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Announcing the 2020 RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Award recipients

The RBC Spirit Awards is an annual event that celebrates the extraordinary accomplishments of youth who are making our community, and the world a better place. The event itself is a complete celebration of young people.

Our audience is introduced to an exceptional group of youth who encourage and motivate others, who demonstrate outstanding initiative and creativity, and who have overcome tremendous adversity through their passion for life.

We have the honour and privilege of sharing their incredible stories, passion, and dedication with our guests, in hopes of inspiring others to step up and make a difference in their own communities.

 

KATHLEEN MCDONALD

Kat MacDonald is an artist who grew up with undiagnosed ADHD and anxiety. By age 12 she developed an eating disorder and became depressed. Since seeking treatment at CHEO she has been working on an art project designing graphics with the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre where she leads a team of students in making skateboards to donate to high-needs youth in the region. She’s an active volunteer in her community, planting gardens and cleaning courtyards. To bring awareness to the struggles of managing eating disorders she has partnered with CHEO to create a documentary where she will be doing the filming and editing and sharing her personal story. She will be attending the University of Ottawa’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program in the fall as she continues to run her own art enterprise, doing commissions and fundraising for her community.

solomon schafer

Solomon Schafer is a youth poet who has released a self-published chapbook and is active in Ottawa’s spoken word community. He is a member of Urban Legends Poetry Collective’s executive committee and has represented Ottawa’s slam poetry team at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Solomon aspires to create a spoken word festival for high school students to express themselves and step into their power as youth within a safe and intersectional community-oriented space that centres slam poetry’s cultural roots in oral traditions of Black and Indigenous peoples. He is driven by a belief in the power of poetry to be a positive force in the lives of youth, drawing on his personal experience with poetry as a means to process and navigate life events such as coming out as queer and dealing with the passing of a friend. Solomon is also involved with Youth Speak, a youth writing workshop held in partnership with the Ottawa Public Library and was a co-director of the 2020 Victorious Voices Youth Spoken Word Festival.

Emma Flynn-Mantyla

Emma is an inspiration and positive role model for her entire community. She is a grade 10 student at St. Matthew Catholic High School and is currently battling Leukemia. Her inspiration and sense of community goes beyond the classroom.  She is a member of both the CN Cycle for CHEO dream team and RISE where she dedicates countless hours spreading positivity through acts of kindness. She also led her school’s anti-bullying campaign. Emma’s cancer treatments have caused major damages in her joints making it difficult for her to get out of bed in the morning. Through all of her obstacles, Emma attends school with a smile on her face. She refuses to use any physical or emotional distress as a barrier to her academic success.

LYSHAWN DUBOIS

Lyshawn is a remarkable student who shows positive leadership in and outside of the classroom. He is the assistant coach for the junior touch football team, works part-time and is a role model to younger generations of at-risk youth. Although Lyshawn is excelling both in sports and in his academics this was not always the case. He arrived in Ottawa on his own from Montreal leaving his mother and siblings behind in hopes of a better future. He was raised in a single-parent household where they struggled financially causing him to make bad decisions and ultimately leading to trouble with the law. Lyshawn was determined to succeed and committed himself to his studies, not using his past as a limitation to prevent him from achieving his goals. Lyshawn has changed his life around, he will be attending Cegep next year with a full scholarship. In the future, Lyshawn hopes to share his story in the hopes of inspiring other youth to get off the streets and make a future for themselves.

Annie zhang

Annie Zhang is a charismatic student, public speaker, recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award and the founder of Project Tech Conferences – a student-run nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for high school and middle school students across Ottawa, Kingston and Waterloo to learn about computer science. PTC provides an interactive introduction to STEM through inspirational speakers, workshops and career development sessions. Inspired to make a difference in a traditionally male-dominated field, Annie has focused on empowering women and girls in discovering the world of technology

bhavya mohan

Inspired by the story of a cancer survivor who feared developing an autoimmune disease, Bhavya Mohan found his calling in cancer research at the age of 11. Since then, under the wing of research mentors at Ottawa’s universities, he has dedicated himself in designing, developing and testing a novel solution to improve the body’s ability to naturally detect cancer cells and eliminate them. He believes that aptamers could provide a cheaper, safer and more effective alternative to traditional cancer immunotherapy. Bhavya’s work stands as an inspiration to students interested in scientific research and he hopes to instil hope among cancer patients everywhere with the message that the youth of today are capable of changing the world of medicine.

Dhalia belfer

Dahlia struggles with health challenges, and yet is still extremely philanthropic and generous. She helps out with a support group at CHEO, mentors grade 9 students, and worked closely with her Rabbi to create the first-ever advanced classes in Jewish studies at Torah High. Dahlia participated in a summer educational trip to Israel for a month and intends to continue her studies in social work, working with other folks struggling with health issues, as she knows the hardship. She also created a video that is shown at universities to medical school grads called “dear medical students from patients.” During the pandemic months she has created a program to bring letters to patients in the hospital to bring them joy, because they can’t have visitors.

FRANCES GRANGER

Despite the loss of her mother, Frances has persevered and has found the time to not only continue her high school education, but create the first-ever Indigenous Awareness Week at her school, to which she faced a massive reprisal from admin in the form of a potential lawsuit and repeated racism. Frances is a valuable member of her community, as her passion for Indigenous culture and justice encourages her to support other youth, and amplify local powwows and Indigenous gatherings to promote reconciliation.

