MUSKOKA - Sometimes monkey-see, monkey-do isn’t such a bad way to learn, or teach.
Inspiring youth volunteers are honoured.
LEADERS IN TRAINING. Two Bracebridge elementary school students are among the 2012 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award nominees. The awards, sponsored by TD Canada Trust, the Ontario Community Newspaper Association and Direct Energy, are presented to outstanding youth between 6 and 17 years of age who have made significant impact in their communities. From left to right at the presentation March 13 are Direct Energy representative Steve Brinks, Monck Grade 8 student Lauren Seehaver, Macauley Grade 7 student Erin Carter, Bracebridge TD branch manager Mark Harris and Muskoka Life editor Andrew Wagner-Chazalon. (Photo by Neil Etienne)
Though they weren’t chosen as one of the 12 Ontario Junior Citizens of the Year for 2012, two Bracebridge youth were honoured March 13 with plaques marking their nominations. The Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year awards have been sponsored by the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA), TD Canada Trust and Direct Energy since the awards’ inception in 2009.
Grade 8 Monck Public School student Lauren Seehaver and Grade 7 Macaulay Public School student Erin Carter said they both learned the spirit of volunteerism through family members, and their many nominators say each is spreading the wings of that spirit to their peers now.
“She is involved in so many things, it is hard to decide where to begin,” said one of Seehaver’s multiple nominators, Marlene Buwalda-Liao. “Each project in which she is involved she works until it is done, no matter the hours needed.”
Seehaver volunteers 40 hours a week and has split her efforts between Gravenhurst and Bracebridge helping with such things as Relay for Life, the Gravenhurst Supper Club, Christmas parades, while also volunteering at a local horse farm, the Bracebridge fall fair, and by collecting donations for local food banks.
“I believe Lauren has had a tremendous impact on the community,” Buwalda-Liao added, in nominating Seehaver. “She has raised awareness of different community programs within her school, with teachers and students and other parents; as well, she has directly made a difference to the lives of people living in poverty by volunteering at programs like community dinners or food banks.
Myrna Keizer, president of the fall fair, said Seehaver’s a “willing and cheerful” volunteer who offers her time before even being asked, while teacher Ellen Yeo said she’s an enthusiastic leader who is “there when you need her.”
The second local nominee has been involved in the school program Circle of Peace for two years, supports local food banks, is a reading buddy for younger children learning to read, and a volunteer kindergarten assistant, while also being a strong supporter of the OSPCA, the school library and as a canvasser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She is also a dancer and member of the Limberettes, and a fledgling actress who has performed at the Rene Caisse theatre.
“The status quo is not acceptable to her,” said one of her nominators, David Heaslip. “Erin is an outstanding young person who consistently sets an example for other children. (Her) activities have been an example to others to aspire to and there are many others who have become involved (in charity work) because ‘Erin’s doing it.’”
Her teacher Marcia Delgado sees a great future ahead for Carter, calling her a “fervent social activist in the making.”
“She has been an instrumental student in helping the rest of the school population understand the importance of helping those in need in our community and afar,” Delgado said. “Erin believes in sharing her bounty and easing hardship; mature and responsible young citizens like Erin make our province, country and world a better place.”
Two kindergarten teachers she volunteers for at Macaulay also got behind the nomination, calling her a remarkable girl, who is caring, considerate and always positive.
“Without realizing it, Erin makes a difference in our school every day,” agreed teachers Jennifer Kamachi and Beth Nichols. “Her positive attitude, selfless acts and outlook on life make her held in high regard by teachers, friends and parents.”
Carter said she got the volunteering bug a few years ago, having watched her poppa (grandfather) do the same.
“And I like doing things for people, helping ease the pressure on them,” Carter said.
“It makes me feel good after I’ve helped someone and knowing I’ve done some good for someone else,” agreed Seehaver, who said she watched her mother volunteer for many years and wanted to follow suit.
Junior Citizen of the Year nominations of eligible youth aged six to 17 are received through member community newspapers committed to recognizing the outstanding leaders who are making a difference in their communities. Nominees may be involved in community service, young people who are contributing to their community while living with a physical or psychological limitation, or individuals who have performed acts of heroism or bravery. Candidates are also recognized for being ‘good kids,’ who show a commitment to making life better for others.
The OCNA, its member newspapers like the Bracebridge Examiner and Gravenhurst Banner, and fellow sponsors recognized 150 outstanding young leaders with nominations for the 2012 awards.