Co-founder, President and CEO, Youth in Motion
Top 20 Under 20
Chairman: Dr. John S. Niles
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Sonja Bata, Founding Chairman, Bata Shoe Museum Foundation, and Ontario Chair, Canadian Forces Liaison Council; Heather Schoeler, Vice-President, Compliance and Operations, ING Wealth Management; Rev. Michael Clarke, Associate Priest, Christ Anglican Church, Brampton; Kamal Hassan, CEO, Skymeter Corporation, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Sarah Crawford, Vice-President, Public Affairs, CHUM Limited; Charles S. Coffey, Chair, National Advisory Council, Canadian Museum of Human Rights, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Fariba Anderson, Partner, The Manta Group; and Col. Allan Richard Halfper, OMM, CD, BSc, Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force Central Land Force Central Area.
Introduction by John Niles
Thomas Carlyle once said, "Youth is to all the glad reason for life; but often only by what it hopes, not by what it attains...." That is far from the truth today. For today we come to honour those who have made the most of their years; those who have done much in a short time to make a difference in the world.
In the case of these young people, George Bernard Shaw is found to be wrong when he said, "Youth is wasted on the young," for today we will hear of stories of those who have not wasted their youth, but tasted success in youth. And here to tell us more is Akela Peoples, HBA, BEd, MEd, Co-founder, President and CEO, Youth in Motion, an organization that has presented career conferences and a wide variety of other programs across Canada in the past nine years and the national awards program called Top 20 Under 20.
Akela is the recipient of numerous awards herself. In 2005, she was named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Women's Executive Network and she was the youngest ever recipient of the YWCA's Women of Distinction Award in 2002 for Entrepreneurship. Akela has also received Toronto Sun's Women on the Move Award. Please welcome Akela Peoples.
Honourable guests, ladies, and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure today to introduce Youth in Motion's Top 20 Under 20 Award Recipients for 2007. They are young entrepreneurs, environmentalists, artists, community capacity builders and global visionaries. I know they will inspire you and leave you with great confidence that the future of Canada is indeed in very good hands.
Before introducing them, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some information about Youth in Motion, a national charitable organization, which I co-founded 10 years ago. The goal was and still is to support and inspire youth to achieve their full potential through motivational and educational programming. We present a wide variety of programs that support our mission. We have delivered more than 100 Career Learning Days to raise awareness about career opportunities. We have created a highly effective mentoring program model for youth at risk that consistently delivers greater than an 84-per-cent success rate in getting youth at risk employed. We have an Educators in Motion program, a Career Discovery Web site and many other programs that support youth in the transition from school to work.
In short, Youth in Motion "ignites the power of possibility" in the minds of youth. We've positively impacted the lives of over 60,000 young people directly. And this is largely due to the support of many partners some of which are here today. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, ING Canada and the ING Foundation, Bell Canada, and CHUM Limited are among our supporters. I am also fortunate to work with a wide and talented array of volunteers, and many of those are here today. I would like to acknowledge, in particular, Charlie Coffey, former Executive Vice-President of the Royal Bank of Canada who is one of our volunteer judges for the Top 20 Under 20 Award. It is a tremendous honour to work with so many people who believe passionately in the youth of our country.
I am acutely aware that I am not your main attraction here today. Twenty very talented young people are and it is my pleasure to introduce to you some of our country's greatest young leaders. After a national call for nominations with the support of CHUM Limited, our national media partner, our prestigious Order of Canada judging team assessed hundreds of applications from all provinces and territories in Canada. Our award recipients were then brought to Toronto for a five-day Leadership Summit and they were engaged in business etiquette training, media training, brand development workshops, and career coaching sessions. In short, they had a very exciting and very busy week with us. For the year following this week, they will be participants in a mentoring program in which they will be matched individually with a mentor. They will also dial in once a month to group mentoring conference calls and hear from some very prominent keynote speakers and have "a once in a lifetime opportunity" of unique learning through interactive question-and-answer periods. And this year, for the first time ever, we are holding a new Alumni Conference in August, as our goal is to keep this national community of young leaders connected for years to come. Among them, I am certain, are our future prime ministers, premiers, Nobel prize winners, community leaders and corporate CEOs.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for. As I introduce our award recipients, I invite each to stand as I share with you some brief information about their accomplishments. Please hold your applause until they've all been introduced.
First, Gavin Bennett. Gavin is 17, and is from Brampton, Ontario. Gavin founded Riviera Technologies, a non-profit organization that offers youth from underprivileged families the opportunity for computer literacy training.
Prerna Chandak is 19 years old and is from Windsor, Ontario. Windsor, Ontario, has the highest unemployment rate in Canada and Prerna wanted to help with this by creating Windsor's first networking forum for young entrepreneurs.
Cody Clark is from Kemptville, Ontario, and is 12 years old. He created Cody's Individual Comfort Kits. More than 235 kits have been created and given to young patients to make their visit to the hospital much more comfortable and less frightening. Cody has raised more than $25,000 dollars through this endeavour.
April Dutheil is 17 years old. She is from Tlell, British Columbia. With the closest hospital located 40 minutes from her hometown (which is an island with no cell phone service), April identified a need for an increased number of public volunteers for the fire department. She organized CPR courses and trained 24 people to service the entire island.
Fourteen-year-old Sophia Gran-Ruaz is from Mississauga, Ontario. At age 11, Sophia founded a charity, Snug As A Bug, Kids Helping Kids, that provides children staying in shelters with care packages.
