Students committed to excellence serve as ‘inspiration’

The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) celebrated 16 students committed to excellence at its annual Celebrating Student Success ceremony.

“These 16 students have each had different paths to get here, however, they all share one thing and that is their commitment to excellence,” says Director of Education Bill Cober. “Their successes serve as inspiration for those who will follow them as the YRDSB students of the future.”

August Tam of Markham District High School is active with the school’s Gender Sexuality Association (CSA) Club. “He has shown great care in terms of what GSA represents and encouraging gender affirmation and helping others who learn who they are,” says teacher Linda Lam.

“Being able to help people and being able to provide that safe space and interact with people is really what motivates me to keep going with this club,” says August.

Olivia Wong, a student at Castlemore Public School in Markham, advocates for herself and other students, pitches ideas for the school’s Student Leadership Club, and does morning announcements. “My main motivation is that I want to create a space for myself and other people. I want a space where everyone can be themselves and be safe,” she says.

Teacher Mark Quan got to know Olivia in his art classes. “I realized she has a lot of leadership potential. She knows a lot about diversity, inclusion and equity,” he says. “If she saw a student that was suffering or wasn’t feeling well…(Olivia) would never hesitate to go and speak with them.”

Louis Zhang, a student at Amadale P.S. in Markham is a member of the school’s Gender and Sexual Alliance and says he enjoys fighting for LGBTQ rights. He plays on the volleyball team and participates in other sports, supports the school’s food bank program, and helps Multilingual Language Learners so they can better understand basic English. “He’s always making sure others feel comfortable in whatever space we’re in and he really just is someone that makes being here better,” says teacher Jenna McLaren.

Sara Rana, a student at Milliken Mills H.S. in Unionville, led a Magic Braiding Workshop through the school’s Inclusivity and Equity Club to raise awareness about the problems Indigenous Peoples in our community face. “Following the things I love and continuing to put work into things I love really motivates me,” she says.

“She is a risk taker without being reckless and what that allows her to do is do very big things without worrying so much and do it with efficiency and beauty,” Lillian Tu, assistant head of science, says of Sara.

Sonia Tan of Oscar Peterson P.S. in Stouffville is “a superstar student but also with humility and grace,” says teacher Susan Grant. Along with several classmates, she created Change the World (CTW) Club, which strives to make a difference to people in the community who might be struggling.

“CTW really opened my eyes to how fortunate we are to have what we have,” says Sonia. In the summer, she started refilling the food pantry across from the school for the Good Food Impact. “I was surprised at how many people used that food pantry. We also helped assemble kits for the homeless youth and pets.”

Grade 11 Stouffville District Secondary School student Alina Dharamshi is in her second year on student council and vice president of the school. “Through my role in student council, I have tried to foster school spirit and unity within my school and I think seeing the effects of that has definitely made me think that my time and dedication has been worth it,” she says.

“One word to describe Alina would be ‘dynamic,’” says teacher Lee-Ann Galati. “She is a true visionary and she is forceful in her approach to planning and executing and collaborating with her peers.”

A video and summary of each student’s accomplishments is available on the Board website.

Photo of 2024 Celebrating Student Success students at the Board’s annual dinner ceremony on May 1 courtesy of the York Region District School Board.

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