2019 Winners of the Compassion in Action Contest!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Compassion In Action Contest.

Empowerment: Compassion in Action

Student Name School Board Title of Submission
Lalita Allard Vavatsikos LEARN Virtual Campus NFSB Family and Values
Nikolas Bartos Howard S. Billings High School NFSB A Nation built on Selflessness
Zackary Diabo Howard S. Billings High School NFSB A Group That Inspires Me: Def Leppard
Sophia Diaferia Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Rick Hansen
Jessica Dinelle Laurentian Regional High School SWLSB That One Teacher
Angelique Fartais Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Freida Kahlo, An Icon
Madeline Mallen Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Abigail Pascua Matte James Lyng High School EMSB Val Gendron
Ella Simpkin Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Girl Guides of Canada: How They Inspire Me
Sara Simpson Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Ellen DeGeneres
Carly Sinagra Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Portage
Melissa Young Vincent Massey Collegiate EMSB Helen Keller


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A Group That Inspires Me - Zack Diabo

A Group That Inspires Me

By Zack Diabo

What do you think of when somebody says “Rockstar”? What image comes to your mind?
Most people think of drug addicted womanizers who tour countries trashing hotel rooms and starting riots. Generally, the image is probably not a group of people who create organizations, auction off possessions in order to raise money for a cause, or attend charity events. The English hard rock band Def Leppard is one of those groups.

Since I was young I have been listening to 80’s rock music through my father. Because my
father liked them, I assumed they were always good people. I always assumed that musicians led normal lives like the rest of us and made music and toured in their free time. It never occurred to me that this was not the case and there were often morally questionable activities being practiced in the industry. Once I found out the truth, I had a rude awakening. I immediately thought the exact opposite of how I viewed these musicians before. I was a child around 11 or 12 years old, so the world was still black and white for me. I saw these artists as one entity, so if one did something bad, everybody else did it. Obviously, this is not the case and my opinion and view has evolved or else this would not have been written.

By the time I started listening to this type of music again, I had the means to do my own
research and form my own outlook. My then maturing self started to see differences in the
patterns and behaviours of each group in the industry. At first, I still only listened to the “clean” groups, but as I realized certain groups had their more “wild” members, I stopped this practice.

This brings me to Def Leppard. They are interesting because they seem more like a family or
brotherhood than a band. When their drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car crash in 1984,
they did not drop him and find a new drummer. They waited for him to recover, and helped him adapt to a custom-made drum kit with one arm. They then went on to make their most successful album yet, Hysteria. And then when their lead guitarist Steve Clark died, they kicked alcohol and drugs. A few of them also have become vegetarians, and they all work out to keep themselves healthy, well into their sixties.

To me this shows that they are musicians before rock stars. They also have sympathy and
emotions like their listeners. This makes them more than just another 80’s band for me.

Unlike other bands who would simply move on unaffected by misfortunes, Def Leppard
learns and adapts from traumatic experiences, helping each other as a family would. This forms a bridge between them and myself, as I am still against drugs, and would live a more “conservative” style as they do now if I was at their level of fame.

One of the reasons Def Leppard stands out in my eyes is because of all of the charity events
and organizations they have been involved in. These include things like soccer matches, charity auctions, and large donations to organizations. They were also slated to perform at Live Aid in 1985, but did not want to find a replacement for their drummer Rick Allen who was still recovering from his car accident. This led to them being unable to perform, but they made up for it by playing in the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992, as well as Live 8 in 2005. Def Leppard inspires me because they are among the most famous rock bands of the 80’s, yet do so much to help others across the world from Europe to North America.

To conclude, Def Leppard inspires me because they lead the life that I dream of. They have
been making music as their job since they were around my age (16) until now, when they are
into their sixties. They made millions off of their dreams and lived the high life while engaging in philanthropy. When I have a bad day at school or just need some energy, Def Leppard’s music always gives me fuel. Knowing that these musicians were teenagers when they started makes me feel that if they can do it so can I!


Atkins, Jamie. “The Biggest Benefit Concerts In History.” UDiscover Music, 30 Oct. 2018,

Bravewords.com. “DEF LEPPARD Bassist Rick Savage Casts-Off Clothes For Charity; Audio
Interview Available.” Bravewords.com, bravewords.com/news/def-leppard-bassist-ricksavage-casts-off-clothes-for-charity-audio-interview-available.

“Def Leppard News - DEF LEPPARD's RICK ALLEN On Charity Work/Painting (Video).” Def Leppard Tour History, www.deflepparduk.com/2019newsaug163.html.

“Def Leppard: Charity Work & Causes.” Look to the Stars,

A Nation Built on Selflessness - Nikolas Bartos

A Nation Built on Selflessness

By Nikolas Bartos

With over 68,000 men and woman actively protecting our nation, The Canadian Armed Forces is an institution which puts the safety and lives of its residents over all aspects of life.

