At a virtual ceremony on April 28, 2022, Ontario recognized the outstanding contributions of 24 young people with the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers for 2019 and 2020. The medal is the highest honour a young person between the ages of 15 and 24 can achieve for their contributions to the province.
Anjana Balachandran of Ottawa is dedicated to encouraging youth to give back to the community and get involved in important causes. Passionate about the UN Sustainable Development goals, Ms. Balachandran has been working on a social enterprise that addresses food insecurity in food deserts around Ottawa. She is driven by a belief that everyone’s voice should be heard, regardless of background, age or race.
Amanda Bishop of Aurora is proving to others that gender should never limit a career in technology. She has worked tirelessly to create events such as Why Code Aurora, coding camps and Robotics Clubs to inspire girls from primary grades through high school to explore the rewarding careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Kathryn Cheng of Toronto has selflessly given her time and talent to her community. An outstanding student and exceptional leader with over 1,000 hours of community service, she has tackled poverty, access to education and care for the elderly and contributed to such diverse groups as Me to We, the Castlewood Wychwood long-term care facility and the Ontario Science Centre.
Tejas Dhami of Burlington recognized the difficulties faced by non-English speaking Canadians when it came to understanding prescriptions and medical terminology. He created a website that translated online resources for Punjabi and Syrian communities in Ontario. Thanks to him, patients have the information they need to thrive.
Grace Gong of Mississauga is a fierce advocate for the marginalized, for inclusiveness, and environmental sustainability. She has dedicated over 1,000 volunteer hours to create positive change in Mississauga and has helped shape programming at her school and community centre to support accessibility.
Lucas Gordon of Hamilton spent his high school years developing various community-focused initiatives. He launched two websites, RedReach and Youther, that operated from 2017 to 2019 functioning as hubs for youth employment and programs within the City of Hamilton. Lucas created StudentStarts, a conference held from 2018 to 2019, with over 200 invited students to solve various business cases over a 24-hour period.
Sarah Jordan of Toronto was inspired at the young age of five to start her own food drive. More than 12 years later, Sarah and Claire’s Food Drive has collected over 500,000 pounds of food, mobilized over 10,000 students, and dozens of Leaside businesses. With one act of kindness, Sarah sparked a movement that impacts thousands of Torontonians every year.
Lucia Marchionda of Stoney Creek has made an indelible mark on the lives of countless Hamiltonians. She has contributed over 3,000 hours of community service to churches, hospitals, teams and schools by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, mentoring younger students, coaching soccer, and leading Bible camp. There is no telling how many lives she has already touched in her young life.
Divya Massilamani of Ottawa has enriched the lives of so many around her. She has spent over a decade volunteering at long-term care homes entertaining residents with her musical talent and providing nurses with vital support. Indian orphanages have benefitted from her compassion and so much more. Her extraordinary commitment has earned her the United Way Community Builder Award and an inscription on the Wall of Inspiration at Ottawa City Hall.
Jack McCormick of Tillsonburg is a unique, gifted leader. Born with Leber Congenital Amaurosis, a retinal disease that leads to severe vision loss or blindness, Jack established the National Young Leaders Program with Fighting Blindness Canada, providing hundreds of youths affected by vision loss with the resources and connections to pave successful career paths.
William McCormick of Sudbury is a remarkable leader, driven by a passion for accessibility, equality, and social justice. In addition to countless charitable organizations including Réseau ACCESS Network and the Sudbury Food Bank, William founded two community groups: A Place to Call Their Home, providing students around the world with vital school supplies, and Service Not Forgotten, in support of homeless veterans across Canada.
Leighton Schreyer of London is helping change the face of mental health in Canada. Inspired by his own lived experience with mental illness, Leighton founded Beecuz, a non-profit organization helping children and youth thrive through proactive, positive mental wellness education. Through his organization and community engagement, Leighton is empowering young people to live authentically and audaciously.
Aditi Sivakumar of Kanata is motivated to support women and children facing domestic violence. She developed an app named My Empowerment to connect them with resources in their community. She has volunteered with a long list of charitable organizations and was a member of the Speakers Bureau of Volunteer Ottawa, educating others on the rewards of volunteerism.
Tristan Wild of Toronto champions the importance of STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for young people. As a volunteer with STEM Fellowship, he helped establish a mentor program for high school students to address real-world problems through scholarly writing. Working with NextGenU.org, he devoted hundreds of hours compiling open-access resources, developing free courses in pre-health sciences.
Karl Zhu of Windsor is a changemaker driven by a passion to help others and with a passion for technology. Realizing that Windsor lacked the resources his peers needed, he founded Border City Hacks, bringing the power of computer programming and robotics – and their endless potential – home to his fellow students in Windsor.
Joshua Callaghan of Burlington combined a love of technology with a passion for helping others. He created an online platform, Tech Under 20, that leverages technology to enable students to reach out and help any number of charitable community organizations. Joshua is proof of how a positive attitude, energy and a willingness to help others can make a difference.
Olivia Dey of Oshawa experienced bullying as a young woman in a male-dominated sport, water polo, and sought to create a safe space for other female athletes. Her non-profit, Just Like a Girl, inspires others to pursue their own dream. Olivia has competed in the Junior Olympics and represented Canada as a Youth Ambassador.
Jackie Han of Richmond Hill is bringing the beauty of an ancient art form to his modern-day community. The founder of Origami Canada, this young man brings his free, mobile origami teaching station to children and seniors alike with this intricate art. His Origami Canada Squad has brightened the day for thousands with an educational, inspiring experience.
Ruby Hopkins of Midland is an accomplished young woman who has helped young and old alike in her community. As founder of the local LEO Club, she made a remarkable difference during the pandemic with food and clothing drives. As a member of the Midland Air Cadets, she is a licensed glider pilot and shares her time with veterans at the Midland Legion.
Arya Peruma of Mississauga believes that the fields of science, technology, engineering and math are underrepresented by women and racialized people. This remarkable young woman founded Coding for Young Minds, providing live tutoring and free education kits during the pandemic, a challenging time for many students. It is people like Arya who lay a foundation of success for so many others.
Noga Shachak of Concord created an Equity Forum at Stephen Lewis Secondary School and was co-president of the school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance. A passionate advocate, she is leading a powerful, timely culture of change and acceptance for LGBTTQ+ students.
Joy Xu of Scarborough has devoted much of her young life to helping others, here and around the world. She provided essentials to children in Malawi and launched the Felicity App for student productivity during the pandemic. Her own non-profit, STREAM Syndicate, has become a remarkable success, enriching education for more than 125,000 students.
Leo Xu of Toronto is devoted to encouraging young people to better understand the world around them and helping them to affect change. He is involved in many community organizations and is a Co-Founder of Bridgespace, a global online platform reaching students in over 100 countries to provide learning experiences on creative entrepreneurship, fintech, global affairs and more.
Nathan Yiu of Toronto has dedicated his time to volunteerism, at school and with international organizations. His love of the outdoors and respect for the environment moved him to dedicate his natural leadership abilities to groups such as Scouts Canada and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program, inspiring thousands of young people along the way.