Oak Bay honours amazing local youth

YES (Young Exceptional Star) awards to recognize youth celebrates a decade

To celebrate the youth winners of the Young Exceptional Star Awards, Coun. Hazel Braithwaite crafted a descriptive speech for each winner. Meet the winners here:

Nami Dupain – Grade 10 – Ecole Victor Brodeur

It was with great pleasure that Guidance Counsellor Danièle Riendeau nominated Victor-Brodeur grade 10 student, Nami Dupain, for the District of Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star Award.

During her 11 years of schooling at Victor-Brodeur, Nami has demonstrated exceptional qualities. Her leadership within the school and the community is remarkable and is a talented athlete.

Like all students at Victor-Brodeur, Nami is studying in both of Canada’s official languages: French and English. Her grades are excellent. Japanese being part of her maternal heritage, she is also fluent in that language, making her trilingual. She also shows interest in studying German and Spanish. For the past two years, she has represented her school at the provincial public speaking contest “Art Oratoire” organized by Parents for French Association.

This year, with her sensitivity towards women’s condition across the world and the increase of acts of terrorism on the planet, her presentation will be comparing the concepts of dogmatic religion versus natural religion.

Nami is also very artistic. Since a very young age, she has been a student at Arabesque Dance Studio. She also plays bass and piano. She does Japanese calligraphy and has participated in a National contest in Toronto. Badminton is also one of her many interests and has created a badminton club at school for grade 8-10 students.

Finally, Nami volunteers actively within her community. Each year, along with the dance company she belongs, she performs for the Oak Bay Lodge residents. In 2016, she helped younger students at the Arabesque Dance Studio to prepare themselves for their exams and their representation. In addition, three times a week, since September, she has been training members of the school’s badminton team. Next year, she would like to volunteer at Jubilee hospital or the Cancer Center. She will also, along with her schoolmates, volunteer at Our Place.

Next year, Nami will be undertaking studies within the International Baccalaureate. Her ambition is to go study in Japan and to always promote tolerance and temperance, such great Canadian values.

Emmett Hodgins – Grade 10 – Oak Bay High School

Emmett Hodgins is a grade 10 student with an “A” average and in the honours’ science program. According to teacher Tina Horwood, Emmett is one of the most talented junior students that she has ever taught. He is an all-round performer, singer, instrumentalist and musician. He has a natural confidence and is 100% a team player.

Emmett is actively involved in every aspect of the Oak Bay music program. He sings in concert choir, chamber choir and senior vocal jazz. Emmett regularly has solos in all ensembles he sings in, including the award-winning Mens’ Choir. Not only is he an outstanding performer, but he provides tremendous service to the choral program by being the piano player for the intermediate vocal jazz group. Emmett has phenomenal improvisational skills, both vocally and instrumentally.

In addition to school-sponsored events, Emmett has been performing in the community at local retirement homes, schools and care facilities for the past two years. He has also been involved with a larger international community by performing at retirement homes, schools, and community centre’s while on concert tours to New York City and Cuba.

When not busy with choir rehearsals and performances, Emmett is equally dedicated to the instrumental music program. He is a percussionist in the Intermediate Concert Band and the bass player for the Rhythm and Blues Band. Where Emmett really stands out is in Jazz Band, where he plays piano, bass or drums depending on the needs of the group. Remarkably Emmett also participates in the school orchestra and strings’ program where he plays the upright string bass.

Emmett has a naturally beautiful voice and brought the house down every night during this year’s senior musical production “Legally Blonde”. It is a rare accomplishment for a grade 10 student to have a lead role in the senior show. In spite of such incredible natural talent, Emmett continually works to improve his skills to become a better musician. He is genuine in his support and encouragement of others, and celebrates others’ successes. Emmett’s contribution to Oak Bay High School reaches beyond the Fine Arts into the athletics where he actively participates in both the cross country and track and field programs. Emmett was also the goalie for the Oak Bay Junior Boys Soccer Team.

In the community, he is the pianist for the BC Fiddle Orchestra, goalkeeper for one of the Bays United teams and shortstop for Carnarvon Midget AA baseball. In the little spare time he has, Emmett enjoys being a youth referee for Bays United and a youth ump for the National Little League. When not busy with music or sports, Emmett happily makes a difference in other ways by volunteering in the community. This includes cooking for “Out of Rain” Youth Shelter and assisting with “Grandmothers for Africa” charity event.