These selfless individuals do this not for themselves, for any personal gain or glory, but for the sole purpose of defending our nation and its people from harm, so that we may grow, live and thrive in a peaceful environment free of harm from others. Despite any occurrence or inconvenience, we have people to rely on providing the service and honor of donning the uniform and setting out to defend our souls. By taking these actions, the Canadian Armed Forces have not only inspired me, not just the community, but rather the whole country.

The Canadian Armed Forces is not just a military organization that deals in death and war; it also serves as a figurehead for international relief around the world, providing crisis relief wherever needed. A unique aspect of the Canadian military is that it is used primarily as a support unit rather than as an invasion force, with many of its soldiers volunteering to aid countries in need. Natural disasters can strike at any time and as such the military is ready at all times to aid as many people as they can, putting themselves at risk so others do not have to. They make the conscious decision to walk out into these zones of mass trauma and crisis knowing full well that it may be their last. Historically, Canada is known as a peacekeeper never having instigated a war, but always there to mediate as in World War I. Canada took Vimy Ridge showing the world that with enough drive and hard work, we can do anything we set our minds to.

Many factors can possibly contribute to spontaneous, adrenaline-rush acts of heroism. That
kind of altruistic approach to a situation usually ends in some sort of mortal or grave wound. The deeds of heroes of the past are still sung today for the sacrifices they made to get us to this point in our lives. We as a people endured the great loss of life and cost of war through our army.  Their perseverance, not only on the field of battle, but also in the modern world, is a testament to why we should hold their ranks so high in esteem. The honorable individuals that give up a normal life for one full of courage and sacrifice is why they inspire us to be better, because we can. The army proves every day that with each new recruit that is added to the ranks, each and every one of them are future leaders in either the social sense or in the literal meaning of the word.

Humanity must always move forward. It is our nature to be restless, but no adventure ever
ended alone. All throughout our evolution, we have had each other, our brothers and sisters, not by blood but by a deeper bond: “Compassion is the basis of morality.” Compassion has always been to look deeper than what you see, to hear more than what is said. The Canadian Armed forces are compassionate in their dealings with all people, having to travel all around the globe to provide aid in relief, catastrophe control, or just to show the rest of the world that they care. They inspire many people to do the same and to not stay in one area, but to expand and spread the message of peace on white wings. Without this, who are we to truly be free? The Canadian Armed forces is so much more than the name suggests. Having started out as a volunteer militia, it still has the same values today.

Overall, the Canadian Armed Forces is a rich, vibrant organisation that works towards the
betterment of all human lives. Whether they are from any country, it works to relieve the sting of catastrophe with support by any means necessary. Serving as a figurehead for individuals willing to change their lives for the better and become heroes in their own right through selflessness, inspirational acts and compassion, the Canadian Armed Forces serve to make our world a better place every day.



Family - Lalita Allard Varasitkos

Artist's Statement

Tools/ medium: I used watercolor paints, black ink and a gold pigma pen.

This painting represents, to me, the strength, trust, support, community, and love (in its truest form) that binds a family together. I want people to see and feel a sense of unity looking at this piece and to have a warm, peaceful, and happy feeling inside:) My idea was that the people holding hands represent the sense of community within a family that accepts and loves each other despite their differences. The tree represents the family tree and all the values that are passed through the generations, as well as, the support and stability of family.

This piece represents the people who have inspired me the most in my life since day one, my family. They inspire me to be kind, thoughtful, compassionate, honest, and strong. They love, encourage, and support me. We accept, understand and respect each other, flaws, quirks, and all.

I dedicate this piece to my grandparents (Pata and Grandma), my amazing parents, and my whole family as a united community.

If we surround ourselves with people who believe in us, who bring out the best in us, who support, care for, and value us for who we are, we have found our family.

Girl Guides of Canada: How They Inspire Me - Ella Simpkin

Girl Guides of Canada: How They Inspire Me

By Ella Simpkin

Did you know that the Girl Guides of Canada were founded 100 years ago in England, 1909? It is a woman-run organization and program, and was created when young girls wanted to be a part of the well-known Boy Scouts organization. I’ve been a part of my local Girl Guides for eight years and I’ve created some great memories from it. The Girl Guides of Canada inspires me and many other young girls in my community through their various promises, activities and events.

Each branch of the Girl Guides of Canada has a different promise made at every meeting, but all revolve around promising to be a good person, being kind to others, being true to yourself and to your beliefs. From a young age, as young as five depending on the branch, young girls within my community learn this. This helps young girls learn how to be a good person from a young age and it also lets them affirm that they are good people, no matter their age, their self-confidence or how other people think of them. The promise of being a Girl Guide is decades and decades old. For generations, this promise has helped mold girls into becoming outstanding people and this promise continues to do so.

