Celebrating Oak Bay’s Young Exceptional Stars

Ten young people were recognized during Oak Bay’s 11th annual YES Awards at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel on May 3. They took home awards for having distinguished themselves in such areas as volunteerism, arts, citizenship, academics, athletics or for having overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.

Zach Charlesworth – Grade 10 – Oak Bay High School

Zach Charlesworth

Nichelle Garraway says that Zach Charlesworth, a grade 10 student at Oak Bay High School, is a spectacular young man. He leads his classmates effortlessly and with an enthusiasm that is contagious. His teachers speak highly of him as a ‘well-rounded’ student and his peers often look to him for support and guidance, which he is always willing to give freely. He is a kind and caring individual, working hard to make those around him feel welcome in their school and their community. Ms. Garraway has taught Zach in French Immersion for the last two years and s\is pleased to have the opportunity to highlight his many successes.

Zach is an exceptional student not only in his academics, but also in his comportment. Zach’s report card for the most recent reporting period was incredible. He achieved an ‘A’ in all of his courses and above 95% in seven classes. His teachers all appreciate his willingness to ask questions and delve into the subject matter on a variety of different levels. It is no easy feat to maintain grades such as these, especially considering Zach has a very busy schedule playing hockey outside of school as well. Zach has the ability to converse and work with anyone and everyone, finding something in common with any student in the classroom. He works very hard to ensure that he submits work of the highest quality in all of his classes and has a genuine passion for learning that inspires others to foster a curiosity within themselves.

Zach’s athletic prowess is not to be ignored in this nomination. Zach has played hockey at a very competitive level for many years, even travelling with his team as far at St John’s to the provincial championships this past Spring Break. His commitment to the sport of hockey and to his team exemplifies his dedication. He dedicates many hours to practice, to travel and to game play, yet he still manages to arrive to school every day with his work completed at a high quality and excited to learn.

Zach is well known for his creativity and sense of humour both in and out of the classroom. At any given moment, he is sure to be cracking a joke with his teammates, his classmates, even when giving a presentation in French.

Aside from his natural athletic talent, Zach is also a natural leader and deserves to be recognized as such. His positive attitude and genuine charisma contribute to make the school and his community a better place.

We have no doubt that we will continue to celebrate Zach’s success as he influences the Oak Bay community and the world with his kindness and leadership.

Leo Mohsenzadeh-Green – Monterey Middle School

Leo Mohsenzadeh-Green

Teachers Matthew Heim and Sarah Wilson wanted to nominate Leo Mohsenzadeh-Green as a Young Exceptional Star in the overcoming obstacles category. Leo is a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has several learning disabilities. He is also a young trans man, having come out only last year to his classmates and his school community. However, none of these labels come even close to describing who Leo is.

Leo is an exceptional star in every sense of the word. Middle school, and perhaps grade 8 in particular, is a very difficult and confusing time for most children, but Leo doesn’t let this get him down. He comes to school every day, ready to learn and always tries his best with any learning task given to him, no matter how difficult it may seem.

This year Leo has become an active member of Montery’s school’s Youth Creating Inclusion Club. Focusing on how to create a welcoming environment for everyone, Leo is quick to offer insightful ideas, kind words, and a warmth that is unparalleled in most youth his age. He is a self-appointed recruiter for the club, regularly corralling new members: students he notices are feeling isolated or left-out within the greater school community. Leo is also a participant in the Trans Tipping Point Project, where he and other trans youth collaborate to write a book for publishing, with a focus on narratives of positivity and hope. Leo’s participation in this project perfectly encompasses who he is as a person: committed to expressing his genuine outlook of optimism and love of engaging with others, while refusing to allow his learning disabilities to be a barrier for him.

As soon as Leo walks in the door each morning, the mood of the classroom brightens. He is the epitome of a friendly, polite and positive individual, and this is undoubtedly felt by the entire class. Students intuitively know that despite the many academic challenges and barriers that Leo has, his positive attitude and amazing work ethic make all the difference each and every day. His enthusiasm and positive attitude encourage others to embody the same invaluable traits. Leo is truly an infectious energy, wherever he goes. According to Mr. Heim and Ms Wilson, if there is anyone who deserves to be recognized as an exceptional star, they truly believe it is this young man.