Sally Hakim is 18 and from Toronto, Ontario. After rallying her student body to raising $32,000 worth of medical supplies for the 2004 Tsunami victims, Sally continued her work by leading a team of 12 students to build a school classroom in Kenya.
Raymond Ko is 19 years old and he is from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Raymond founded the Music Sensory Awakening Program and has developed various methods of music training as a positive influence in the treatment of autism.
Stephen Lake, a young entrepreneur, is 17 years old and is from Toronto, Ontario. His first business was started at age 13. RC Tunerz provides high efficiency LED lights for mobile vehicles. He founded his second business at age 15. Harmonic Synergy Entertainment is a DJ entertainment business.
Ronan MacParland is age 19 and he is from St. John's, Newfoundland. In Kenya, he is known by locals as the "Miracle Boy." He most recently established a community centre complete with a well-stocked library, a fully equipped computer-training centre and many meeting rooms in a small village in Western Kenya. He even has a few children named after him there in honour of his contributions.
Tracy Mah is 19 and she is from Edmonton, Alberta. As a sufferer of lethal allergies, Tracy became fascinated by the immune system's responsibility for a myriad of disorders. Through her research, Tracy's experiments suggested that chimerism, the co-existence of two genetically different populations of cells, may be remarkably effective as a natural alternative to immunosuppressive drugs.
Samantha Milner is 16 and she is from Beaconsfield, Quebec. She founded Sassy Sam's Inc., a retail gift business at age 11. She has 15 sales representatives across Canada and has over $1 million in sales annually. Her products are in 500 retail outlets and, incredibly, Samantha believes in giving back to her community as she has donated more than $40,000 to local charities.
Ted Paranjothy is 18 years old. He is from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Ted's innovative science project has led to the discovery of an anti-cancer agent. His work has caught the attention of the University of Manitoba, which has filed a provisional patent application on his behalf. Ted has also logged over 2,000 volunteer hours.
Simon Pickup is 18 and he is from North Vancouver, British Columbia. He founded Youth Hydrogen in 2004 to foster the development of young leaders while advancing the global shift to hydrogen energy. Youth Hydrogen is currently overseeing the design and planning for the construction of a hydrogen refueling station in the city of North Vancouver.
Nakita Sekhon is 17 and she is from Victoria, British Columbia. In 2001, Nakita travelled to India and saw firsthand the plight of many children in that country. She later founded Jamsher Children's Village, an orphanage that will offer a home-based environment for almost 30 children.
Jasmeet Sidhu is 19 and is from Brampton, Ontario. Founded in 2004 by Jasmeet, the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance has grown to over 300 members. It has been recognized nationally as a definitive place to pool the passion, knowledge and skills of youth environmental leaders.
Yvonne Su is from Holland Landing, Ontario, and she is 17. Yvonne initiated her high school's first student-run recycling program, the Denison Environmental Club. Three years later she has led this initiative coast to coast speaking to thousands and spreading the message of sustainability.
Asha Suppiah is from Deep River, Ontario, and is 19 years old. After spending a few years exploring the utilization of solar energy in the production of fresh water, Asha eventually succeeded in developing a novel, cost-effective and efficient technique for this process. Her invention is currently patent-pending.
Ryan Thirlwall is 19 and he is from Victoria, British Columbia. Ryan is a survivor of abuse, hard-core drug addiction and crime and he has turned his life around in the past five years. He has a very strong commitment towards positive youth development and this has led him to speak to thousands of young people throughout Canada. His latest endeavour is the Pay It Forward bike tour in 2007 where his goal is to raise $1 million for disadvantaged youth.
David Wang is 17 and he is from London, Ontario. David's research provided a solid foundation for the development of a plant-based, safe, cost-effective and edible SARS vaccine. Fuelled by this success, he began a new immunal therapy for autoimmune disease and after two years, he generated transgenic plants expressing a protein that has demonstrated great promise in the treatment of Type-1 diabetes.
And finally, Samantha Whiteside is 17 and she is from New Hamburg, Ontario. She is the 38th person and second-youngest ever to swim across Lake Ontario. Samantha's crossing raised over $25,000 in 2006 for juvenile arthritis, the same disease that afflicts her today.
Ladies and gentlemen, please give this year's Top 20 Under 20 award recipients a round of applause.
Thank you so very much and that is a well-deserved round of applause. I am going to call upon four of our award recipients to join me at the podium as I'd like you to hear a little more about their activities.
(Akela then invites Ted Paranjothy, Samantha Milner, Sophia Gran-Ruaz and Simon Pickup to "the stage" and engages these youth in an unscripted "question-and-answer" format dialogue).
I believe it is clear ladies and gentlemen that we are definitely not short of passion, enthusiasm and energy in our Top 20 Under 20 award recipients this year.
I would be doing a great disservice to Youth in Motion if I didn't ask for your support. As a charitable organization we must raise almost $2 million each year to do the important work that we do. Youth in Motion turns lost into leadership. Each of these talented young people that you have met today are passionate, inspiring individuals and they act as powerful peer role models everywhere they go, inspiring other youth to stay away from negative activities, embrace a goal or a cause and channel their energies positively. There is a donation card on your table today and I very much encourage you to complete this card and support our organization because we cannot do this work without your help. The future of our country cannot be left to chance.
Donald MacGannon once said, "Leadership is action not position." I hope that we have proved that to you today and I do hope you'll consider supporting us.
Lastly, the quote that hangs on my office wall says, "To do what you love and know that it matters, how could anything be more fun?" I am honoured to live that every day. Thank you so much for inviting me to stand here before you today. It has been a tremendous privilege and a great honour.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Kamal Hassan, CEO, Skymeter Corporation, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.