The Girl Guides of Canada, and specifically my local troupe, hold many activities geared
towards teaching girls about nature, the environment and global issues, for example. Every year, my local Girl Guides troupe holds multiple nature and camping trips per year. These trips are planned with the goal of teaching the young girls about nature, our environment, how to pitch tents, cook, make a fire and other skills pertaining to camping. The Girl Guides also hold activities in our local church to promote environmental sustainability and being a responsible citizen of the earth. They do crafts, presentations and discussions to teach these young girls about Earth Day and how to ensure we’re keeping care of our planet. They also do these kinds of activities to teach about poverty, war, hunger and other issues that are quite global.

Our local Girl Guides also hold events that support our community. For example, the Girl Guides hold a yearly food drive in October. All of the branches come together and drive all around Chateauguay to collect food and money that gets donated to the Chateauguay Food Bank. Along with the various other food drives held throughout the year by other groups and organizations, they really help support our community. The Girl Guide leaders organize this food drive to help teach the girls the struggle that many members of our community go through. When you’re young, you tend to believe that nothing’s wrong in our world. Through this food drive, it teaches girls in a positive way that every community has struggles, even ours. This helps make girls humble, knowledgeable and aware from a young age, so that they continue to acknowledge this struggle and help at the food drive every year.

The Girl Guides is a wonderful non-profit organization. I was so lucky to be a part of it for eight years of my life. This organization taught me so much and really helped me develop a
confidence within myself and an awareness within myself for different things going on in my
time. This organization inspires me to be a confident, strong-minded, individualized young
woman. This organization inspires me to make the most out of every day and spend my time
helping my community and making a difference in the world. Not only has this organization
inspired me, but it has inspired the generations of young women before me and the generations of young women to come. Millions of women and young women have been positively changed through this organization. I know so many strong women in my life who were a Girl Guide in their lifetime and I think it’s amazing that I was able to be a part of the organization that has helped mold many of the women I look up to in my life.


- Advanced Solutions International, Inc. “Girl Guides of Canada.” Mission Vision Promise
and Law, www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Parents/Who_We_Are/Mission_Vision_Promise_and_Law

- “Girl Guides of Canada.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Sept. 2019,

Helen Keller, An Inspiration to All - Melissa Young

Helen Keller, An Inspiration to All

By Melissa Young

You will succeed if you persevere and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.
-Helen Keller

An author, a political activist, and a lecturer, but most importantly an inspiration to all children, Helen Keller is known to be one of the most important figures in our society. Born and raised in Tuscumbia, Alabama to Arthur H. Keller and Katherine Adams Keller, Helen Keller was just like every other child. However, when she was 19 months old, she was left blind and deaf because of an illness called “brain fever” that causes a high increase in body temperature. Her parents then decided to travel to multiple States hoping to find a solution. Alexander Graham Bell, known as a famous inventor, suggested her parents to travel to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts where they were able to find help. It was there they found Anne Sullivan, Keller’s future governess who was willing to tutor her. Not only did this young woman teach her multiple skills, she also became her most appreciated companion and had an enormous impact on Helen Keller’s life.

When I first heard about Helen Keller, I was about ten years old. I was not familiar with her name and did not know much about her. However, after researching about her journey, I was quickly amazed by her hard work and her perseverance. During this period of my life, I was so eager to learn more about her that I quickly finished my other assignments. She taught me to not only work hard and persevere, but to also reach for my dreams and to never give up. Her accomplishment of being the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree proved to us that anything is possible. Therefore, when I often think about the word courage, I frequently associate her name with this word because of her strength and power that helped her overcome many obstacles.

Helen Keller, like most of us, had to face multiple obstacles, especially at the beginning of her life. She was mostly known for her raging tantrums while her parents had many difficulties communicating with her. When her governess, Anne Sullivan arrived, she also faced many difficulties. She soon began teaching her multiple social skills, such as manners, although the young child was often frustrated and refused to cooperate. However, the governess did not give up as she was also determined to help Keller. She began a method where she placed an object in the young girl’s palm while spelling the name of the object in the other hoping that Keller would understand. After multiple tries, to her dismay, this method did not work. It was when Anne Sullivan decided to move to a cottage with Helen Keller, that the young girl finally understood. Helen Keller was ecstatic to learn that her governess was spelling the word water while she felt the cool running substance dripping on her palm. She then demanded her teacher to spell other objects demanding its “letter name.” She was so eager to learn as she finally understood what her teacher was trying to do.