Ketnia Rodie Opont

At 16 and by herself, Ketnia made a new life for herself in Canada after leaving Haiti. Although she lived in a shelter and reportedly faced a multitude of traumatizing experiences,  Ketnia not only excelled in her education, but made time to volunteer with various organizations and groups, including registering as a volunteer to work with newcomers to Canada. Ketnia currently manages the Saddlebags Project, designed to give toiletries and necessities to young women living on the streets. Ketnia intends to become a social worker and build support groups for struggling folks, as well as becoming a spokesperson for immigrant women who have experienced sexual assault. 

Emma Grenier

Emma Grenier is a student, social activist, visual artist and stage and show technician. Being autistic and part of the 2SLGBTQ + community they constantly fights to defend 2SLGBTQ + rights and the social acceptance of their community in addition to supporting causes that are dear to their heart such as education, la Francophonie and eco-sustainability. Emma also collaborated on the creation of an Instagram account with more than 20,000 subscribers that provided a safe space for young people in the 2SLGBTQ + community so that they could feel less isolated. Emma is a symbol of strength, both at school and in the community. Despite their autism, their learning difficulties and despite the fact that they belongs to a non-visible minority, Emma continues to persevere and assert themselves according to their personal beliefs. This strength allowed them to be an active member of several community groups where they left their mark, even at the age of 16.

Emran Alnahhas

Emran Alnahhas is a translational and molecular medicine student, refugee, devoted brother and changemaker.  Inspired by the devastating physical effects of down syndrome on his sister, he strives for a career in pediatric medicine. And while his abrupt relocation to Canada has disrupted his studies, it has not slowed down his pursuit. While working as a student researcher at the Faculty of Medicine, Emran has overcome tremendous adversity and displayed resilience by maintaining a high academic standing while supporting his family and sister as her primary caregiver. Founder of the uOttawa Epilepsy Society, Emran aims to financially assist and advocate for support from the international scientific community for Canadians suffering from the disorder. Empowered by his personal experience as a refugee, he co-founded the Catalysts Canada program following a commitment to ease the transition for newcomers, promote social justice issues on a broader level and engage marginalized high school refugee students with access to opportunities and supportive pathways into STEM.

JASON SEGUYA

Jason Seguya is a student leader, activist and former Student Life Commissioner of the University of Ottawa Students’ Union. He is a devoted member of the uOttawa community who has demonstrated leadership in raising awareness of issues and creating spaces of celebration of black, indigenous and racialized students. With the support of a coalition of student and professor groups, Jason campaigned for transparency, accountability, consultation and staff training as a member of the uOttawa President’s Advisory Committee for an Anti-Racist and Inclusive Campus. He has dedicated himself to challenging discrimination and increasing accessibility on campus – always accompanied by kindness and a dashing smile.

Immaculate Nyashema

Immaculate is a passionate student and community mobilizer who helped start the first Black Excellence Club at her high school. She was inspired to start this club after an incident at her school where youth of colour were not being allowed to wear head wraps to represent their cultures and backgrounds at school. She decided to take a stand and got a group of friends together to all wear their head wraps at school the next day to show the teachers that they should be allowed and will wear headwraps to school to showcase their heritage. Immaculate explained that she felt it was important to her culture to fight against that systemic oppression of her culture and to take a stand to demonstrate to the school what it meant to her and her classmates that they be able to wear their head wraps if they want to. 

KYRSTIN DUMONT

Kyrstin is a passionate and caring young woman and proud band member of the Algonquins of Kitigan Zibi. She has taken part in sacred walks to protect the water, spoken on Parliament Hill about climate justice and human rights, she has worked with schools, organizations and churches such as OCDSB, CAS, the child welfare league, UNICEF Canada, the Kitchissippi church as well as the Woodroffe church and while she is currently completing her high school education at Urban Aboriginal she works as a strong role model for other students who have fallen through the cracks of mainstream colonial education systems. She is an advocate, an aspiring future social worker, and a mentor to her family and community alike. In her own words, Kyrstin’s goal is to “use westernize education as well as cultural knowledge to help heal myself and my community “

Mashkura Tabassum Tathoye

Mashkura arrived in Canada with little ability to speak English and faced a lot of barriers in her adolescence. With the help of her parents, Mashkura persevered through her personal and academic challenges and has been recognized by the community and her peers for her kindness and support. She participates in countless volunteering programs such as helping at a local daycare, tutoring English and Math to students, and helping with engaging activities for senior citizens. After working with the United Nations Associations in Canada, Mashkura started her own initiative to combat the Sustainable Development Goals and help her community become more eco-friendly.

teslock luk

Teslock Luk is a dedicated grade 12 student at Notre Dame High School who has become a role model for his peers through his positive contributions to the Notre Dame Community. He is part of the Canada Topflight Academy, a preparatory program for basketball, he facilitates workshops for Young Men Leading Change, a program that brings young men together to advocate and work towards ending gender-based violence and Youth Connections Ottawa, a suicide prevention program that builds on student’s strengths. In addition to his extensive involvement within the community, he also mentors grade 8 male at-risk students. Tesloch exudes kindness, compassion and is relentless in his journey to make a difference. He is respected by his peers, teammates and teacher for his constant commitment to helping others.