We couldn’t agree more – congratulations Leo!

Rebecca Stone – Grade 7 – Christchurch Cathedral School

Rebecca Stone

One of the YES Award criteria states that the recipient has established themselves as the foundation of our hope for the future, and according to teacher James Rhodes from Christchurch Cathedral School, this personifies Rebecca Stone in every way.

Rebecca is a tremendously talented athlete, and she competes at the highest level in every sport she participates in. Her natural athletic ability is so impressive, not only because of the level she achieves, but also that it is in every sport offered at the school and in the community. Rebecca is the perfect example of a leader, because she talks to those around her making sure they are included and excelling.

Rebecca’s leadership qualities might only be trumped by her determination and desire to be successful and reach her goals. To see this within the classroom and her studies is one thing, but to see it on the court or field is truly astounding, there is nothing that can get in her way when she puts her mind to it. On top of that, to see her need to have her friends and teammates succeed with her is inspiring, and knowing that this 12 year old girl has that much compassion and respect for those around her makes us believe that she is a leader of tomorrow.

Within the classroom Rebecca has also established herself as a reliable, organized, and highly effective student. Her achievement in each subject is superb. Rebecca is always eager to participate in all classroom discussion and is the ideal partner for group work., Most recently she headlined a classroom project that created clay animals that were sold to the students at the school with all the profits going towards the SPCA, from which they raised over 500 dollars!

Point blank Rebecca Stone needs to be recognized for the amazing things she is doing at Christ Church Cathedral School and within the community. She always strives to be her very best, but is humble and respectful to the students and teachers around her, when it could be easy for her successes to go to her head at this age. Rebecca is always looking for the next challenge, or something to put her energy into that can help others around her.

Rebecca deserves to be recognized for what she does to make the world a better place, and for that reason we are thrilled to be presenting her with a 2018 Young Exceptional Star Award!

Lachlan Stewart – Ecole Victor-Brodeur

Lachlan Stewart

Lachlan Stewart has excelled academically since he arrived at l’école Victor-Brodeur in Grade 6. This year, in Grade 10, Lachlan has a full course load and has earned an outstanding average in the high 90’s. (not to mention getting 100% in Science 10 and Math 9). Needless to say Lachlan won the school-wide mathematics contests, the Gauss and Pascal, in Grades 8 and 9 respectively. Nominator Sophie Verrier considers Lachlan an incredibly committed student with world-changing aspirations and strong. Since he was 13 years old, he has been working towards the Evans Caddie Scholarship at the Victoria Golf Club in the hopes of studying engineering at the University of Colorado after completing High School. He was recently accepted to UVic’s HighTechU Academy, a 6-week intensive coding initiative for Victoria high school students to develop in-demand skills to become the innovators of tomorrow.

Lachlan is appreciated by his teachers and peers alike for his calm and respectful manner. He is a positive leader and participates in many school and community activities. He was voted as a student representative on the “Comité des partenaires” (Partners Committee) and as such votes on the school budget, and proposes and executes projects on behalf of the student body, amongst other roles. Also, as a volunteer for the school Emergency Preparedness Committee, Lachlan helps catalogue the inventory and organize the school’s two storage containers. He is also an invaluable volunteer in the school’s hot lunch program, where he supervises young students and assists however is needed usually twice a week. Lachlan is a long-standing member of the HALT to poverty committee and has helped fundraise and raise awareness about poverty in Victoria for the past two years. One project involved raising enough money to buy over 85 pounds of supplies and food for a local charity, the Mustard Seed.

Lachlan participates in Track and Field; last year, he won the city championship for javelin. He was also selected to be part of “La Grande Traversée” cycling team and trained throughout the year for a 420km trip over the course of four days. Lachlan actively plays at a high level in soccer; he is goal keeper for the Bay’s United U16 VIPL Team. His team will be going to the provincial championship in July 2018. As an avid soccer player, he was keen to train his sister’s soccer team as Assistant Coach for the past two years.

Lachlan is a well-rounded individual who gives back in so many ways and who we feel is very deserving of a YES Award this year!