As Helen Keller grew older, she was determined to go to college. In 1890, she attended the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, trying her best to improve her communication skills. While she was attending the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, in 1896, she also met other celebrities, such as Mark Twain who introduced her to one of his friends who was also willing to pay for her college tuition because he was amazed by her story. Helen went to Radcliffe where she graduated with honours. She then decided to travel around the world hoping to spread awareness and to share her journey with others.

Helen Keller is a great example of hard work, determination and courage. She not only showed the world that anything is possible, she also showed that people with limited mobility are capable of doing many things, such as accomplishing their dreams. When we think about these people, we often think that they are not as capable as we are because of their disabilities. However, this is not true. Therefore, Helen Keller is a great example that proved to the world that anything is possible. By traveling the world, she was able to spread awareness to others that people with disabilities are able to accomplish many things. Her goal was to improve the welfare for people who are blind and even founded her own foundation to spread awareness. Her story became famous in New England and Massachusetts, and soon spread across the world.

Learning about Helen Keller had a huge impact on my life. Seeing this young woman inspire others with her story, as well as many of her accomplishments, made me realize what I can do in my community in order to help others. I am truly amazed by the fact that such an inspiring story can help change the world. I had experienced many situations in my life where I was unmotivated to continue to work hard in my academic studies for many reasons. I had also faced times in my life where I felt like I didn’t match or exceed the expectations of a certain group and, therefore, felt like I did not belong. However, after learning about Helen Keller’s journey to success, I realized the importance of never giving up. I am motivated to do the best I can in order to not only help others, but to also acquire knowledge along the way. In addition, I learned the importance of teamwork. With the help of Anne Sullivan, her governess, Helen Keller was able to achieve success in her academic studies. Teamwork is therefore such a term to understand because it reinforces a group to cooperate in order to reach a common goal!

In conclusion, Helen Keller is such an important figure in our society because her journey showed others the importance of following your dreams no matter how many obstacles lie ahead. Her motivation to earn a degree helped promote the understanding that people with disabilities are able to achieve their goals. I am truly inspired by her story and I hope to be one of the lucky chosen ones to partake in this wonderful journey in order to learn about the importance of teamwork, as well as refine my skills. Finally, I will always remember this important quote once said by Helen Keller, “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye,” as I will continue to do the best I can to help others.








How Ellen is Making Our Community a Better Place - Sara Simpson

How Ellen is Making Our Community a Better Place

By Sara Simpson

Ellen DeGeneres is not only a funny stand-up comedian and an entertaining talk show
host, but really a do-gooder trying to help everyone around her in need any way she can. Most people know her for her highly successful talk show The Ellen Show, with 17 seasons and counting, where she has many celebrity guests accompany her daily for interviews, playing games or performances, and where she also plays many games and competitions with her live audience or guest fans. Others may recognize her for her 2003 voiceover role in Finding Nemo as ‘Dory,’ and more recently, her 2016 role in Finding Dory. DeGeneres was a stand-up comedian and actress in the 1980s before her talk show began in 2003.

She has used her platform for so many good things in her life, trying to help others and
encourage compassion and help support so many amazing charities, organizations and
individuals on her featured talk show The Ellen Show. With help from Shutterfly, DeGeneres has helped countless families and individuals with life changing donations and helped raise
awareness to certain issues being dealt with. Ellen brings people and families that are facing
difficult times or who deserve to be recognized for their generous work or goodness on her
show to help them and to shine light on to those people. For example, Ellen recently gave a
$10,000 contribution for the wedding of a breast-cancer survivor who constantly watched The Ellen Show to lift her spirits during her treatments and recovery.

Aside from her show, Ellen has continued to spread positivity and put in good work for
people and charities within her private life. Ellen and the beloved actor and film maker, Ben
Affleck, have teamed up an attempt to help end world hunger in the United States through the Small Change Campaign. This gives people the opportunity to donate money to Feeding
America. Another great thing that she’s done out of the goodness of her heart is donating $1 for every retweet of the famous ‘Oscar’ selfie of Ellen and former president Barrack Obama, and after reaching over 3 million retweets, Samsung split the money between Ellen’s chosen charity, which was St Jude’s Children Hospital and The Humane Society.

Ellen is a well-rounded good person. If I needed to give more reasoning past the
previous examples, she is one of the strongest supporting women with multiple charities,
including the ones concerned with disadvantaged youths, depression and suicide preventions, animal protection, cancer and AIDs, refugees and human trafficking. On top of that, she is an openly gay woman who endlessly supports the LGBTQ+ community. Her coming out has also helped shape her into who she is today because when she came out in public, she was fired from her sitcom and automatically frowned upon. She had to rebuild her career, relationships and whole life from the bottom, all because people couldn’t see her for who she was and not for who she loved. This indefinitely shaped her into who she is today and helped her become the strong-minded, kind and respectful individual that she is today. Because of her kindness and determination, she received many humanitarian awards over the years, including the Favourite Humanitarian Award at the People’s Choice Awards in January of 2016.

