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This is the third 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.


Vicki Kleu

5 me feeding ducksWe arranged to meet Vicki at my neighbourhood Starbucks near the corner of Feltham and Shelbourne, literally steps from where we had set up office during the 2013 election campaign. It seemed like an appropriate location. Vicki knew it well as she had just graduated from nearby Lambrick Park Secondary School. But imagine my surprise as we stood in the lineup for coffee. Vicki pointed to the barista and said “there’s my mentor, Cheryl Nigh”. And so, our conversation began.

Vicki was born in Pretoria, South Africa and moved to Victoria with her family when she was 10. She sincerely appreciates the numerous opportunities that Canada has afforded her family. Many of us simply take these opportunities for granted. Vicki, on the other hand, recognizes how fortunate we are in Canada and is determined to take advantage of them. Her achievements are a testament to her success in this regard.

6 familyVicki attended Hillcrest Elementary, Gordon Head Middle School and graduated from Lambrick Park Secondary in June. School principal Kevin Luchies describes Vicki as a “renaissance student” who is a “tireless volunteer” and “student leader” and “one of the kindest humans one could meet”. She has been active in school leadership since grade 5 and a powerful leader in student council over the past three years.

For the last few years Vicki has volunteered as a reading buddy for children at Hillcrest Elementary. She loves working with children and told us “little kids make me happy”. More generally, Vicki elaborated to say that when “other people are happy, I am happy”. When she was younger, her dream was to be a kindergarten teacher (or a ballerina). But now, after becoming fascinated by the wonders of science and deeply touched by a very young relative who suffered from cancer, she sees herself training to become a pediatrician — a pediatric oncologist or cardiologist to be exact.

It’s always fascinating to discover what inspires the remarkably talented youth that we’ve had the honour of profiling over the last few weeks. A consistent pattern has emerged: teachers, friends and family. And Vicki is no different. Whether it’s feeding the ducks at Beacon Hill park or getting together with relatives, Vicki loves to be with friends and family. And it’s pretty clear to us that her friends and family are also inspired by Vicki. Here’s just one example. Having watched several relatives struggle with, and thankfully beat, cancer, Vicki took it upon herself to head up a cancer campaign at Lambrick Park last year.

4 national groupVicki is articulate, joyful and enthusiastic about life in general. She loves ballet and dances twice a week at Stages Performing Arts School. She is passionate about science — a passion that blossomed through the nurturing of her mentor Cheryl Nigh. Vicki has been participating in school, regional and national science fairs since she was in grade 7. She’s won so many science fair awards over the years that just listing them takes up three pages on her resume! When you see the outcomes of her innovative and creative approach to scientific inquiry, it’s pretty obvious why.

In grade 9 Vicki’s national award-winning project was titled Reducing Arterial Turbulent Flow Through External Stents. By Grade 11, she had developed Fully Biodegradable Adsorbent Pads to Clean Small Scale Marine Oil Spills. These pads could hold 50 times their weight in motor oil and potentially allowed for up to 95% oil recovery. Her invention is patent pending and she’s working on developing a few more patents this year.

Back in May of last year, Victoria News published a feature story on Vicki’s success. But what many people don’t know is that Vicki and Cheryl Nigh managed to get her Grade 11 project in front of CBC’s Dragon’s Den. While they didn’t air the segment in which she made her pitch, she did manage to get an offer from Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving.

3 Manning AwardThrough her science fair projects Vicki continually searches for practical solutions to important problems. Most recently, her attention turned to the very real threat of oil spills on our coastlines. In her fourth venture to the National Science Fair this year she, along with partner Austin Sawyer, expanded upon her Grade 11 efforts through the development of Fully Biodegradable Booms for Oil Spill Recovery and Containment. Once again Victoria News published feature story detailing her trip to the nationals earlier this year.

A short time after we’d met up with Vicki I went back to Starbucks to have a chat with Cheryl Nigh, Vicki’s inspirational science teacher and mentor for the past six years. I asked Cheryl to describe Vicki in three words. These were her choices —choices that precisely described our first impressions as well: “meticulous, compassionate, and dedicated”.

It’s Vicki and youth like her that inspire me with a sense of hope. We can take comfort in the fact that these amazing young adults are certainly up to the task of finding innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

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