Talia Pike – Grade 7 – St. Michaels University School

Talie Pike

As you know, the YES awards recognize those young people who have distinguished themselves in such areas as volunteerism, arts, citizenship, academics, and athletics. According to her teacher Melinda Maclean, Talia Pike – grade 7 student at St. Michaels University School – has distinguished herself in not just one or two of these areas but in all of them, both within her school community and Oak Bay.

Talia fills her time at school and home with a variety of activities covering her many interests. In the area of Service and Leadership she is a member of the Student Council and the Eco-Warriors Club. She also gives her time to enhance chapel services with her musicianship. Talia attended the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) conference during the second term. Not only that but she also serves as an umpire for the Carnarvon Baseball League in Oak Bay.

The production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the McPherson Theatre would not have been such a success without the hard work and talent shown by the main character, Talia, as Charlie. She worked tirelessly to perfect the role while remaining a grounded member of the cast.

Talia was the lead violin for the SMUS strings orchestra and a member and soloist with the SMUS Children’s Choir and her art work was selected for display at The ISA Art Exhibition.

Talia is an exceptional and passionate athlete. She participates at every opportunity playing basketball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, track and field as well as girls and boys rugby. As a grade seven student playing on the grade seven/eight team she is ready to take on a full leadership role next year, the team having won the Victoria, Sooke, Saanich Basketball League this year. She also somehow finds time to play for the Bays Gold Soccer Team, being their main goalie.

Talia’s interests and activities are not limited to the arts and athletics but also include the Regional Lego Robotics and the Regional World Scholars Cup. Academics are important to Talia as demonstrated by her straight ‘A’ standing and academic awards of either Outstanding Contribution or Distinction in every subject. Her talent for languages is demonstrated by her First Place Finish in the Regional Competition in Concours d’Art Oratoire.

These highlights give you a sense of the amazing young person Talia is but to demonstrate that she is exceptional she not only achieved the Honour Roll but was awarded Middle School All Around Achievement Award, Middle School Athletics Award, Middle School Citizenship Award, Middle School Fine Arts Award and Middle School Leadership Award. And now – we are very proud to award you with a much deserved Young Exceptional Star award – congratulations Talia!!

Reed Greenwood – Grade 7 – Monterey Middle School

Reed Greenwood

Mark Brown, grade 7 teacher at Monterey Middle School felt very strongly about nominating this next recipient for a Young Exceptional Star Award. In his letter he said – “If there is any doubt that losing a parent is an enormous obstacle, please take it from me: when my dad died I felt like my life had become suddenly older.” He goes on to say that Reed Greenwood is a student at Monterey school, in his classroom, who lost her father over the Christmas break—with very public news coverage.

According to Mr. Brown, Reed has shown admirable resilience in overcoming this colossal obstacle. Not surprisingly, she missed the first few weeks of the second term in January; but when she returned to school, she immediately applied herself to her studies and diligently got up to date.

Reed has also worked very hard on keeping up her friendships and has shown strength and an extremely positive attitude. Mr. Brown says he is astounded at the ‘bounce-back-ability’ of kids when he see’s Reed going about the business of being a successful middle schooler.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to deal with this type of situation, but Reed has found the strength and courage to move forward and maintain a sense of normalcy in her life.

Reed – it’s not hard to see that you are surrounded by people who love and support you. You truly have had to overcome an obstacle that most of us could never imagine handling and you have done it with resilience and determination.

The YES Awards Committee feels very strongly that Reed is an excellent candidate for a Young Exceptional Star Award.

Lily Cave– Grade 8 – Monterey Middle School

Lily Cave

In the 9 years that Josh Elsdon has been nominating students for YES awards, never before has the word ‘Star” applied to a student more than it does in this nomination. He says that this might be the first time you read the name Lily Cave, but he has a suspicion it will not be the last. She is a true ‘triple threat’ who, at the tender age of 13, already has some weighty credits on her performing arts resume.