As a result of all the kind acts that Ellen has put forth over the years, the world has been
left a better place with her obvious footprint in it. Many families and people have been forever grateful since she helped them. She inspired people to be better and to act on their instinct to make the world a better place to live for all of us. She encourages us all to be kind and respectful to everyone, and that we don’t all need to have fame or a talk show to make a
difference in someone’s day or life. So, as the great Ellen DeGeneres always says, “Be kind to one another.” On that note, I leave you with a simple question: what will you do to make our world simply a better place?

Works Cited

“Ellen DeGeneres.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 8 Oct. 2019,

“How Ellen DeGeneres Is Making the World a Better Place.” A Better World Is Possible!,
18 Nov. 2017, www.betterworldinternational.org/blog/ellen-degeneres-making-

Suse Forrest More Articles March 05, 2019. “How Long Has Ellen DeGeneres's Talk
Show Been On TV?” Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 5 Mar. 2019,

Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Medeleine Mallen

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

By Medeleine Mallen

Jesperi Kotkaniemi was the first player born in the 2000’s era to play for the National
Hockey League. He got into the league at the youngest age possible and was drafted by the
Montreal Canadiens third overall. For a man so young, and with such a big influence on young people, especially athletes, he has achieved so much to be proud of, whether it was the compassion he shows for his sport, his life before the National Hockey League, or his progress in just one season while maintaining a positive attitude.

As an athlete myself, there are certain qualities about a person that are important to acquire through a sports career that help develop teamwork, respect, sportsmanship, leadership and responsibility. Usually, these qualities start to develop in your early teenage years, but you really see a noticeable difference in your early to mid-twenties. For Jesperi, as a rookie last year at only eighteen years old, he demonstrated a high understanding and capability to follow through with these characteristics, which shows that as he ages, he will only improve and impress more. Playing sports professionally means that you are often in the spotlight, so every decision you make is monitored and recorded by the press. Having a responsibility this large at such a young age can be difficult to handle. Take for example, Auston Matthews, the new up and coming star since 2016. Matthews lives in Toronto, arguably the largest hockey city in the world. With all of the press, just a few weeks ago, he was accused of inappropriate behaviour while intoxicated and he is in his mid-twenties. That behaviour at an older age is unacceptable and irresponsible, so to be able to display the positive aspects at only eighteen is impressive and gives high hopes for Kotkaniemi’s future. During the off-season, Kotkaniemi came forward and told the media that his first season in Montreal was only “okay” and that he has a lot of opportunity to improve. That shows a great deal of responsibility by admitting flaws and areas for improvement.

Jesperi is now nineteen years old and staying in Montreal during the hockey season. He
is in his second year of professional hockey and claims to be enjoying it. He says everything
with a wide smile across his face which gives off positive energy to whoever glances at him. He was born in Pori, Finland and he goes back there during the off-season to spend time with his family. Montreal is his first professional team and probably will be there for a long time. He played for Team Finland as well in the under-18 category. Since he was a young child, he has always put in all of his hard work and effort towards hockey, and it clearly shows.

There are so many things about this young star that fascinate and inspire me that
through everything that he has done I have to look at his overall progress from last season to impress me. You can see throughout the season that he gets much more comfortable as the year goes on, and the way that he acts on and off the ice is extremely inspiring. The
respectfulness and maturity that he displays while keeping a positive attitude shows that he is very capable and has very high potential. For him to be able to say that he was drafted third overall at eighteen is an incredible achievement and something he should be extremely proud of.

For the compassion he shows, his life before fame and the progress he has made so far
is an absolutely amazing step forward into the rest of his career. His maturity is beyond his
years and the pure fact that he got here all on his own with his determination and hard work is an achievement he will never forget. He has made such an impact on the youth of Montreal, spreading confidence to follow dreams and ambitions until you succeed. He’s demonstrating that you should always give it your all and never give up. However, the aspect that makes him the most respectable is the fact that he can openly confirm how much he can improve and how much effort he is willing to put in to achieve his goal. As young and as new as he is, you will definitely be seeing much more of him.

“Jesperi Kotkaniemi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Oct. 2019,

Sidaway, Dave. “Canadiens'; Jesperi Kotkaniemi Keeps Smile, Gains 10 Pounds over
Summer.” Montreal Gazette, 13 Sept. 2019, montrealgazette.com/sports/hockey/nhl/hockey-inside-out/canadiens-jesperi-kotkaniemi-keeps-his-smile-and-gains-10-pounds.

