Spring 2024

Difference-Makers: Canada‘s up-and-comers!

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 a counsellor, here are the nominations:

Student: Reyab Saluja, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Ben Fagan, Richmond Hill High School, Richmond Hill, ON

I am nominating Reyab as he has laboured to build a full suite of skills, traits, and qualities to develop a well-rounded personality. Reyab is someone who is succeeding tremendously both inside and outside of the classroom.

As a student who was identified as intellectually gifted by the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) since 2018, Reyab has had the opportunity to take advanced classes. He was admitted into the YRDSB 2019 “Reach Ahead” and PrIDE programs for academically gifted students, allowing him to take five Grade 11 courses in Grade 10, and five Grade 12 courses in Grade 11.

In addition to AP Computer Science Grade 11 and 12 courses at school, Reyab has taken AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics exams, scoring a 5/5 on both.

This student has also excelled outside of the traditional classroom. Currently in co-op Reyab is serving as an iOS Developer Intern at Digitera, working on an innovative app for 35,000 schools, 16 million students, and 40,000 vendors. This role has enhanced his leadership, project management, and conflict resolution skills. 

Beyond the classroom, as the founder and former President of the Physics Club at Richmond Hill High School, Reyab has benefitted from rich social interactions and sharpened his leadership skills. As the Co-Founder of The First Aid Club Reyab has applied his CPR training from the Lifesaving Society of Canada, part of his Lifeguard Certifications.

In the NRGHacks Hackathon in November 2023, an 8-hour intra-school competition where teams of 5 or fewer competed, the challenge was to develop software to improve the quality of lives of public education teachers. Outnumbered but not outmaneuvered, Reyab’s two-person team won the award for the “Most Creative Solution.”

Reyab’s creative side is fueled by a love for singing and music. He has been singing competitively since 2014. This has led Reyab to compete in national championships like the CNE and the Hidden Talent Canada Contests. To complement his singing, he has completed Levels 1 & 2 piano exams at the Royal Conservatory of Music, achieving First Class Honors in both.

As well, Reyab volunteers at his former elementary school, assisting Grade 8 teachers with grading, and he tutors Grade 11 and 12 STEM subjects. At the Markham Brotherhood Seniors Club, he assists in fitness and technology, directs choir sessions, plays piano, and sings for members. Recognizing that loneliness and isolation are major challenges seniors face, he is currently building a web application that exchanges volunteer hours for free tutoring. Fortuitously, it also provides free tutoring to students who might struggle to afford it.

Reyab’s extracurricular activities share a common denominator: they demand and teach dedication, hard work, perseverance, creativity, teamwork, tenacity, and empathy. In the response above, I outlined a plethora of impressive extracurricular activities and volunteer initiatives that the student took place in. Clearly, Reyab has dedicated a great amount of time to these endeavors and has made meaningful contributions to the lives of others.

Beyond that, I have gotten to know Reyab throughout the year and find him to be an incredibly personable and well-mannered young man. He is a pleasure to talk to and is respected by many of my colleagues at Richmond Hill High School.

Student: Cade Chanyi, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Ms. Walmark, Mentor College, Mississauga, ON

Cade is a well-rounded student who is very involved in the local and school community. In terms of athletics, he has participated on our school hockey and cricket teams, and he also plays league hockey in Mississauga in the GTA. On the academic side, he has joined our Computer Science Club, and he is an executive member of our Engineering Club, a position which offers him the opportunity to lead a group of 20 students in various projects and initiatives. He also balances these commitments (and academic demands) with a part-time job.

Cade’s most significant impact as a “difference-maker” comes from the non-profit charity he has founded: WelcomeDrive.ca (www.welcomedrive.ca). To support the Canadian government’s immigration plan to grow the economy with a million new Canadians, and to assist these families as they adjust to life in Canada, Cade led a Back-To-School supplies drive in September 2023. He was able to donate backpacks, paper, binders and dictionaries to the Peel Adult Education Centre so that new immigrant children could start the school year with confidence. At present, he is also leading a group of 4 volunteers in a donation drive for hockey equipment and figure skates, in order to help new immigrant children embrace life in Canada (and winter!) with the sports we love. These projects demonstrate Cade’s creativity and dedication, as well as his honest kindness and empathy, qualities which can be rare in a high school student and which are therefore important to recognize.

