Movers & Shakers: Difference-Makers Across Canada

The Trevor H Shirtliff Difference-Maker Scholarship is awarded to high-school students that have been identified by their high school counsellors to be activists advocating to make a difference. Whether it be within their school, their community or in the life of others, we commend these youth. 

We thought you’d like to know what caught the attention of their counsellors and why we chose these individuals to award scholarships to. In the words of their counsellors, here’s their nomination:

Student: Catherine Diyakonov, Grade 12

Nominating Counsellor: Jelena Radic, Lord Byng Secondary, Vancouver, BC

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Catherine Diyakonov for the Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference Maker Scholarship. In my three years of working with her, she has demonstrated the qualities necessary for nomination for this scholarship. She has distinguished herself in both her academic and artistic pursuits, as well as a leader in the school and community. Catherine has been a truly exceptional student that I have encountered in my over twenty-year career as a Secondary School Counsellor. She excels academically, being an extremely intelligent student, and having above 90% grade average consistently during high school years. Catherine demonstrates commitment to her education and works hard to achieve her goals. For example, she was enrolled in Pre-Calculus 11 class while in grade 9 and finished high school Calculus 12 class in grade 11. Catherine was also a year ahead of her class in Chemistry and French. She is the section leader in our school’s Senior Wind Ensemble, playing the flute and piccolo. Catherine is a respected leader who is known among her peers as ready to tackle any challenge with a sincere and positive attitude. She is the Founder and President of Girls Will Stay Initiative, a flourishing international organization which helps girls on local and international levels gain shelter, education and provide hygiene supplies. Catherine is also the Captain of the First Responders Team. Lastly, she has been Student Council executive member since grade 8. This year, Catherine was elected our Student Council president by the entire student body. Outside school, Catherine co-chaired our local Constituency Youth Council. She possesses the maturity, integrity and independence that is rarely seen among her peers. Catherine is a well-rounded, mature and grounded individual who balances her time well between being an academically outstanding student and an avid volunteer. She is truly remarkable and amazing young woman, which is the reason I am nominating her for your award.

Student: Leah Baker, Grade 12

Nominating Counsellor: Erika Kirk, Liverpool Regional High School, Liverpool, NS

Leah Baker is a kind, virtuous and dedicated student who is committed to making LRHS a better place for students, staff and community members.  She actively seeks out opportunities to support marginalized members of our school and raise awareness of inequities so that all community members can work towards bettering them.

Leah is very dedicated to her role as a student leader, and this was highlighted in her Student Council President campaign in September 2021 when she spoke about the importance of student mental health and wellness.  Leah has followed through on her promise to increase a sense of wellness at LRHS and focused her attention on student centred suggestions to bring about positive change.   She is actively involved in Key Club, REP Club (Respect Empathy and Positivity), The Terry Fox Walk, and is an Options and Opportunities Program student who proudly represents the school while on community COOPs. 

As one of our Student Council co-presidents, Leah has taken the initiative to make our school more welcoming and safer by writing grants to obtain funds for inclusive wall art that represents the diversity of the population in our school and creating an Elders Space / Cultural Room dedicated to increasing awareness of all cultures represented in our community.  She also worked to help retrofit our washrooms to make them feel safer for students.  While working on the student washrooms, Leah not only helped paint inspirational messages on stall doors, but she approached myself and administration about further retrofitting our washrooms to be gender neutral for the safety of all students.  This demonstrates the kind of forward thinking and inclusive attitude Leah possesses. 

She also spearheaded a clean air project putting foliage plants in our lobby and shared spaces.  All of this is in addition to the “regular” duties a Student Council President would be responsible for, such as delivering cultural programming and student events.

Student: Jacob Gabriel Cruchet, Grade 12

Nominating Counsellor: Carrie Sweeney, Madawaska Valley District High School, Palmer Rapids, ON

Jacob is a student who has embraced all aspects of school life and has worked every year he was with us to make a difference in the quality of school life for his peers. Upon beginning high school, he jumped at the opportunity to be our Grade 9 Student Representative, and has continued to represent his peers as a student leader every year. As a graduate this year, he is our Student Activities Council President, and also holds a seat on the School Board’s Student Senate. In Student Senate, he chairs the Student Equity Committee, working towards actions that improve the inclusion of students of all ethnicities, gender and abilities in our schools.

Jacob has been an active participant and leader in school sports, academics and arts. He has been a peer tutor to Junior students in science, while still a Junior himself, which is a rare occurrence. He has been active in several school teams and recognized as a team VIP and Student Ambassador of Sports for the school in the community. He recently volunteered to coach our Senior Girls’ volleyball team and has also begun participating in the volleyball referee program. Jacob shows commitment to his academics, consistently earning marks at the top of his class. He particularly enjoys political science, world issues and philosophy. Jacob has been willing to lead by doing, and values encouraging communication and school spirit. He has sung at our Arts Nights and has recently created a weekly school news video program to reach out to the school’s students during Covid restrictions. Jacob has enlisted the help of many students to participate as anchors and interviewees in this news segment that he then edits and Jacob has been willing to lead by doing, and values encouraging communication and school spirit. He has sung at our Arts Nights and has recently created a weekly school news video program to reach out to the school’s students during Covid restrictions. Jacob has enlisted the help of many students to participate as anchors and interviewees in this news segment that he then edits and releases weekly.

