Finalist Academic Perseverance: Anuarite Manyoha, Ridgemont High School
When Anuarite Manyoha was a child living in the Congo, her father devoted himself to rescuing child soldiers from rebel camps there. This act of humanity on his part led to him becoming a target of those who opposed his actions, to the point that Anuarite’s family was forced to move to Uganda. Even there, they were not safe, and the rebels followed, kidnapping and shooting her mother. As her mother lay in a coma for four years, Anuarite struggled to cope, hiding in the basement when the soldiers came looking for the family. She focused on her studies and on learning English. Finally, she was able to emigrate to Canada. At Ridgemont High School, she has continued her studies, hoping to go to college where she wants to train to be a nurse to help other people as her father helped rescue children from the rebels. Anuarite uses her beautiful singing voice to bring joy to others in her faith community. She has demonstrated her leadership on numerous occasions, working with school programs for disadvantaged students and volunteering to help others on a regular basis. Anuarite always puts the needs of others before her own, to the point of using the money she makes to ensure that her younger siblings are properly fed and looked after. In Anuarite’s words, her parents actions have shown her that “the right way isn’t always the easy way, but it’s the path I choose to take.”
Quote: “Obstacles can be a source of strength. I wouldn’t wish the experiences of my family on anyone, but I recognize how fortunate I have been to overcome and learn from the obstacles we have faced.”
Finalists Academic Perseverance: Chelsey Son, Norman Johnston Alternative Program
During her Grade 10 year, ChelseySon suffered a traumatic brain injury which resulted in retrograde amnesia. Chelsey could not remember her family or her friends at school and became singled out at school as being odd. She struggled with depression and anxiety as a result of her diagnosis and felt like giving up. At this very dark time, Chelsey chose to try an alternative education program, attending school for one or two days a week in the afternoon, working on attaining one credit at a time. She started preparing frozen dinners for a family in need at her school, lighting up at having the chance to give of herself to help someone else. Over the past two years, with the help of occupational therapists, teachers, psychiatrists and her parents, Chelsey has persevered in dealing with her personal challenges. Her attendance, academics and personal growth are back on track. Chelsey has excelled in her co-op placement with a grade 7 class, especially with students with behavioural problems and students with autism. She has helped drive the anti-bullying program at the elementary school. She is a lead vocalist with her school’s band and has set up her own tutoring business, helping an autistic boy in her neighbourhood. Chelsey has been accepted into the Child and Youth Worker Program at Algonquin College where she will continue to help others with their own fears and struggles.
Quote: “Being able to wake up everyday, go to school, help others, make people smile, see my brother play sports, have a laugh with my mom, and driving with my dad made me realize that I am much stronger than I’d given myself credit.”