My Best Friend - Carley Sinagra

My Best Friend

By Carley Sinagra

They say if a friendship lasts longer than seven years, you’ll be friends forever. My best friend and I are now on our 11th year. I feel like he is my soulmate. Our friendship started at the open house of our elementary school. We had instantly connected and isolated ourselves from the others to play with the building blocks together. Since then I have moved and we never lost touch despite being at separate elementary schools, and eventually, we started up at the same high school together again.

High school is different for everyone. We all start discovering who we are. For some, though,
they don’t necessarily like what they discover. Ryan (my best friend) came out in Grade 8. I
think this was hard on him. Going to school every day and hearing people use the words “gay” and “faggot” as insults really took a toll on his mental state.

It was around this time that Ryan started smoking weed. It served as an escape for him; the
high. It started as just an every now and then thing, but eventually getting high was a daily
necessity to his lifestyle. He showed up to school high, smoked in between classes, and smoked after school as well. By tenth grade, weed wasn’t enough either, and he turned to harder drugs like hash, acid, and Xanax.

It was close to the end of Grade 10 when it happened. Ryan had taken five Xanax and went to the lacrosse game with some other friends of his. He had passed out at the game. I heard from people who were there that he “looked dead”. The thought of him in a state like that is the scariest thing to me. Eventually his parents found him on the steps of a church near our school, and they took him to the hospital.

When Ryan finally woke up he was crying and saying he was in pain mentally. Ryan had been
diagnosed with depression a few months prior to this incident, but hadn’t gotten any proper
help for it. He was put on suicide watch. When he was finally properly conscious and a case
worker came to speak to him, Ryan had asked for admittance in a rehabilitation program.

Since June, Ryan has been in the adolescent program at Portage. Portage is a non-profit
organization that aims to help anyone with a substance abuse problem be able to manage
everyday life drug-free. Through the community (all patients) and his case worker, Ryan has
been changing. Every month he becomes happier and happier. At Portage, they give out plans of care which focus on methods to improve each patient’s behavior. They work with every patient and help find each person’s triggers, and how to handle them. They do group therapy sessions and they are pushed to analyze their own actions and figure out what feelings make them act out. Even though it’s not always easy for him, Ryan knows how to handle and manage his emotions better. He no longer wants to be dependent on drugs. He looks forward to transitioning in December and finishing high school sober. And I look forward to it, as well.

Without Portage’s help, I have no idea where Ryan would be right now. He wouldn’t have quit, and who knows what else he would have experimented with. I don’t know if he’d even still be alive. They saved his life, and tens of thousands of other lives, including my own. Although it’s hard being away from my best friend for so long, I know it’s better than a lifetime without him.

I’m only using one example, because it’s personal, but I’m sure many other people are thankful for the work Portage has done. The staff is full of caring people, changing the course of lives for people of every age. Because of Portage, Ryan still has the potential to do great things in life, as do all the other residents. For these reasons, Portage deserves more recognition than it gets for the service it is doing for the community, and for me.

Rick Hansen - Sophie Diaferia

Rick Hansen

By Sophie Diaferia

In life, there are people who do memorable things that get recognised in society. For my generation there aren’t that many people off the top of my head who I can say have made a big impression by getting their message across for whatever they are advocating. The most popular person at the moment would be Greta Thunberg who has become well-known for campaigning for the climate. Rick Hansen is someone who isn’t
necessarily making worldwide news today, however, he is someone I admire because of the amazing accomplishments he has done in his life and the changes he has tried to make in Canadian society. Not only has Rick Hansen done great things, but his overall
team from the Rick Hansen Foundation have a really empowering goal – “To create and deliver innovative solutions that lead to a global movement to remove barriers and liberate the potential of people with disabilities.” As well as having “An inclusive world
where people with disabilities are living to their full potential,” as said on their website.

Rick is someone who was in a car accident as a young teenager which injured his spinal
cord and caused him to become paraplegic, paralysed from the waist down. Having this
disability didn’t hold Rick back, though. He persevered through it all: he became a
university graduate, and an athlete. He began a wheelchair trip called the “Man in
Motion World Tour” in 1985 in which he decided to travel to thirty four countries, over
forty thousand kilometers in the span of twenty-six months in the hopes of making the
world more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities, and to find a cure for
paralysis. What is truly astonishing about this, is that he crossed the countries in his
wheelchair. Over the two years of his “Man in Motion World Tour,” Rick was able to
raise twenty-six million dollars which he gave to paraplegic research. When the tour
ended in 1987, he needed to continue his leadership to continue to inspire people, so he
decided to create the “Rick Hansen Foundation.”