Most recently, Lily starred as ‘Mettye’ in the Belfry Theatre’s poignant, intense production of “The Children’s Republic”. The reviews of Lily’s performance speak for themselves: Monday Magazine said “Mettye, the impulsive pre-adolescent, is beautifully handled by Lily Cave; and her voice is strong even when she is not using a microphone.” The Times Colonist’s Michael D. Reid said: “Lily Cave, who gets to briefly showcase her singing talent, is a standout as Mettye, exuding a combination of pluckiness and maternal instincts that emerge once she reluctantly welcomes a new arrival — a frail, malnourished young violin prodigy given a nicely understated performance by Sophia Irene Coopman. Cave’s sharp-tongued humour is another plus.”

Lily’s talents extend beyond the stage. She starred as the lead in award winning director Arnold Lim’s film, The Blood Line. She is also an accomplished vocalist, winning multiple awards and being selected to sing the Canadian national anthem at many Victoria Royals and Vancouver Canucks hockey games.

A full account of Lily’s acting, dance, and singing achievements would take all day to write out – these are simply some highlights. However, Lily’s remarkable achievements have not gone to her head. She is down to earth, kind, and incredibly hard working at school, maintaining outstanding grades in all subjects. She is the first person to help a struggling peer, quick to offer an encouraging, positive word, and takes on extra service duties as a member of our school’s Leadership Program.

Mr. Elsdon believes Lily is truly a young, exceptional star. He feels her talent, tenacity, and tenderness are a rare combination, and are a great credit to Monterey school and our community. When, years from now, Lily receives her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Mr. Elsdon pictures her taking her award back to her home after the ceremony. Her recognition, sitting proudly on her mantle, will shine all the brighter as it will sit next to another star -the Oak Bay Y.E.S. Award!

Congratulations Lily – and we hope the two awards will look good together as well!!

John Horwood – Grade 9 – Oak Bay High School

John Horwood

Jonathan or John Horwood is in grade nine at Oak Bay High School. Sally Murphy is his choir teacher and has actually known him since he was a baby! Ms. Murphy says that throughout the years she have known him, she has consistently been impressed with his outstanding level of excellence and achievement in music and sports. In addition, he is mature beyond his years in his thoughtful, kind and respectful attitude to everyone with whom he interacts. Above all, he loves to help others through his many volunteer activities in music and sports. In spite of his many achievements, John is never boastful or cocky – he works hard to be the best he can be and genuinely celebrates the achievements of others.

At Oak Bay High School, John sings in concert choir and junior vocal jazz. He has a beautiful, clear voice and is regularly chosen for solos. A versatile and gifted musician, he plays trombone in concert band and junior jazz band and plays guitar in the rhythm section for the Oak Bay Senior Vocal Jazz ensemble. He is also an important member of Island Ukuleles, the district wide ukulele program that meets at Oak Bay on Monday evenings.

In school sports this year, John has participated in cross-country, junior volleyball, grade 9 junior basketball and the ski team. He went to provincials with both cross-country and the ski team. Academically, in spite of a very busy schedule, John is able to maintain an “A” average!

Outside of school, John has distinguished himself both in sports and in music. Although he participates in a wide variety of community-based sports, he has achieved exceptional recognition in water-skiing and figure skating. In water-skiing he received 3 gold medals at the last BC Summer Games and also attended the 2017 CanAm 2016 and PanAm games.

Giving back to others is very important to John. With Island Ukuleles he is a lead teacher with “Little Ukers” (kindergarten and grade 1 students) and he is also a volunteer in the Rainbow Room (preschool age) at Sunday School. With the Racquet Club Figure Skating Club he volunteers with the program “Can Skate” where he loves to give back to others by helping children improve their skating skills.

One of John’s most exciting achievements occurred just recently. Blessed with a beautiful boy soprano voice, John is also an exceptionally talented musician. Bramwell Tovey, conductor of the Vancouver Symphony, selected him as the boy soprano soloist for the Vancouver Symphony’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”. In a few short weeks, John learned a long difficult solo in Hebrew and on March 17, he performed with the symphony at the Orpheum to a packed house. The audience loved his beautiful voice and his heart-felt, musical performance.

John is a very deserving recipient of a Y.E.S. award. He is an excellent example of an Oak Bay High student who has achieved an outstanding level of excellence in music and sports and generously gives back to his community in many significant ways.

