Recognizing the incredible accomplishments of Ottawa’s youth

Image Credit: CAYFO

Ruvini Godakandae is a long-time Ottawa resident with a background in broadcast journalism and e-publishing. She loves to find ways to express herself and stay active, primarily through dance, photography and alternative fitness. Her passion for event management and arts/culture align with her recent role as an official Ottawa Festivals insider.  You’ll often find her out and about discovering Ottawa’s many hidden gems and meeting some interesting and talented folks along the way. Some of her other passions include food, fashion and community involvement.

We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, a recent youth awards ceremony I attended taught me that the younger generation definitely has some “tricks” we should definitely try to learn.

We often hear about the Top 40 under 40, Community Builder and Y Women of Distinction Awards but it was great to discover a youth-focused gala highlighting the accomplishments of Ottawa’s own.

The Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards hosted by Child and Youth Friendly Ottawa (CAYFO) acknowledged an assortment of talented and compassionate youth aged 21 and younger with fellow youth entertainers and a showcase prior to the event with various youth including those who were not mentioned at the awards. What’s neat about this event is that it’s run by youth with supporter Max Keeping, the CAYFO co-founder. The annual event had all the makings of your typical gala with the exception of it running on time, as Keeping joked.

The ceremony honoured outstanding youth in eight categories: Young Entrepreneurship, Service and Caring, Arts and Culture, Youth and Technology, Young Athlete, Young Activist, Academic Perseverance, and Personal Courage.

The 2011 Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards took place on May 30th.

One of the entertainment highlights of the evening was a performance by up-and-coming pop singing sensation Alex Lacasse (deemed the next Bieber), serenading the audience at their tables with his popular singles “My Girl” and “Like This, Like That.”

Other notable performances included a young spoken word artist, a  and The Dandelion Dance Troupe who did a contemporary dance sharing powerful messages of embracing your uniqueness and staying true to yourself.

Twelve-year-old Kate Reeve and Grade 12 student Fahd Alhattab were the ceremony’s emcees cracking jokes about their age difference while us “slightly” older folks sat in our seats wondering what we had been doing at their age –  at least, I was. The occasional jokes referencing floppy disks and Doogie Howser had me in moments of nostalgia while my brother, a young entrepreneur award recipient, smirked reminding me of our age difference.

Speaking of Doogie Howser, this was the comparison given to Sathya Baskaran who received the Youth and Technology award. He was one of several people who had amazed me with his scientific innovations which included synthetic alternatives for knee replacement surgery he created at the age of 13- no biggie! To add to this, he has worked with the University of Ottawa presenting findings on spinal cord research, constructed a device for the Canadian Institute of the Blind, and has been a representative for an International Youth Science Forum in Australia.

Youth band playing at the Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards

Service and Caring award recipient, Grace Gendron, who at the age of 10, yes, that’s right – 10! – had the room in awe with her enthusiasm to help little girls in Africa with hand-sewn dresses and pillowcases. She spreads her passion for sewing at her school holding evening sewing classes with her grandmother (who couldn’t make it on account of her teaching karate). Her feelings of being fortunate and seeing the smiling faces of the girls who receive the dresses motivates this caring girl to carry on. If only some people decades older had this mindset.

Sashien Godakandae, Interactive Marketing Communications (Young Entrepreneur award recipient)

Ruth Okoro and Dylon Phillips touched the heartstrings of many people, including mine, with their stories of courage and perseverance.  Okoro who was an orphan, denied school and left in the care of an abusive uncle in Nigeria. She was later put in the Russian sex trade against her will managed to escape to Canada becoming an outstanding student. Phillips, who came from an abusive household was left to live with his grandparents and find ways to motivate himself to succeed in school. He shared some poignant words saying how there will always be people around to support you but if no,t one should look in the mirror and believe in themselves.

These are just a few of the people that inspired me to follow my own passions.

As I sat hearing all their stories, one message stood out: Youth are already leading the charge in making a difference in their community and their talent and ambition are not bounded by age. It’s the older generations that have to step up their game and provide opportunities to really let them shine.

To learn more about how to nominate someone, check out CAYFO’s Spirit Awards website.

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