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 a counsellor, here are the nominations:

Student: Arwaa Adnan, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Kristy Abel, Burnsview Secondary, Delta, BC

Arwaa is an exceptional young woman who has overcome much adversity in the course of her life. As a member of the Pakistani and Muslim communities, she often helps other youth learn about their culture and teaches them to self-advocate for their needs by setting an example for them. Recently, she demonstrated this advocacy when she stuck up for her community to create accommodations during religious events. When she found out that one of her important graduation events was happening during Ramadan, she took the time and courage to petition school adminstration for accommodations to be made. She ended up convincing the school to postpone the date of the graduation event so every student could fully participate in these cherished events. 

I fully believe Arwaa makes a positive difference in her community, continuing to better the lives of the people around her by helping others deal with their issues and concerns. Whether it be emotional struggles or academic struggles, she always finds a way to help her peers. She is an empathetic and open person, who is quick to help others with their needs and issues.  She strives to make every single day a positive experience for people in her life and puts a smile on people’s faces even when they are faced with adversity.

Arwaa insists on studying Chemistry at university, even though I keep trying to steer her towards Psychology. She’s a natural. 

Student: Rosalba Sgambelluri, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Mark De Cicco, Christ the King Catholic Secondary School, Georgetown, ON

Rosalba has demonstrated all the qualities, skills and personality traits that define what a great student (and leader) should be. First off, she is always a positive yet strong influencer towards the people around her, and quite often motivates her peers into working on their assigned tasks at hand to the best of their abilities. At times, she has shown a fiery passion towards material that she finds interesting and exciting. This does not just stem within the classroom alone. She has modelled these qualities of passion, integrity, and high-spiritedness to the extracurricular and community activities she participates in.

Speaking of leadership and co-curricular activities, Rosalba has set a standard of excellence here at Christ the King that will be very hard to match (please see below). When it comes to school achievements, Rosalba has been on the honour roll every year. Her teachers remark on her being remarkably punctual when engaging in class activities and discussions, and in most cases, leads in those discussions and debates when they take place. In fact, when Rosalba speaks in class, students take notice. She has one of the sharpest critical thinking minds I have had the privilege of educating and coaching in my 13 years of teaching.

Her greatest strength is her work-ethic. Whether it be through her activities, or her subjects, she works diligently on everything she completes, and always stays on task. Moreover, she goes above and beyond her capability when submitting anything. Her mastery of time-management allows her the luxury of spending extra time towards editing and perfecting the things she submits or organizes.

Student: Ecem Heywood, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Ally Read, Armbrae Academy, Halifax, NS

Ecem Heywood is an incredible person. She has harnessed her abilities and interpersonal skills to create positive ripples in her school and community. Ecem possesses a true enthusiasm for learning and demonstrates steadfast integrity in all of her actions. Her aptitude is exemplary across disciplines, however she has a deep, long standing passion for STEAM and has demonstrated this through her personal involvement in a large number of workshops and events to further her interests. Ecem also inspires and encourages others to pursue STEAM both in and out of the classroom. She has made a difference by encouraging younger students to get involved and follow their passions. Ecem has volunteered with our school’s summer camp program, organized robotics workshops for elementary students and designed a STEAM panel for high school students about the interdisciplinary fields and pathways that are available for everyone to explore for postsecondary education.

When an opportunity arises for enrichment or voluntary participation, Ecem is the first student to be on board. Ecem has also established herself as an effective and relatable role model to younger generations. Through her initiatives, many younger students have been inspired to begin or further their pursuit of robotics, creative problem solving, and the sciences. I have regularly witnessed students approaching Ecem to ask questions about her experience and seek her advice on their own journeys. In addition to her extensive contributions to school programs, Ecem demonstrates exemplary leadership in her positive demeanor, commitment to excellence and sincere consideration of not only her friends and peers but of every member of our school community. Ecem is self-motivated, creative and easy to get along with in addition to being a respectful, intelligent, and compassionate leader. 