This young man is kind, responsible and inclusive, and motivated to work to make the best of every situation he is a part of. We feel he has made a difference in the lives of his peers over these past 4 years, and believe he will continue to make a difference in his future.

Student: Tisha Punn, Grade 12

Nominating Counsellor: Anthea Rippen, Regent Christian Academy, Surrey, BC

I have known Tisha Punn as a student for 3 years.  During this time, I have witnessed her develop into a mature, hardworking, focused Grade 12 student.  Some of the words that come to mind when I think of Tisha are:  Compassionate, creative, kind, motivated, and committed.  Tisha has her heart set on a career in medicine, but regardless of where her educational path takes her, I know that Tisha is determined to impact the world in a positive way.

Some of the ways I have seen her demonstrate her passion and commitment as a student are her participation in Model UN, volunteering for the International Ambassador program, and taking the initiative to create our Community Service Club.  Tisha now serves as Chair of the Model UN where she demonstrates her capacity for leadership.  Our school’s International Ambassador program is one where we partner with international students and help make them feel welcome in our country and become oriented to life as a student at RCA.  These students have benefited from Tisha’s kind heart and commitment to creating a compassionate environment.  Finally, of her own volition, Tisha petitioned our administrators to allow her to begin a Community Service Club.  She and other student leaders work together with the support of a teacher to participate in a monthly service activity benefiting our local community.  It has been fantastic to see students becoming more aware and involved in the needs of those directly around them.

Outside of her involvement in school activities, Tisha has also participated in volunteering and organizing events for her church.  Such activities have included writing letters for Amnesty International, fundraising for a Lupus organization, leading out in a kids’  summer camp, working in the church nursery, and volunteering for 3 years annually in the “Night to Shine” event which provides youth with disabilities to participate in a Prom night.

Student: Janique Lariviere, Grade 12

Nominating Counsellor: Janelle Pantel, École communautaire Réal-Bérard, St-Pierre-Jolys, MB

Janqiue has always been a student who includes all of her peers in everything she does. She is a positive leader and always gives her all-whether it is in her academic courses, organizing school activities or being a team player on sports teams in and out of school. She is kind, caring and a go getter. She is always a positive influence to those around her; she is also very respectful and polite.

Janique plans on becoming a school psychologist when she graduates from École communautaire Réal-Bérard, this coming June. She will definitely thrive as a university student, pushing herself to continue being the best that she can be. Therefore, she is very deserving of this scholarship, as she will use the money towards a career I know that she will excel in!   

Extra-Curricular Mentions: 

  • president of student counsel (2021-2022)
  • treasurer of student counsel (2020-2021)
  • member of the following committees: school yearbook, Social Justice (Coupe Éthique), «Comité Jeunesse Parlement (CJP) », JMCA (JMCA = Jeunes manitobains des communautés associées): This program allows high school students to become leaders in their school and community.    
  • volunteers as member on village counsel for the town office 
  • coached grade 7/8 volleyball and followed a coaching workshop in October 2021
  • school captain for Volleyball Club and the Varsity team

strong leadership skills: organized the intramurals for the high school, co-organized “welcoming day” activities for the high schools, creates a bulletin board with student counsel activities, maintains and updates the school social media accounts, volunteered with school activities (pancake breakfast, pizza day, etc.)

Student: Kesaly Von Kuster, Grade 12

Nominating Counsellor: Stephen Lush, Bentley High School, Bentley, AB

I am pleased to write this reference on behalf of Ms. Kesaly Von Kuster. I have known Kesaly for close to seventeen years as she was a student of mine in several courses and I coached her in cross country, basketball, handball and track and field.  Kesaly is a very academic student and does very well in all her courses, demonstrating a capacity for reflection while maintaining extremely high standards in all her course work.  

Kesaly both comprehends and realizes the necessity of developing and maintaining extremely high moral standards. Kesaly’s language skills are exceptional, and I have found her to be honest and passionate about anything she believes in.  She has shown that she can work extremely well independently and in collaboration with peers.  Kesaly has developed strategies to deal with situations when under stress.  Kesaly could be counted on to assist other students when called upon and did this with confidence.  Kesaly is a dedicated student, responsible and very organized.  Throughout the time I have known Kesaly I have noticed that she has continued to improve her reflective thinking abilities, which in turn has led to her being able to construct a relevant, dynamic outlook for her future career.

Overall, I feel Kesaly is ready to take the next step in her career choice and that this career would continue to help her find her path in life. I am convinced she will achieve the expectations set out by any organization.

Kesaly freely gives up her time to tutor junior high math students every day and tutors high school physics. Kesaly participates and has been the captain of her Volleyball, Cross Country running, Basketball, Team Handball, Badminton and Track and Field teams. 

Kesaly will ask each day if there is anything that she can help with while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.  This young lady is the first student teachers turn to for assistance and know they can count on her. If she cannot help, she apologizes and says, “i so wish I could help you.”  I have never in my twenty-five years as an educator met a student that thanks you for teaching them at the end of each class.  She is one of the kindest and most caring people I have ever met in my many years of teaching.  This young lady deserves this award because of who she is and the way she leads her daily life. 

If you have a student that you feel “makes a difference”, learn more and submit your nomination at: