This is the first in our series of stories celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of youth in our community. These inspirational young adults are enriching our lives with their passion and commitment to the betterment of society.
We knew that there was something rather remarkable about Alysha when she phoned up just before we were supposed to meet to say she would be a few minutes late. “I just rescued a crow with a broken wing and called the animal rehabilitation centre” she told us.
It was easy to spot Alysha as she approached the Broadmead Starbucks where we had arranged to have coffee. She was carrying a small yellow, cloth-covered basket containing an injured crow she’d already named “Cashew”.
At 17 years of age, Alysha’s accomplishments are impressive. Growing up in Saanichton, Alysha attended Keating Elementary, Bayside Middle and Stelly’s Secondary schools. She graduated from Stelly’s this past June and has accepted a prestigious $60,000 Schulich Leader scholarship to Dalhousie University where she will study Medical Sciences. Why medical sciences? Because in her own words “A doctor can do a lot with their hands, helping one person at a time, but they can also do a lot with their mind, pursuing scientific advancements capable of impacting entire populations”. Alysha wants to work with people in less fortunate parts of the world.
It is perhaps not surprising that she has such a clear vision of her future. Alysha spent the summer of 2013 volunteering in an orphanage in Fiji and as early as Grade 9 was recognized as one of Save-On-Foods Amazing Kids.
Alysha has made a significant and lasting contribution to her school community in starting the Best Buddies program when she was in grade 10/11 (she completed both in one year – while maintaining a 100% average). Best Buddies is a weekly lunchtime program with a goal of inclusivity and friendship for students of all abilities. “Everyone needs a community” she realized as she became aware of the isolation that students with disabilities often experience “No one deserves to be alone”. Participating in Best Buddies was “the best part of my week” at school. Working as a mentor to a younger student who will take over leadership of the program next year, Alysha told us of plans to develop Best Buddies to include activities outside of school.
Alysha’s passions include writing spoken word poetry, singing and public speaking. She finds fulfillment in helping others, and volunteering on projects that involve important work, such as fundraising for the aforementioned orphanage in Fiji.
Alysha and teacher Kate Reston co-founded the Model UN program at Stelly’s and at a conference at UVic in November 2013, Alysha was awarded “Best Delegate” and “Best Position Paper” honours for her role on the Security Council representing France. Her paper was on food scarcity and conflict. Alysha loved the Model UN experience, especially the opportunity to debate and learn valuable lessons in collaboration and cooperation with other youth. She spoke passionately about its value of assisting the participants to “learn to respect each others’ differences”.
For Alysha, human rights and social justice issues are of paramount importance. For her it is important to speak up for the “fundamental dignities for which we are all entitled” and to give everyone the opportunity to succeed. When asked what inspires her, she responded without hesitation, her teachers.
Alysha plans to become a physician and a scientist – to treat one person at a time in the developing world and conduct research in malaria and cancer. Her dream would be to be part of the development of a vaccine for malaria.
Whether it be quilting for a local hospital, running the Stelly’s Best Buddies program this summer or fundraising for the orphanage in Fiji, Alysha approaches everything she does with infectious optimism and enthusiasm.
We are inspired by Alysha and her determination to do her part to make the world a better place. We spent just one hour with her. But that hour has left its mark forever. And we are sure that Cashew the crow would also agree.
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