Yana Fershtein

Kristy Abel

Burnsview Secondary

Delta, BC

Yana is a talented writer, who was selected to participate in the Delta School Districts Write Stretch Program in grade 5 and has not missed a year since. She has won several awards, including the French immersion Specialty Award, the Burnsview Athletic Award and has won District Concours D’ Art Oratoire. Yana first started seeing me for counselling in grade 9, when her struggles with mental health became too intrusive for her to handle on her own. She reached her breaking point in August 2019 and was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with anxiety, depression and ADHD. Since then, she has embarrassed her limitations and, alongside medication, DBT, diet and exercise, is well on her way to recovery.

Yana has always been near the top of her class academically, but now that she has space for other things, she is using it for activism. She is an executive member of the Delta Youth Advisory Committee, where students advocate for the direction of education, is on our Grad Committee, and most recently, has undertaken the task of creating an online hub for mental health services for youth in our community. As Yana searched for help in her own issues, she found resources to be scattered and inaccessible. This project is two-fold: 1) to create a vast and inclusive website of actionable local resources in both the school and the broader community and 2) a physical display in our schools foyer so that everyone can see it, with the intention of de-stigmatizing mental health and providing information for those who need it and those who support them. Once the website is finished, Yana and I will propose it be attached to the Delta School District website as a resource. I am so unbelievably proud of what Yana has accomplished. Her biggest obstacle, as is with most who struggle with their mental health, was to defy stigma and ask for help. She truly has a brilliant future and I am excited to see what she offers the world.

At school Yana has played soccer and volleyball and been a member of our Poetry Club; she also worked as a volunteer Peer Tutor Outside of school, she played competitive soccer locally and then with the BC Tigers. She has also worked at Kumon Learning as a paid tutor and volunteers at her elementary Alma Mater, Sunshine Hills. She’s fluent in Russian, French and English and is proficient in Spanish and Hebrew. Her writing is getting noticed; she has a poem being published in Chapbook by Vancouver Poetry House and recently placed 3rd in the Senior Poetry Category at the Surrey Public Libraries.