Student: Caris Truong, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Sharon Starr, Pinetree Secondary School, Coquitlam, BC

Caris Truong is a remarkable young woman. Not only is she a difference maker at our school, her desire to educate and empower other youth is inspirational. She is passionate about environmental sustainability and this passion has led her to share her knowledge, skills and resources with other students in our Pinetree community, in the Tri-cities and in Metro Vancouver. Caris has led our school’s Environmental club for the last two years and despite the challenges of the pandemic, she was determined to work with her club to make a positive impact. During this challenging time, the club managed to host an incredibly successful and innovative Eco-challenge that involved staff and students and outcome of this challenge led to measurable differences in the reduction of emissions, waste production and water consumption. At the municipal level, Caris became a leader of Tri-Cities Force of Nature, a non-profit climate action group. Caris plans meetings, co-leads them and works with team members to create climate action campaigns that influence public policy and enhance liveability. Over the last year, she co-led an incredibly successful campaign to reduce vehicle emissions. She and her team are now lobbying the municipal government to create sustainable transportation options for seniors, people with disabilities, immigrants and students. Caris is also a Youth Facilitator for Youth4Action- a leadership program that empowers youth across Metro Vancouver to influence sustainability.

What Caris Truong has accomplished in this short time and with the challenges of the pandemic is truly remarkable. She has done this with passion, diligence, skill and a well-honed set of leadership skills that she has developed with hours of training. Caris’ desire to inspire more people to make real change led her to apply for Youth4Action CHAMP (Collaborative Highschool and Mentorship Program). There she spent three months learning how to be a leader in sustainability. In the summer of 2021, she registered for BCIT’s Climate Changemakers Youth Leadership Training program and learned more about leadership continuums, how to influence climate policies and how to work with government entities.

Caris Truong has worked diligently to make a difference in our school, in our community and in Metro Vancouver. She embodies what it is to be a difference maker and is incredibly deserving of the Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference Maker Scholarship.

Student: Lisa Zhu, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Janine Lane, Richmond Hill High School, Richmond Hill, ON

As a multipotentialite with many interests, Lisa is excited about diving into new challenges and learning more about the world around her. In the past year, she set a personal goal to not only perform well academically but also to expand her knowledge in biology and medicine. Both of her objectives were achieved by maintaining a consistent study schedule and staying curious. She made a study schedule that she can follow through with, based on her previous experience. Despite the increased workload, it helped her maintain her academic performance and invest time into studying biology and medicine. Additionally, curiosity motivated her to invest time into something she is interested in. It helped a lot in expanding her knowledge of biology and medicine. She wanted to expand her knowledge in biology because it is fascinating and applicable in real life and medicine. It is important to her as she is interested in pursuing a field in medicine. It had a significant impact this year in biology because she was familiar with some of the concepts. More importantly, it helped her family as she was able to explain PCR testing on the genetic level, helping them better understand its procedures and relevance to COVID-19. Consistent learning has helped her become a better version of herself and make a positive impact on those around her.

Throughout her academic career, she has helped friends, classmates, and students outside of school in a variety of subject areas including mathematics, sciences, and business. The most recent example was when she had helped a friend study for their upcoming trigonometry test on proving trigonometric identities. Her main goal was to help them prepare for their test and clarify any questions they had. She started by asking what questions they had, explained concepts in detail, and worked through practice questions with them. While she cannot guarantee that they will perform well on the test, she can say that they were in a much better position than they had been before. A few days after the trigonometric test, they had come back to let her know they achieved a 95% and were thankful for the help they received. She was truly happy that she was able to help them out. A couple of days later, they had helped her study for an upcoming biology test by answering her questions. Helping them study for their math test had not only evoked happiness, but it has made their friendship stronger and built strong networking skills.

Student: Daniel Collins, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Helen Geng, Richmond Hill High School, Richmond Hill, ON

It is my pleasure to nominate Daniel Collins for the Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference Maker Scholarship. I have known Daniel since 2019 in the capacity of Music Teacher and Guidance Counsellor. 

