This is the ninth 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 arranged to meet Ana for coffee at Pure Vanilla on Cadboro Bay Road one day after school. It didn’t take us long to realize that she was an incredibly well rounded, generous and caring young woman who already had a clear sense of purpose and direction. Ana’s dream is to become a pediatric physiotherapist and after interviewing her for a little over an hour, it’s pretty clear to us why.
Ana was born and raised in Victoria, attending St. Patrick’s School from Kindergarten to Grade 7, Monterey Middle School for Grade 8 and the Oak Bay High, where she is currently in Grade 12. In addition to maintaining an outstanding first class academic record and winning a prestigious Oak Bay High School Green and White Award last year, Ana is engaged in numerous extracurricular activities.
Ana has played field hockey since Grade 7 and has always competed at a very high level. She served as captain of the Under 15 BC provincial team and presently captains her high school team. Last year, Ana played on the under 18 BC provincial team. Playing at this level requires a high degree of commitment – including trips every weekend to Vancouver for practices during late spring and early summer. Ana currently plays with the Lynx Women’s Division 1 field hockey team as a midfielder. She has had to overcome severe stress injuries in both hips, but she persevered and has since recovered from these injuries. For Ana, playing sports is also about giving back and so since 2011, she has coached in the Under 10 age group of the Victoria junior field hockey spring league.
For the past three years Ana has acted as a Peer Buddy in the Best Buddies Program whose goal is providing inclusivity and friendship for students of all abilities. She’s also presently active in the Youth Against Cancer club that runs throughout the school year promoting cancer awareness and holding fundraising campaigns. This year the club is spearheading an awareness campaign focusing on the harmful effects of flavoured tobacco products. Ana was also involved in the annual Oak Bay Tour de Rock Cops for Cancer campaign – a bottle drive she organized brought in $5,500.00 of the total $40,000 raised by the school this year. She also helped with a community event at Willows Beach, a car wash and bake sale for the cause.
Ana has been leader of the Oak Bay Youth Outreach Program, where 15-20 students research the work of different societies and not for profit organizations in our community in order to determine where they might donate a $2,500.00 grant from the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth Program. Last year, the beneficiary was the Multiple Sclerosis Society. They Youth Outreach Program also raises awareness in the school of different issues facing the broader community.
Ana, along with 3 peers, also won $5,000.00 in the Youth in Philanthropy initiative. This school-based initiative involves choosing a charity and pitching it to judges while competing with others doing the same for their selected charity. The Mary Manning Centre, which provides child abuse prevention and counselling services, was the beneficiary of the $5,000 that Ana’s team won. Ana noted that she was “terrified about public speaking, but she got through it” and she values the experience she gained from going beyond her comfort zone with this project.
A “Hero Holiday” school trip to Mexico last year, which Ana described as “the best experience of my life”, reinforced Ana’s desire to work with children, particularly those in developing nations. The Oak Bay High School group traveled to Mexico to help build houses for two families. Ana detailed how she also spent many hours with two young girls (aged 4 and 7 years) with whom she ended up becoming very attached. Initially the young girls were very shy and wary of the unfamiliar visitors and their oddities like water bottles and sunglasses. Ana fondly recalled how the four year old, Estefania, would nervously peer over a cloth fence and watch the Oak Bay students from afar. But Ana, through showing the girls pictures from her digital camera, was quickly able to make them feel comfortable and safe. By the end of the first day, Estefania and Ana were friends. By the second day, Estefania, became so fond of Ana that she screamed her name and ran from a nearby field upon seeing her, and subsequently jumped into her arms. On Ana’s last day in Mexico, Estefania presented her with a little yellow flower that she tucked in Ana’s hair.
Ana also relayed to us a story about how Estefania, the four year old, gave her a rusty blue hair clip. “It was very emotional, one of the best moments of my life” when the young impoverished girl passed along to Ana one of her valued possessions. Ana enjoyed being able to help the seven year old girl with her homework – they sat on the dirt floor of her home and worked on numbers and Ana taught her some English phrases. The girl’s grandmother, who was in poor health, appreciated Ana’s assistance so much that she presented her with a handmade bracelet. Ana told us how much the bracelet means to her and that she rarely wears it because she wants to keep it forever as a keepsake.
Ana has already “done her homework” and extensively researched universities both directly, and through attending Canadian University information events. Upon graduating from high school, Ana’s dream would be to be accepted into a university kinesiology or human biology program, with the eventual goal of becoming a pediatric physiotherapist. When we asked why, she said, “I love children, interacting with them and getting to know them”. Upon completion of her training, Ana would like to spend time working with children in a developing nation. Clearly inspired by her “hero holiday”, Ana would like to learn more about global health issues and international development. Ideally, she would like to work with children who have been affected by war in association with Doctors without Borders.
We asked Ana if there was anyone in particular that inspired her. She responded that there were aspects and attributes of many different people that inspired her and there were “lots of awesome teachers”; she couldn’t single anyone out. She was also quick to note that she was “surrounded by amazing students”. Ana is humble, thoughtful and compassionate, yet clearly capable of competing at the highest levels in sports, academics and leadership. She’ll be an exceptionally strong candidate for both athletic and academic entry scholarships from universities across North America. And wherever she ends up, it’s clear to us that she’ll enrich the lives of those around her through her dedication and commitment to her community.
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