education. Kyra believes education can change everything, particularly for girls. She developed her skills through extensive training as a youth leader in Ottawa. She is currently a LINK leader where she helps Grade 9 students integrate into the high school environment, safely and without falling victim to peer pressure or destructive behaviour. Her particular focus is girls, and teaching them to be smart, independent and strong. She has been a youth team leader with CTV’s Amazing People Gala to raise money to build schools in Nicaragua with SchoolBox. Kyra is also a CTV Youth Advisory Board Member for Ottawa’s key youth leaders, a CHEO telethon co-host, a volunteer Counsellor-in-Training, a volleyball/track helper for elementary students, and an after-school daycare volunteer.

Megan Carty
Finalist, Arts & Culture

Megan is a gifted actor, puppeteer, and theatre creator. Over the past few years Megan has learned how to use her talent and passion for the arts to make a difference in the community and help people. This past January she started her very own theatre company entitled Cart Before the Horse and mounted a production of Joan Macleod’s The Shape of a Girl. This one-woman show told the story of Braidie, a fifteen year-old girl whose social reality was filled with bullying, hierarchical teenage relationships, and manipulative codes of behaviour. The story helped Megan make sense of a lot of tough times in high school. Megan produced the piece as well as playing Braidie, the lead character. Her goal was to inspire a dialogue amongst young people and explore how their world has been expressed by playwrights in contemporary theatre. Megan is also a puppeteer for Ottawa based children’s theatre company Rock the Arts. She performs four different educational shows for children year round all across Canada. The shows teach kids how to help the environment, overcome their fears, and be good people. Megan is a creative powerhouse who inspires everyone she works with.

Emily Renaud
Finalist, Arts & Culture

Emilly Renaud has been an outstanding member of the Dandelion Dance Company since 2010. Inspired by how art can be a vehicle for social change, Emilly shared her story through dance about the pain of having a mother addicted to drugs and absent as well as the pain of losing her sister to foster care. Her dance so beautifully illustrated the effect of trauma and how the hurt that she was feeling, felt invisible to others. It was shared at the National Arts Centre and at North America’s largest education conference, ‘Reading for the Love of it’, in Toronto. Her passion for social justice and dedication to social change earned her the position of Technical Director of the Company. She was then selected to be on the Board of Directors for the Dandelion Dance Company where she continues to support initiatives that honour the voices of young women and provide life changing experiences for other girls. Emilly also wrote and performed a powerful poem, titled ‘I Will Dance’, which speaks about using dance as a medium for growth and breaks stereotypes about who can dance. This poem was published in the Pine Gate on- line Journal.

Cassie Bergwerff
Finalist, Academic Perseverance

“Thank you to my amazing support group-the wonderful people that surround me and inspire me to preserve and strive for success.”

Last February, at the age of 15, Cassie’s life took an unexpected turn when an x-ray revealed a large mass in her chest. A biopsy shortly after confirmed that Cassie had lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. The size of the mass and its vicinity to the lungs, heart, and airway posed an immediate risk and required Cassie to be admitted to CHEO while a treatment plan was devised.. Attending class was not possible due to intensive treatment and a compromised immune system. Her studies would have to be self-directed, with assistance from tutors. Cassie was forced to drop her favorite subject, drama, but otherwise continued with a full course load. For the next 6 months Cassie endured chemotherapy, daily injections, surgery, countless medical tests, and weeks of radiationCassie persevered and remained positive. She met regularly with CHEO tutors to complete assignments and tests. Through sheer determination, Cassie not only passed her courses, she made Honour Roll. This February,Cassie participated in an Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation event where she raised over $11,500. Cassie is an outstanding example of a young person from Ottawa who displays the very best of qualities; strength, bravery, determination, perseverance, optimism, leadership, and compassion.

Mariam Elmi
Finalist, Academic Perseverance

“I want to change the community and provide hope for others.”

Mariam is a strong, focused and resilient grade twelve student. While being a high school student is hard enough, Mariam has the added challenge of living with mental health issues. Mariam experiences significant anxiety and depression. Despite being admitted to the hospital, Mariam was able to successfully complete her classes with above 75% in all of them. Mariam has kept a positive and optimistic attitude throughout her darkest times. She is sharing with her peers her passion for the Youth in Policing Initiative, a program in which she participated. Mariam understands the ins and outs of mental health, and recognizes that participating in different activities can help to improve her own mental health. She has stayed actively involved in different school clubs, with the most recent being the multicultural club. She played a major role in organizing the multicultural event at her school, showcasing diversity and honouring the importance of a diverse and dynamic community. In order to help reduce the stigma around mental health, Mariam created a very honest YouTube video outlining her personal experience. The greatest testament to Mariam’s courage is that each time she falls, she stays positive and continues to pull herself back up.

Tim Ulczak
Finalist, Entrepreneurship

Tim is a hard-working and caring individual who has made a positive difference within his community one bike at a time! Over the past seven years, Tim has volunteered countless hours to repairing bikes within his neighbourhood and has plans to open his own eco-friendly bike shop. Tim’s passion for bikes has touched and changed the lives of many. Tim played an integral role in the Britannia Woods Community Bike Fair. He donated his expertise and tools to the fair and gave his time to put more than 25 bikes back on the road that evening. Throughout high school Tim volunteered hundreds of hours of his time repairing and tuning-up bicycles at Cycle Salvation and Re-Cycles. He also ran the shop at Re-Cyclore. Tim turned his hobby into an entrepreneurship through his initiative and courage. He has been recycling bikes, fixing them up and selling them at a low cost. More formally, Tim recently completed an 8-week Start it Up program; which provided innovative training to introduce youth to entrepreneurship and business planning. Tim acted as a mentor and model for the other youth in the program, as he had already had experience running an informal entrepreneurship

Michael Cacho
Finalist, Entrepreneurship

“Richard Branson inspires me because he can find a way to get his hands dirty in any industry and still find a way to sell it to you.”