Emmett is an excellent example of an Oak Bay High student who gives back to his community and inspires others to do the same. He is truly a deserving recipient of a 2017 Y.E.S. award.

Caroline Palfy – Grade 7 – Monterey Middle School

Norah Reksten nominated Caroline Palfy for a YES Award as she represents some of the ideals and values that are so important to the youth of our time.

Caroline is an admired and respected member of her grade 7 Class at Monterey Middle School as well as her Oak Bay community. Caroline has been involved with the Oak Bay Figure Skating Club for a number of years and has competed on the local and regional stage. She is also an exceptional dancer and won a place in the Arts Umbrella Summer Intensive Dance Program to be held in Vancouver this summer. Despite her dedication to her extra-curricular activities, Caroline is a conscientious student who always works hard at her assigments and studies.

In addition to all of her commitments both within school and beyond, Caroline took it upon herself to work with a classmate to lead lessons to her class in American Sign Language culminating in her offering assessments of students’ ASL skits. She expressed how she developed an interest in American Sign Language and decided to teach herself how to speak it and her passion was contagious.

In spite of this busy lifestyle, balancing all of her activities, Caroline is always positive and enthusiastic. She is obviously a talented young woman, however she is incredibly humble, caring and inclusive of other peoples abilities.

Ms. Reksten truly feels that Caroline exemplifies the qualities of a well-balanced, thoughtful and committed young woman who stands as an excellent role model and representative for youth today.

Meghan Lancaster – Grade 10 – Oak Bay High School

Teacher’s Sally Murphy and Tina Horwood recommended Grade 10 student Meghan Lancaster as a worthy recipient of a Y.E.S. Award in the Arts and Community Service/Citizenship category. Meghan is her student in two of the concert choirs that she teaches at Oak Bay Secondary.

Meghan is truly an outstanding young woman. Not only is she a member of concert choir both inside and outside of the timetable, she is also in Jazz-à-Latté, the intermediate vocal jazz group. Additionally, she is a member of concert band and jazz band and this year she successfully auditioned for the school musical where she was a solid member of the chorus. She has a lovely voice and she is a strong musician.

What really sets Meghan apart is her friendly, positive attitude and her willingness to help others in whatever way that she can. In the timetable concert choir Meghan regularly helps to lead warm-up and group activities – not an easy thing for a grade 10 to do! Additionally, she also assists Tina Horwood with the junior vocal jazz group.

In Junior Concert Choir, Meghan is one of two music librarians and she cheerfully helps to keep music organized. She is a natural leader and students enjoy her outgoing personality and warm encouragement. Meghan is also remarkable in her work ethic. She constantly strives to be the best that she can be and never stops working to improve her skills, all the while helping and encouraging others to achieve their best.

Meghan is an intelligent and perceptive human being. Her ability to apply herself diligently to study, coupled with a dedication to excellence has produced high academic, musical, and personal results. Meghan is at all times truthful, frank, cooperative, and is highly respected by her classmates and teachers. She contributes to the spirit of the Oak Bay High Choral Program by exhibiting a positive attitude and a true love for music.

She is a valuable musician, demonstrating determination and responsibility at all times. She embodies all of the qualities that the award exemplifies and in spite of an extremely busy schedule, she is also an outstanding academic student!

Her teachers said that it was with great pleasure that she highly recommend Meghan as a young woman who brings insight, maturity and positive leadership to everything she does.

Grace Thomas – Grade 10 – Oak Bay High School

Grade 10 Oak Bay High Student Grace Thomas is a spectacular young woman. According to her nominator, teacher Nichelle Soetaert, among many other outstanding qualities, she is caring, generous, thoughtful, dedicated and welcoming to all those around her. Ms. Soetaert has had the distinct and genuine pleasure of teaching Grace for the last two years, and she continues to be impressed by the aura of kindness that she exudes. Her fellow classmates look to her for guidance and support, which she is always willing to give freely, and her teachers speak very highly of her winning positivity. She has emerged as a leader not only within the classroom and the school, but also in the Oak Bay Community, where she spends countless generous hours of her time.