As President of Richmond Hill High School’s show choir (Vocal Fusion) and Vice-President of our school’s Music Council, Daniel is able to lead others, especially younger students, through events and learning opportunities. For instance, Daniel supports his peers by leading Vocal Fusion when the teacher is absent. Furthermore, Daniel is also one of the student leaders of Brass Ensemble, and assists with selecting repertoire, conducting rehearsals, and planning performances. During his years on Music Council, Daniel has planned concerts, music banquets, house events, the Richmond Hill Band Workshop (which saw the participation of 300 students from our partner elementary schools), and much more. 

Through his commitment to the music department, Daniel consistently betters himself by interacting with a diversity of people and by demonstrating good time management skills. He consistently contributes to a positive department atmosphere by planning and implementing events with Music Council. After years of disruptions and online music due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Daniel has shown resilience by working with Music Council to bring new students into the fold; he supports his peers in finding a sense of belonging. When he teaches euphonium to younger students and volunteers with our grade 9 and grade 10 Repertoire Bands, Daniel uses patience and humour to connect with his peers. Moreover, as a member of the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra (a community ensemble for advanced high school and university students) since 2019, Daniel shows initiative while improving his own musicianship.

Outside of school, Daniel has been teaching ice skating for 3 years with the City of Richmond Hill, thereby illustrating his well-rounded interests in music and athletics. In 2018, Daniel volunteered with an organization teaching hockey to students with autism, thus demonstrating his ability to work with vulnerable populations. Daniel contributes to both our school and Richmond Hill communities by engaging in constant self-reflection and improvement, and by encouraging his peers to do the same.

Daniel has excelled in courses in the Music Department, earning a 95% in Grade 12 Vocal Music and 97 in Grade 12 Instrumental Music. Furthermore, Daniel’s strengths in academics extends to other departments as well, currently earning a 94% in Grade 12 AP English and a 96% in Grade 12 International Business. In addition to his commitment to music, Daniel is also honing his creativity by producing music on his own time with his peers. Next year, Daniel plans to continue to positively impact the community by studying Music Education at the University of Toronto, and one day becoming a music teacher himself.

Student: Sara Donaldson, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Cynthia Seitz, Dryden High School, Dryden, ON

We would like to nominate Sara for the Canadian School Counsellor Scholarship because she has been a consistently active part in our school environment. She is the Vice President of the Student Council and makes it her priority to advocate for the student body. Under her leadership, we have protected student privacy by ensuring the replacement of missing doors on handicapped stalls, broken locks, and missing shower curtains. Student Council convinced our administration to allow students to use lockers. Currently, Student Council is setting up a clothing donation drive to repurpose and recycle clothing by providing a pick-your-price thrift event to all high school students, targeting individuals who do not have access to new/clean clothing. As Vice-President, a large portion of these initiatives were created, nurtured, and directed by Sara, and she takes great pride in them. 

Sara is a highly motivated student. She was awarded the Top Female Student Award in her grade 11 year, 2020-2021, where she achieved a 98.29% average overall. In her current year of study, she has received 100% in 4U Biology, 93% in 4U Advanced Functions, and 98% in 4U Chemistry. In her entire high school career, she has never received below a 92% in a class.

Sara volunteers her lunch hours as a tutor. She has tutored in 3U Functions, 3C English, and 3U Chemistry. Lately, she has been volunteering for Student Success where she tutors multiple students at a time. Once a week, she volunteers as a coach for our local competitive swim team. She has been with this team for nine years, including her years as a swimmer.  She has over 300 community involvement hours.  She does not have a need to continue volunteering her time, but she always agrees to and has a natural talent and drive to assist people.  Sara states that “I enjoy acting as a tutor to students in my school, setting them up for success, and watching the light bulb go off as they begin to understand a topic.”

