Oakville youths recognized with leadership award

Peter Gilgan, centre, presents YMCA youth leaders Nicolas Lehman, Soma Jawed, Sarah Carpenter, Claire Wilkinson and Sean Williams with the Peter Gilgan Leadership Award.


Dedication, passion and commitment — these are just a few of the qualities that define the leadership shown by this year’s recipients of the Peter Gilgan Leadership Award.

Five YMCA of Oakville youth volunteers and employees were honoured last week for their notable contributions to the Y and the community that have impacted the lives of others.

Funded through the Peter Gilgan Foundation, bursaries valued at $4,000 each were given out to assist the youth with their post-secondary education.

“It’s so important to invest in the future of our youth, to help them find their voice and nurture their potential so they grow into strong leaders — the kind of leaders that strengthen our communities and make our world a better place to live,” said Kyle Barber, YMCA of Oakville president and CEO.

“Each recipient has demonstrated true passion and commitment to making an impact on the lives of those around them.”

This year’s bursaries were awarded to Sarah Carpenter, Sean Williams, Soma Jawed, Nicolas Lehman and Claire Wilkinson.

Williams’ selection as a recipient of the award follows his sister, Faye, who was a winner in 2011.

While he’s been volunteering at the Y for five years, Williams said he has been a part of the group since his family immigrated to Canada from England in 1998.

“I am very happy I was awarded this. I was actually working at the Y when they told me. I was really excited. I was very happy that (my sister and I) could both share this together. I’m flattered,” said Williams.

Currently a full-time camp counsellor, the 18-year-old joined the Y because it provides a “fantastic platform,” Williams said, which helps to “figure out who you are and meet new people.

“I loved the volunteering work I did, wholeheartedly. Working to benefit the community, apart from your own personal advantage, is what you’re here to do, especially as volunteers,” said Williams, who will use the money to pay for tuition at the University of Windsor where he hopes to get his Bachelor of Fine Arts starting this fall.

Lehman volunteered for four years with the Y before joining the organization full time in 2011 as a lead lifeguard and swim instructor.

When he was nine, Lehman took swimming lessons through a Town program, but failed to progress after a few attempts.

When he joined the Y that year, he quickly learned the necessary skills to move ahead, the 19-year-old said, noting his instructors were “very friendly, very helpful and very passionate about swimming.”

At 13, he started helping instructors with swim lessons as a volunteer.

“I started moving up again in the levels. I kind of regained a passion for swimming,” said Lehman, who is currently taking computer engineering at McMaster University.

“It was never my intention to be recognized for working at the Y, I just really like helping the kids and working at the pool, teaching first aid. It’s very much appreciated though.”

Since the inception of the Peter Gilgan Leadership Award in 2011, the accolade has been given out to 17 youths.

Selection committee and volunteer board member Peter Kolisnyk noted the Y received 15 applications for this year’s bursary.

Applicants were assigned a score based on their achievements and activities at the YMCA and in the community, their impact, area of study and their future career goals.

“Every one of these recipients should be very proud of their accomplishments. The YMCA, and our community, is a better place to be because of the incredible dedication and leadership of these young leaders,” said Kolisnyk.

Carpenter, 17, an active volunteer and staff member in the Y’s Youth Leader Corps program for three years, said her dream is to “show children, teenagers and adults that being outdoors is the best way to be active, healthy, and have fun.”

She hopes to run a camp that offers courses for all ages, focusing on activities such as camping, rock-climbing, survival skills and canoeing.

“It is because of how these skills were learned that I’ve become very dedicated to the YMCA, its staff, members and the Strong Kids campaign.

“In the future, I hope to remain just as dedicated to the Y as I am now,” said Carpenter.

For more information, visit www.ymcaofoakville.com.


Source: Inside Halton

Date: August 21, 2014