Tessa Jones – Grade 10 –Oak Bay High School

Tessa Jones

As a teacher at Oak Bay Secondary School, Brent Garraway has had the opportunity to instruct and observe Tessa since September 2016. Mr. Garraway says he has been very fortunate to have taught Tessa in Social Studies as well as travelling with Tessa as a member of Oak Bay Live Different 2018, where thirty-six students and two teacher sponsors traveled to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico for eight days of humanitarian work

As a student at Oak Bay, Tessa has constantly strived for the success of both her peers and self. In the classroom, she has managed honours with distinction every year at Oak Bay High School. She is currently achieving an outstanding 96% average, with 99% in Pre-Calculus 10. Tessa also displays the innate ability to socially interact with a very large range of personalities within the classroom setting. These interpersonal skills have also helped Tessa achieve success as a leader within the school, which is rare for a grade ten student.

Last year, Tessa became a successful applicant for the Oak Bay Live Different trip to Mexico. It says something special about a student who is willing to fundraise for an entire year, leave her family and friends throughout Spring Break, and pay a large amount of money in order to complete manual labour in Mexico for eight days. The students become a second family while they are away and they are each required to perform a level of leadership and maturity that is well beyond their years.

Through her local volunteering activities such as Cops for Cancer, math tutoring, providing Christmas Hampers for local families, beach clean-ups with the Surfrider Foundation, and working alongside homeless individuals at Woodwynn Farms, Tessa has continually demonstrated a very high level of empathy and maturity, but Live Different really helped her realize the difference she can make on a global scale.

There are very few individuals that have the drive and determination to work all of these activities into their schedule. Some may try, but not with the devotion that Tessa shows. If she is putting her name to something, then she likes to do it to the best of her ability, whether she will receive any recognition for it or not. To Tessa, the goal is not the reward at the end of each activity, but rather the experience of each endeavor and the experience she is able to acquire throughout each volunteering and educational adventure.

Tessa is an energetic individual who displays an obvious interest in working and interacting with people. Mr. Garraway says he has full confidence that she will be successful in whichever endeavor she chooses to undertake and that she is definitely worthy of a 2018 Y.E.S Award. We agree! Congrats Tessa!!

Lidya Townsend – Grade 8 – Monterey Middle School

Lidya Townsend

Lidya Townsend is our last award recipient of the evening. According to Sabrina Niesman, her teacher at Monterey Middle School, Lidya is a student deserving of particular recognition because she is an outstanding member of our school and the Oak Bay community in every way.

Lidya was adopted from Ethiopia at three years of age. She left everything and everyone she knew and loved and came to a new family in a new country, where she had to learn an entirely new language while adjusting to the huge changes in her life. However, due to the qualities discussed below, Lidya has largely been able to overcome these challenges.

Lidya has learning challenges in mathematics and language arts that she must navigate and overcome on a daily basis. She does this with her tenacity for excellence, her superior work ethic, and her resiliency in the face of challenges. Lidya simply never gives up. The result is a hard-earned level of high academic success. For Lidya, there is always room for further growth and improvement. She is one of those rare students who at such a young age is able to take feedback and immediately apply it to improve. This is largely why she is so successful in everything she does.

Lidya is a strong athlete who participates in numerous sports at Monterey Middle School and within the Oak Bay community. In particular, she is most passionate about soccer. I look forward to the summaries of her weekend matches every Monday. Her peers always speak about what a valuable, reliable, and great teammate she is. This act of unprompted praise and support she receives from her peers speaks to the strength of her abilities as an athlete and as a team member.

In the classroom she is kind, patient, and always willing to help out a peer. Despite her own academic difficulties, she always makes time for any peers that may be struggling.

Lidya is always one of the first students to ask for help and one of the first students to offer help in return. She is honest and acts with great integrity. In many ways, Lidya is mature beyond her years in regards to how she conducts herself and how she treats others.

In her nomination letter, Ms. Niesman wrote “It is rare for a teacher to meet a student with so much maturity at such a young age – I hope the selection committee will consider Lidya as a recipient of a YES Award this year.


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