As a budding entrepreneur, Michael joined the Carleton Entrepreneurship Association (CarletonEA) as a creative director in September of 2012. He was then appointed as their VP Marketing in 2012. For two years as the VP Marketing for CarletonEA, Michael has grown the club and realigned the brand to allow for CarletonEA to help more students and launch more startups in the Ottawa community. Since then, Michael has been working with his team at Carleton Entrepreneurship Association to bring more tangible skill development workshops and roundtable sessions to the Carleton student body. Today, Michael is recognized as one of the top student leaders at Carleton developing and refining the entrepreneurial community by recently negotiating a $15,000 programming budget for the entrepreneurship community at Carleton through the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA). Michael’s passion for entrepreneurship extends to his own ventures. In 2007, at the age of 12, he launched his first business, a graphic design firm named Quedge Design. In 2013 he launched his print startup, Inkly.ca to the Canadian print scene. This is just the beginning of Michael’s involvement in entrepreneurship, and he hopes to continue growing the number of student startups in the Ottawa community next year.

Sarah Tunstall
Finalist, Max Keeping Award for Personal Courage

“Working with the girls from the Pader Academy has made a huge impact in my life and inspired me to no end. Their resiliency and positive outlook have inspired me to make changes within my own life and try to motivate other young women.”

Sarah has not only turned her own life around; she is raising two daughters with grace, love and dignity. Her desire to make a safe and secure home for them inspires her personal courage. Sarah is graduating this year with an average of 88%, an accomplishment six years and six schools in the making. The obstacles that stood in the way of this diploma were considerable. At sixteen, Sarah’s life quickly spiralled into a desperate existence. When her partner began to threaten their newborn, she left and asked the Children’s Aid Society to help. She attended Operation Come Home and later St. Nicholas Adult High School. Just when life seemed to be becoming simpler, she found out she was pregnant with the second child of her abusive partner. Scared, but determined, Sarah deepened her commitment to qualify for the Respiratory Therapy program at Algonquin. She quickly emerged as a leader in our Embrace Your Future program at the Youville Centre, which challenges young moms to embrace self-worth and healthy relationships for themselves and their children. Her courage in these sessions and passion to change the cycle of violence has inspired other young women to take those first steps towards safety.

Zachari Leandre
Finalist, Max Keeping Award for Personal Courage

Zachari has worked very hard despite all of his personal challenges. He has encountered many obstacles in his life. He grew up with a single mother who worked two jobs and two older brothers who were in and out of prison. Gang life was introduced to him at a young age and when Zachari was young his brother was shot in a gang related incident. Poverty was another obstacle he faced. His family was often without food. They would have to go to the food bank in order to eat. At a very young age, he was not allowed to leave our house through the front door because his family was late on making payments. Despite not having a positive male role model in his life, Zachari knew he wanted better for himself. This is what has kept him on the right path and has helped shape the person he is becoming today. When Zachari entered grade 12, he was behind credits and considered at risk. He came mornings, lunch time and after school in order to get himself on par with the rest of his peers. His goal is to go to college and he is doing everything to make that a reality.

Alex Morin
Finalist, Take a Stand

“What ignites my passion is you! Seeing you smile to strangers on the street inspires me to keep going!”

Alex’s brothers mental illness had an impact of his family which is why he has decided to take a stand against the stigma of mental illness. Alex and his parents championed a campaign selling bracelets for mental health awareness. He also became a spokesperson for the Royal Ottawa’s Youth mental health program promoting his “Never Give Up” campaign. Alex has raised over $12,000 for the Youth program by organizing both a hockey and golf tournament. His initivative not only raised money, but has also increased awareness on various Mental Health Illnesses. Alex is inspiring to other youth and he has also bravely shared his story of the impact of mental illness on him and his family. He embodies the characteristics of courage, leadership, caring and community service. deserves the recognition through a Teen Spirit Award. His motivation comes not only from his past experiences but also the wish to provide the same opportunities his brother had at The Royal.

Olivia Clement
Finalist, Take a Stand

“I am inspired by nice people who do good things for others.”

Olivia started her fundraising 2 years ago when she was 8 years old. Her interest and concern about polar bears led her on a journey of discovery, education, and motivated her to take a stand- to take action. She made clay Polar Bears by hand, as a fundraising concept initially to friends and family. As her project grew, she developed a web page and called it LivPolarBear because her nickname is Liv and she wants the bears to live. After the first year she turned her project into a pay it forward which encouraged and inspired others to make the bears too and donate funds. She also started to give lectures to other classrooms that have now grown to full auditoriums on the project, polar bears, climate change, and what kids can do to help. As part of her fund raising party last December, LivPolarBear offered a free, juried Arctic theme art competition for kids. Over 150 pieces of artwork were received from children in Ottawa and Manitoba. With the sales of the clay bears and two Polar Parties Olivia has helped to raised over $12,500 which was donated to the World Wildlife Fund in support of their Arctic Home project.