Grace is a model student. Over the most recent reporting period, Grace achieved marks in the ninetieth percentile in eight of her classes. Impressively, she received 100% in two classes: Business Education and Drama. Given that Oak Bay High School follows a linear timetable, it is important to note that Grace must practice excellent time management skills in order to keep up to date on classwork and participate actively in school and community events. Maintaining ‘A’ grades is not always easy, yet Grace continues to challenge herself to excel academically, always with a lovely smile ready to share with her peers.

Grace gives a lot of time to the community. She has organized the Christmas Craft Fair at Central Middle School since Grade 6. Each year, she takes on more and more responsibility. Grace has been recently accepted at the Royal Jubilee Hospital as a volunteer, where she will without a doubt brighten the spirits of patients, visitors and staff. Grace has become deeply involved in her school community, helping to prepare for the arrival of the Tour de Rock riders for Cops for Cancer, participating in the 28 hour famine, and organizing costumes and make-up for the actors in this year’s school Musical production.

Wherever she is, and whatever she is doing, you can be sure that Grace will be working tirelessly to ensure that those around her feel welcome, supported and joyful. As a young grade ten student, Grace’s work ethic, community involvement, and kindness help her to stand apart as an excellent candidate for this award.

Another achievement for Grace this year is her acceptance to the Live Different program. The dedication and commitment required by this program is intensive, including a year and a half of preparation.

Chris Horwood – Grade 8 – Lansdowne Middle School

Catherine Beaulac nominated grade 8 Lansdowne Middle School student Chris Horwood for a YES Award because she feels he is an incredible active youth who exemplifies everything the award stands for.

He competes in several sports including waterskiing, figure skating and basketball. He has been on the Team BC for waterskiing for more than five years and last fall he competed in the Pan American waterskiing championships in Mexico and placed fifth.

Chris has been on Team BC for figure skating for the last two years, and won a bronze medal at the BC Winter Games last winter. He also volunteers twice a week teaching the CanSkate Program for the “Racquet Club of Victoria Figure Skating Club”.

He has been playing ukulele since kindergarten and currently plays with SD 61’s “Island Ukuleles” representing Victoria at the International Music and Ukelele Festivals. On Monday nights he volunteers at Island Ukulele – teaching the “Little Ukers” – who are kindergarten through grade 3 students – in a dynamic program through which older students mentor the younger ones and all give back to the community at large through concerts performed in senior’s homes, hospitals and community concerts. He is also heavily involved with the music program at Lansdowne, participating in the before school Firebirds band and the after school Jazz band and choir.

As a Late French Immersion student, Chris has had to work extra hard to learn the language over the past two years in order to be at the same level as the Early French Immersion students who have been in French since kindergarten. Chris has experienced some frustrations in this difficult process but he continued to persevere and as a result he has experienced wonderful success this year.

Chris comes from a family of very talented individuals. Two of his siblings have also won YES Awards, one in 2011 and one in 2012 – so he is definitely continuing on a great family tradition – the only question is are there more brothers or sisters who might be eligible for an award??

Hailey Gray – Grade 9 – Oak Bay High School

Mr. Garraway says that he has been very fortunate to have taught Hailey in her grade nine year at Oak Bay High School and now he will be working on a major humanitarian project with her for the next 10 months. She is an extremely driven young woman with a zest for life. She is extremely genuine with each and every one of her peers. Hailey also shows an amazing amount of maturity in everything she does.

One of Hailey’s greatest attributes is her empathy for others and her school and community involvement. She maintains an extremely busy schedule, but is always finding time to help out with as many projects as possible. In the last two years alone, Hailey has been a member of Oak Bay’s Community Leadership and Athletic Leadership classes; she has volunteered with the Victoria Harbourcats, Bays United Soccer, Mosquito A Baseball, and as a tutor at school; she also is finding time to work at Red Barn Market.

This seems busy enough to most of us, but Hailey is also a member of Live Different Oak Bay 2018. She will be fundraising and volunteering for 10 months leading into a ten day trip to build homes for impoverished families in Mexico. It takes quite the individual to be willing to give up her Spring Break in order to travel to a small little town and work manual labour in 30 degree heat! Hailey has already shown her willingness to do the extra little jobs that make a trip like this successful. She is well-liked by every member of the group, which is quite difficult in a group of 52 students. By the time they leave for this trip, Hailey will have helped fundraise over $35,000 and will have taken part in nine or ten community volunteering projects.

