When Ruby Tang heads out on a five-day trek on the Juan de Fuca trail she’ll revel in the environmental wonder.
The resplendent nature we enjoy on Vancouver Island is something she is already certain we take for granted.
“When I hike that trail I’m going to think about how the natural environment has affected who I am today,” she said of the hike next month after graduation.
Her need to protect it, and the actions she takes toward the goal, earned her a place in the spotlight at the United Way Greater Victoria’s 18th annual Youth Now Awards.
Nominated in another category, she was named Green Award winner.
Dr. Tzu-I Chung, a human history curator at the Royal BC Museum, nominated Tang for her work there, which ranges from transcribing historical documents to running a kids’ summer camp to delving into old documents and city directories to compile timelines. Judy Fainstein, of Youth Environmental Stewardship BC, supported the nomination.
Tang was recognized for her leadership qualities and organizational abilities with YES BC and her volunteer work with Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. She was instrumental in building volunteer capacity for the 2015 Off The Grid Music Festival, hosted by Oak Bay High School. She was also part of a provincial initiative last spring where students asked local MLAs to commit to do what they can to stop attempts to increase thermal coal exports through BC ports. An easy sell locally, she was among those offering a thumbs-up after a successful meeting with Weaver, who signed a commitment to stop any new thermal coal export.
More than 1,000 incredible young people between the ages of 11 and 29 have been recognized for their outstanding contributions as volunteers and community leaders since the Youth Now Awards began in 1999. Hosted by the United Way and the Inter-municipal Youth Programmers’ Committee, Tang was simply happy to be nominated at the award event.
“I didn’t think I was getting an award,” she said. “So many people are doing extraordinary things in the community. I’m really thankful for the recognition.”
Tang also enjoyed a few moments of conversation with fellow award-winners, nominees and nominators after the United Way Awards event.
“It was really neat learning about what motivated them to be involved in what they were involved in,” she said. “What’s driven me to get involved with environmental issues and sustainable practices is I’ve had the opportunity to travel to other countries.”
Tang has visited family in China, and once visited Taiwan. Both offered her an opportunity to see decaying environment. It “saddens and frustrates” her to see other people suffer because of a lax attitude toward environmental protection.
She takes action here at home, as co-leader this year of the Environment Club at the high school that started a new compost system.
Volunteers empty compost bins scattered around the school a couple times a week.
“It’s a smaller system but … we hope to expand it,” said Tang.
The environment club also organized a well-attended showing of Take a Stand: Youth for Conservation Project, a documentary featuring a Q&A with project leaders from Simon Fraser University and Norm Hann.
Dozens of classes made their way through the auditorium for that presentation.
Also an Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star Award recipient in 2014, Tang was among the students tasked with the Bowker Creek design charette, where they had input on the now-complete restoration of the waterway adjacent to the school. Then she was part of the club that reintroduced the rubber ducky race on Bowker last month, using it as an opportunity to showcase the rejuvenated creek.
Tang heads for the University of Toronto this fall where she hopes to study international relations, and peace conflict and justice studies.
“I’ll be really reminded of how important it is for us to protect the environment,” she said, noting she’ll live on the downtown campus. “It’ll be a big change, I’ll miss the trees. I’m more aware now and fully appreciative of how nice it is here.”