I am not someone who is paraplegic, but when I was four years old, I broke my leg in a
sledding accident, which left me with a cast for two months. It wasn’t as severe as Rick’s
injury was, but it was a period in my life where I couldn’t walk, or play, or go down the
stairs to get to my room. I had to be carried all the time, or I wheeled myself around on

an office chair. So, I can relate to Rick on some levels. We were both people who were
active and having to stop doing activities was hard for myself. I would imagine it was
difficult for him, as well. However, it did not stop us. Rick was encouraged by his
volleyball coach to try paraplegic sports, and I would sit on the floor and drag myself
along using my hands and my good leg. So even though he no longer had access to
something, he worked around it, and used something else like his arms, which is very
inspiring because I don’t personally know too many people who can do that.

Rick has inspired me in ways that no other person has because he did things that
nobody else has done. It is amazing to see how someone who is wheelchair bound is
able to roll himself all across the world to raise money for research that could benefit so
many people. In the world today there are about 5.4 million people who are paraplegic,
and not all parts of the world recognise them in society. Rick campaigns a lot for more
accessibility in residential areas as well as restaurants, workplaces, sports places etc.
“Increased accessibility is not just the right thing to do, but the smart business thing to
do.” states Rick in an interview. Wheelchair-bound people shouldn’t have to lose out on
life because certain things are not accessible to them. That’s just wrong.

My belief is that everything in life happens for a reason and if Rick had not gotten into
his accident then there would have been less empathy for paraplegic people in today’s
society, much like it was before Rick started all of his fundraising. Rick has lived a much-
celebrated life because he didn’t let his disability get in the way. After the Tour he
married, he had children, he received a lot of recognition for his accomplishments and
hard work. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, amongst other honors.
His story is inspiring, and he has helped make Canada and many other countries a better
place. I hope he continues to do amazing things for the paraplegic community.


This is actually a picture I drew of him for another school project.


That One Teacher - Jessica Dinelle

That One Teacher

By Jessica Dinelle

I have known Ms. Katrine Marrin for four years now, which is not a long time, yet she has in that short amount of time inspired me in a number of different ways, encouraged me to be a better person than I was yesterday and has gone the extra mile to help her students, the school, the school's community and even the world.

Ms. Marrin constantly inspires me. She puts so much of her passion into the school, its
community and the world, that she is indeed inspirational. LRHS is located in a rural community. Some of the school`s population do not have power at home, go to a food bank and need Christmas baskets.

In 2016, Ms. Marrin heard about A Promise for Prom and that the owner Lou-Anne Hood could not keep it going since she had fibromyalgia. Right away, Ms. Marrin stepped up for the school and its community. She decided to take 200 prom dresses to school in order to help the students and Lou-Anne. Due to Ms. Marrin’s actions, the students who could not afford a prom dress went to their prom. This simple action definitely helped the students in need have a long lasting memory. When the flooding happened in 2017, she took 27 students to the local community St-Andre-d`Argenteuil to fill sandbags in order to keep the water out. In total, we filled up 600 bags in an hour and helped a lot of people all because of Ms. Marrin. When a family of the school had a fire and lost everything she right away set up a fundraiser for them and started collecting everything she could for them. Ms. Marrin is also the Student Council leader and for the last eight years, because of Ms. Marrin, we have the WE Schools program, a program run by Free The Children. With Ms. Marrin’s help and leadership we have raised over 50,000$ for communities in developing countries such as Tanzania and Ecuador. Every year, she and a student organize a yearly Free The Children 24 hour fast where students who choose to participate do not eat for 24 hours to realize just how lucky they are. All the profits go towards Free The Children’s communities. Also, during Halloween week we collect non-perishable food instead of entry fees to enter an activity. Thanks to Ms. Marrin, this food gets donated to the local food banks.

In 2016, she took five students on a ME to WE trip to Tanzania. With Ms. Marrin, they helped
build schools and bomas (traditional Masai Mara houses). Their actions forever impacted the people living in Tanzania all because of Ms. Marrin and her students. They have access to education and a place to live. In 2018, she brought 20 students to Ecuador with ME to WE, where once again, thanks to Ms. Marrin, they changed the world.

I am not the only person Ms. Marrin has inspired; not even close.

This last year, Ms. Marrin was off on sick leave due to an injury. However, since her return, she has put 110% of her time into her students. She has helped me fundraise for my humanitarian trip, helped organize the Terry Fox Run and was there for students when a student from another school passed away. She can be seen at lunch hours offering hugs and watching Netflix with her students just to put a smile on their face. Each moment, she is there to listen, to offer advice and to support her students. Katrine Marrin is the most selfless person I know.

She is that one teacher who will always be there for you; the one who will make you laugh,
make you cry and make you feel whole again. She is the root of my school and I’m so grateful to consider her my hero.

In my case, I met Ms. Katrine Marrin at my worst. I was in an unhealthy home, being
psychologically abused by both my father and his girlfriend. I was struggling with my mental
health and trying to support my mother whose boyfriend had just passed away by suicide. I was an extroverted and excited twelve-year-old who wanted to make a difference.