Athletics is also a massive part of what makes Hailey unique. While at Oak Bay, she has been a strong contributing member of the cross country, volleyball, and soccer programs. Mr. Garraway is definitely looking forward to having her as part of the senior girls’ soccer program throughout the next two years.

Hailey’s academic achievements are also quite exemplary. She is currently achieving a 95% average, while balancing an extremely hectic schedule. Her teachers are very complimentary of her work habits and classroom demeanor.

Hailey you truly are deserving of this award and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

Annika Little – Grade 7 – Monterey Middle School

Annika Little is a grade 7 Monterey Middle school student who has impressed her nominator, Lonn Friese on a number of fronts this year. She brings enthusiasm and passion to her studies and consistently exceeds expectations which has resulted in straight ‘A’’s this year.

She often goes above and beyond the call of duty. One small example of this was a project that she worked on this year. Annika actually created a fabulous stop motion video to accompany a chapter write she produced for English class. This took Annika countless hours and resulted in an impressive, entertaining and thoughtful product.

Annika is empathetic and a caring listener and is sought after for pretty much any activity that the class is involved in. She is a natural leader and is esteemed by her peers. She is also an enthusiastic participant in numerous extra-curricular activities such as field hockey, soccer, V8, band and jazz band.

In addition to all of the above significant accomplishments, we have been perhaps most impressed with the positive attitude that she brings to every situation. Annika has struggled this year with a health condition that would be difficult for any person. She has endured numerous hospital visits, ongoing medical care, and associated school absences. Despite these challenges, Annika has maintained an impressive dedication to her academic work, and has brought a maturity of perspective to her situation beyond her years.

Liam Carter-Sullivan – Grade 10 – Oak Bay High School

As a teacher at Oak Bay Secondary School, Brent Garraway has had the opportunity to work with Grade 10 student Liam Carter-Sullivan in preparing for a major humanitarian project, as well as observing his high level of sport participation within the school. He has watched Liam treat every individual as someone he respects as an equal throughout the last two years at Oak Bay High School.

Mr. Garraway goes on to say that he’s been lucky enough to work with many students outside of the classroom, through sports and volunteer activities, and he says that he is always impressed with those that have that extra desire to excel and to work at a rate higher than most in order to achieve their chosen goals. Liam is definitely one of those students. Liam is currently playing a major role in organizing and fundraising for Oak Bay High School’s Live Different trip during spring Break 2018. He is one of thirty-eight Oak Bay students selected for the trip and he is helping raise over $25,000 prior to the trip in order to help pay for the construction of two homes in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico. It is easy to see that Liam has a strong level of empathy and is ready to help anyone whenever he can. He is one of only 12 males that have been selected for the trip and it is amazing to see the effort he has already put forth to bond with each and every member.

Liam is a very dedicated student. He is hoping to take a bigger role in his senior years at Oak Bay High with the Cops for Cancer and Best Buddies programs. This will be a perfect niche for someone with his personality.

Liam was also a valuable member of the Oak Bay Junior Boy’s Soccer Team. His coach, Koji Zolbrod, speaks very highly of his effort throughout the entire season. Liam was forced to deal with a few injuries during the season, but his support for his teammates never wavered. He also plays soccer in the community and is a major contributor to his league team. His Oak Bay U-16 Gold team was playing to qualify for the Provincial Championships.

According to Mr. Garraway, Liam is genuine, hard-working, empathetic, and what he believe is an excellent candidate for the YES Awards. He never acts a certain way to try to get others to like him more. He is who he is, and Mr. Garraway was very proud to recommend Liam for this award.

Esme Johnson– Grade 8 – Monterey Middle School

Grade 8 Monterey Middle School student Esme Johnson is a quiet force. She excels at writing, advocating for herself, altruism, and observing human nature. Esme also excels in academics earning mostly A’s on her report cards. Her one B, incidentally, was in French, which is also pretty astounding considering she just moved here from California last year! Her teacher, Amei Mai was very excited when this relatively “new” students handed in assignments that exceeded expectations in depth and detail.

