Finalist Take A Stand: Zach Graves, Merivale High School
While on a volunteer mission in Mossuril, Mozambique, Zach Graves noticed that the growth and development of this village was being severely hindered by a profound lack of basic hand tools and equipment. Back in Ottawa, Zach co-founded a non-profit organization called “Tools With Impact” dedicated to solving this problem. After two years in operation, Tools With Impact had succeeded in raising $21,000 in cash donations and over $65,000 in hands tools and equipment for communities in Northern Mozambique. This year, Zach expanded Tools With Impact’s mission to helping underprivileged students receive an education and over $25,000 has already been raised for students in Mozambique, Mali and Ecuador. Zach is also proudly involved in the special needs community. He volunteers as a Special Olympics Ontario Swimming Coach with the Ottawa Otters, as a RBC Bluesfest Disabled Accessibility Team member and as a lifeguard and counselor at Camp Misquah, a camp for people with developmental disabilities. Zach has also been actively involved with the Manotick Refugee Sponsorship Group which has helped a Syrian family of four settle into Ottawa.
Quote: “Dedicating my time and energy to helping others has given me a purpose that brings me great joy and fulfillment”
Finalist Take A Stand: Dani Lanouette, Immaculata High School
Dani is an outstanding advocate for Indigenous Youth and for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. In high school, Dani played a decisive leadership role in regards to community awareness of Indigenous culture, identity and issues as well as community building within the FNMI student community. She is affectionately known as Mama Dani for her ability to guide and support her peers and younger students. Thanks in large part to Dani’s leadership, her years at Immaculata were ones of great change in which awareness of Indigenous Issues has grown exponentially. She spear headed Indigenous Awareness week and shared music, information, prayers and activities with the whole school. She brought forward opportunities to speak up on issues of education rights for Indigenous youth like Have a Heart Day and Shannen’s Dream. Mostly though, she gently guided the educators in this community who were seeking advice on how to engage and support our Fist Nations, Metis and Inuit student. She showed us great generosity, patience and compassion. She has truly been able to help her peers grow in pride in their Indigenous Identity and raised the profile of Indigenous culture and issues within our school and the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She also served on the Ontario Ministry of Education Student Advisory Committee. Since graduating, Dani has engaged even more actively in activism, education and politics. Dani will be attending Algonquin College in the Fall for Indigenous Studies.
Quote: “When I hear about schooling conditions on reserve, it pushes me and motivates me to do better for myself so I’m not wasting the opportunities and resources that I have the privilege of having available to me.”