The two first moments I remember with her were the ones where I truly saw the real her. I wrote this student council essay which made me cry. For the first time in my life, I felt wanted. It was a moment I will never forget. The second moment was in drama class. This girl had been bothering me all class and saying that I got the presentation wrong, when in reality I am the one who created it. Ms. Marrin had my back and spoke to the girl. The girl never bothered me again.

Throughout the years, we've had our ups and downs, however, she has always been there for me. I often refer to her as my “second mom.” She has taken the time and her own money out of her day to bring me to the restaurant for lunch. She has seen me cry, seen me go through heartbreak and has pushed me to overcome my own personal limits. She has helped me become the person I am today.

Two years ago, I was dealing with some serious suicidal thoughts. When I was first sent to the ER for my mental health, Ms. Marrin was the first one to call me and see if I was okay. When I was really depressed and my friends reported it to her, she was the one to call my mom, get me help and wait with me until my mom got there. I do not know what I would do without her.

Ms. Marrin truly believes that you can be young and still make a difference. She does not
believe that you have to be in Secondary 5 in order to have some say in your school. When the Premier of Quebec Philippe Couillard came to our school in 2016, Ms. Marrin encouraged me as well with the other students to go ahead, and yes, ask questions, say what’s on our minds and what you believe because it’s your future. Without her cheering us on I truly don’t think we would have made such an impact and spoke our minds about our future Quebec as we did. She encourages everybody at our school to make a difference by organizing fundraisers so that financially everyone can attend a ME to WE trip and make sure nobody is left out on making a difference. She even encouraged me by making sure I could speak at WE Day! One of the biggest ways Ms. Marrin encourages us is by celebrating our accomplishments. Whenever one of her students wins an award or gets to speak at an event, she is ALWAYS there cheering us on. She has gone to events like the SWLSB Gala and the SWLSB Lobster Fest just to encourage her students. When I had the opportunity to speak for WE, she was in the front row supporting me. Even when we think she isn’t there, Ms. Marrin is always there to encourage us.

She inspires me every day. One day, I hope I can be as much as an amazing mom and teacher as she is. I hope that I get to pass on her wisdom, strength and confidence to all those who cross my path. Katrine Marrin isn’t just my teacher, she is who I wish to live my life like.

She is that one teacher I will always remember.

In conclusion, Ms. Katrine Marrin puts her heart and soul into everything she does from making school fun to changing the world. She inspires her students, encourages them and even goes the extra mile for them. Once Ms. Marrin has inspired you, she has inspired you forever. I hope one day I can live up to her.

She is that one teacher.

Val Gendron - Abigail Pascua-Matte

Val Gendron

By Abigail Pascua-Matte

Before I moved to Montreal last year, I lived in a small, desolate community in the Northwest
Territories that never fully recovered their culture from colonization and residential schooling. Fort Simpson, the town I lived in, has always been flooded with alcoholism, neglect and abuse. But one of the teachers, Val Gendron, has done everything she could to improve the youth’s quality of life.

Eight years ago, Val moved to Fort Simpson from British Columbia. Since then, from not just
what I remember, but also from what I’ve been told, she has made life in the North exponentially better. When I moved to Fort Simpson around four years old, all we had was a recreational center and a basketball team. Val, on arrival, created a soccer and speed skating team. Not only that, but she also pushed for a public pool and after five years of trying to convince the village to sponsor it, we finally got a pool. Today, Val is in charge of training and hiring people for the pool.

In Fort Simpson, there is a program that watches children in Grades 1 to 6 after school until their parents are off work. Val has taken charge of this program, and through it, me and both of my sisters got our first jobs as youth supervisors. During work one day, one of the young girls I supervised wanted to join speed skating, but her family could not afford the equipment. The next day, I saw her at work again and when I asked her if she still needed money, she told me that Val had paid for her and other underprivileged kids’ equipment.

Val also helped me and my family on a more personal level. When my sister passed away two years ago, both my parents were out of town. It was Val who took care of me and my sister until my parents could get back. She had opened her home to me, explained the situation, fed me, comforted me and gave me a place to stay. She helped organize and pay for the funeral, as well as cater it. Val always checked up on me, even after moving, to help me move on.

Even though it was not her responsibility, and she had no family or cultural ties to Fort Simpson, Val did everything she could to better the community. Before knowing Val on a personal level, all I wanted to do was leave the isolated North and never return. The school in Fort Simpson is severely understaffed and students are often neglected. But Val has inspired me to apply the knowledge I have learned here in Montreal and the knowledge I will gain from University to hopefully better the town I come from the way she has, and help urbanize it.