Ms. Mai says that Esme is profoundly aware of the effect her learning will have on herself and the world around her. She always takes her learning one step further and delves deeper into issues, and ponders why she learns certain concepts and how can she use them for the greater good. She comes by her interest in social action and the environment honestly. Recently Esme went to Australia, for example, to help promote her mom’s children’s book called Wild Ideas, a picture book “that looks deep into the forests, skies, and oceans to explore how animals solve problems.”

Esme is also a well-rounded musical and creative student. She’s in Monterey’s Band, Jazz Band and Strings where she plays the bass clarinet in Band and Jazz Band, and plays the double bass in Strings. She is also part of the opera club.

While she is keenly aware of what is going on around her (in the class, school, and globally), Esme is an excellent advocate for herself. While I’m singing her praises here, Esme has her own challenges – which she meets head on, quietly and humbly.

Certainly, she demonstrates daily that a positive attitude, a keen sense of curiosity, and a strong sense of self are true markers of a young star in our school and community.

Cameron Mears – Grade 9 – Oak Bay High School

According to his aunt, Anna Graham – Cameron is a star. Cameron has a neurofibromatosis (NF1), a genetic condition primarily known for causing tumors in the nervous system, but with many other effects. In addition to tumors, the disorder has manifested in Cameron with short stature and frequent migraines. He has had surgery to remove a tumor from his forehead and is facing another three-hour operation soon, but he does not let that slow him down. He plays hockey, soccer and paddles. He is not on elite teams, but he plays well. He brings passion to everything he does, and he gives his best.

This year his hockey teammates voted Cameron Most Valuable Player and his coaches named him Most Improved Player. It is his grit, determination and team playing that won him recognition. He is not a top scorer, but he makes the plays happen (and gets his share of goals, too). At the end of February Cameron seriously cut his knee. After the stitches came out the doctor told him to take another week off sports. Cameron was back on the ice in three days – there was no stopping him. He was not going to miss the playoffs.

With the end of the soccer and hockey seasons, Cameron has changed his focus to outrigger canoeing, a sport he first tried last summer. He will be training and racing through the spring and summer to prepare for Queen Lili (the world’s largest outrigger competition) in Hawaii at the end of August.

Cameron excels in science and math at Oak Bay High School and maintains high grades in all his courses. He is a member of the speech and debate team at Oak Bay and has competed in several tournaments and impressed the judges. He has also volunteered at events such as a Grandmothers for Africa dinner, Victoria Youth Paddling Club races, a Bays United soccer year-end celebration and setting up for a ballet.

The YES Awards committee recognized Cameron as an adventurous, gregarious and fun loving teen who overcomes obstacles to achieve his goals.

Julie Tolson – Grade 8 – Monterey Middle School

Teacher Josh Elsdon was very happy to nominate and write a letter of support for Grade 8 Monterey student, Julie Tolson. Mr. Elsdon feels that Julie is a remarkable young woman that has faced overwhelming obstacles.

Julie went into protective care at age 2, having witnessed to a very difficult home life with her biological family. By 4, Julie’s foster parents had gone through the process of adopting Julie and her 2 younger siblings. It looked like Julie’s life had taken a turn for the better – she had a supportive family and knew her younger siblings would have all the advantages she had gained through her adoption. In a cruel twist of fate, however, Julie’s adopted mother passed away from cancer when Julie was 9. Understandably, Julie was devastated and completely heartbroken. She was forced to grow up far too fast.

Despite these challenges, Julie has grown into an accomplished young woman with many talents. Her athletic ability is incredible – by 11, she had already earned her black belt in karate. The discipline, hard work, and concentration needed to achieve such a feat is hard to comprehend in a child of so few years.

Julie has also blossomed into an incredible writer. Her language arts teacher describes her work as “visceral and filled with incredibly authentic, raw emotion”. Julie also shows a heart for service at her school. Three times a week, Julie volunteers with the cooking class to help students with special needs participate in life skills.

Many strong, resilient people would crumble if they had to face a fraction of the hardships that Julie has endured. Still, she endures. Many people would close their hearts off to a world that had taken so much. Still, she loves. Many people would consider survival to be all that they could hope for. Still, she thrives.

Julie embodies the qualities of an outstanding YES award winner. In Mr. Elsdon’s many years submitting nominations for this award, he says he has never known a more remarkable, resilient young woman or anyone more deserving of this honour.


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