Student: Jennifer Li, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Ben Fagan, Richmond Hill High School, Richmond Hill, ON

Throughout Jennifer’s high school journey at RHHS, she has worked diligently to make a difference in the school community and beyond. Whether it’s aiding struggling classmates in gaining confidence or helping students with special needs succeed inside and outside the classroom, she has endeavoured to foster a positive and collaborative environment at RHHS. The financial aid provided by the Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference Maker Scholarship would be instrumental in supporting her pursuit of post-secondary education. Jennifer’s parents, resilient first-generation immigrants, have shouldered substantial burdens to pave the way for her education but have unfortunately come up short. Her parents’ financial struggle adds another layer of significance to Jennifer when seeking this nomination. As she aspires to continue making a positive impact wherever she goes, this scholarship would alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with higher education that Jennifer and her family face. It would allow Jennifer to focus wholeheartedly on her academic and community engagement goals, ensuring that she can carry forward the values of the scholarship into her future endeavours. In essence, Jennifer’s nomination for the Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference Maker Scholarship is rooted in her commitment to academic excellence, inclusivity, and empathetic leadership within the RHHS community.

Volunteering has been integral to Jennifer’s academic journey, especially through tutoring and the ‘Best Buddies’ program, fostering inclusion among special needs students. Connecting personally with each student and ensuring their value within our community has been immensely rewarding for Jennifer. As President of the Greenhouse Club, her focus on sustainable giving and donating produce to the Breakfast Club for those facing food insecurity at RHHS reflects her commitment to uplifting others. Her journey embodies a dedicated effort to create positive change, which is evident in Jennifer’s roles within various clubs and initiatives, always aiming to make a meaningful impact.

Student: Chloe Wallace, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Jon Gorman, Huron Heights Secondary School, Newmarket, ON

I wish to nominate Chloe Wallace, a grade 12 student at Huron Heights S.S. for her outstanding efforts at school, within her community and towards herself. Chloe is a student that I would describe as resilient, outgoing, perseverant and one who demands advocacy for herself and others. Chloe was born with a hearing impairment in her left ear. Chloe never allowed this disability to dissuade her learning. Rather she accepted the challenge and climbed the mountain to her dreams. Chloe not only dealt with the loss of hearing, but also overcame several learning disabilities. Such as, memory and processing speed is slow, phonological and reading skills are weak, expressive vocabulary, auditory and phonological memory, executive functioning is low. These hurdles pushed Chloe to demonstrate a great sense of integrity and leadership within our school and community. At a young age, Chloe began volunteering her time at a local barn where she learned to care for horses, clean stalls, run camps for children and maintain safety for all. Here Chloe led other children through diligent programming in operating a successful barn. Chloe demonstrated leadership by volunteering her summers, holidays and her weekends to help run programs that brought joy to so many children, some of whom were underprivileged and/or were struggling with a disability similar to their own. She worked very hard at learning all of the rules and procedures at the barn so that she could deliver a fun, exciting and safe experience for the children. Chloe brought that same energy to her education. Reading was difficult for her but by the time she reached grade 9, Chloe had taught herself enough to maintain honours credentials throughout high school. Chloe was a part of the “Peace Club ” whose motto was to give back to those in need, at school and in our community. For example; as a leader within our school, she set up a successful flag football fundraising event to raise money to provide feminine products. She arranged for players, cheerleaders, referees and students to participate in the event.  She has also taken the initiative to raise funds for food donations, gathering clothes, and organized other events that gave back to the community. I think that Chloe is a great candidate for your Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference Maker Scholarship.

Student: Raad Khan, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Karyn Walmark, Mentor College, Mississauga, ON

Raad can be seen as a “difference-maker” in many ways. For example, he has co-founded the non-profit ITG Soccer Academy, which offers free training sessions for local players aged 6-12 at his community park. He is also an executive member of our Athletic Association, which plans and facilitates various fundraisers, pep rallies, and community clean-ups, as well as our end-of-year awards banquet.

Raad’s involvement in our school extends beyond athletics. As our HOSA president, he is required to organize weekly training sessions to prepare for the medical studies competition, and he has performed well in these events: he placed 7th nationally in grade 10, and he helped 4 other students qualify for the second round in grade 11.

Raad is also an active contributor of our local community. As the president of the THK Leos (a subsidiary of the Lions Club Organization), he assembled and donated over 60 care packages to homeless shelters in Toronto, and he helped to organize and run a university info panel for high school students. He also volunteers at a retirement home. Finally, as a Shad Canada participant and ambassador, he competed in a design project competition which explored how to improve the well-being of Canadians.

Raad consistently seeks opportunities to make his mark on the world. I therefore encourage you to consider him for this award.