Student: Johanna Turton, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Julie Mireault-Wiseman, Bay View High School, Upper Tantallon, NS

Johanna Turton has been helping others in so many ways and for a long time already. Since 2018, she has been an active member of student government. She was part of the ProKids fundraiser, a local sport support charity, where four other people and her raised almost $500 as well as exposed children to a variety of extracurricular. 

Johanna is an excellent student. She has an average of 98% and takes on the challenges of advanced courses. She shares her knowledge and love of learning by being a peer tutor during our lunch time. 

Johanna is a very active and talented hockey player. She has played for the past seven years and has now reached the highest level: U18 AAA level. Her leadership skills shine as well on the ice as she has been co-captain on one team and captain twice. She has coached soccer for three years and hockey for two years. 

Due to her great time management skills, she has two jobs. She works at Montana ‘ s. She has also been working at Dalhousie University Medical School since the fall of 2020 as a simulated patient and support staff for multiple high stakes medical exams. People have commented how mature she is and that she shows great initiative and leadership in her work. 

Johanna ‘ s drive, integrity, and maturity are what defines her. She knows that being an active member of a community is essential in making it a better place. This is why she makes it a priority to try and give back. 

The Bay View High School Scholarship committee is highly recommending Johanna Turton for the Trevor H. Shirtliff Difference maker Scholarship. She has made so many positive impacts in the classroom, school, community, and on the ice.

Student: Dalton Bonertz, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Christina Bazell, Matthew Halton, Pincher Creek, AB

Dalton is one of the most dedicated students that I have had the pleasure to work with. This young man is actively involved in both the school and community. Dalton is a champion for the environment and social change. He is always ready to help and provide mentorship both at school and in the community. Academically, Dalton has been an honour roll student for the last 7 years. He has received the Matthew Halton Digital Media award, the last two years as well as the Shop student award in 2018. At the school level, he engages in organizing student events that build inclusion and improve student life. Dalton was elected by his peers as representative on the Regional Council of Student Leaders where he created positive experiences for students in the division.Dalton has an excellent reputation in the community, awarded Employee of the year, 2021, Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce. As a champion for the environment, Dalton has participated in youth conferences and summits, including the Alberta Youth Leaders for Environmental Education Provincial environmental education advocacy group. He has participated in creating a whitepaper asking Alberta government to increase environmental education.As the President of Trailbreakers, Dalton has shared his experiences and developed his social entrepreneurship by starting a community based maker center, running renewables workshops and performing energy audits on local buildings. He loves working on projects and finding creative ways to solve problems. He shares his ideas, creations and collaborates with students and community members to work on finding the best solutions to problems and explore all the options. 

Student: Janessa Hintz, Grade 12
Nominating Counsellor: Duncan White, Kildonan East Collegiate, Winnipeg, MB

Janessa is a student who actively seeks to make a difference in her life, the lives of those around her, and more ambitiously on a wider scale. She has been involved with the Holy Redeemer Church Youth group for a couple of years, volunteering with her church community, and has since developed a broad influence in our school. Janessa has maintained a consistently high level of academic achievement in her time at Kildonan East Collegiate (KEC) – even with the travails of Covid-19 she has maintained grades of 89% and higher in every class. She does not shirk from seeking academic challenge and has the willingness to seek new challenges and educational experiences. With regard to extra-curricular experiences Janessa follows the same philosophy – she single-handedly revived debate club during the worst of the Covid-19 restrictions last year, and was also a crucial member of our GSA, and the student-led mental health group. Most impressive was her willingness to encourage others to become involved in a non-condescending, positive manner. It was largely because of Janessa’s efforts that we were be able to run some successful initiatives even online! Janessa has also been involved in making our school yearbook, as well as with student leadership in KEC. Her character is keenly inquisitive and she is always willing to help others, especially with ELA assignments. Recently Janessa was very helpful when a younger student was injured in an ice related accident – taking time to contact the school to request help from our administration and comforting the student. I’ve found Janessa to be an open and honest student, who is very willing to self-advocate but also quick to listen and humble and willing to learn.