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This is the thirteenth 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.

Chloe Van Neutegem

P1020638 It’s customary on Wednesdays and Fridays for evenings to include reading through the local Oak Bay and Saanich News. This past Friday was no different. But imagine our surprise. We were in the middle of putting together the finishing touches on this article when lo and behold, and to our great delight, there she was…featured in an article about Oak Bay High School’s Youth Against Cancer Group — a group co-led by Chloe. When we interviewed Chloe just a few weeks earlier she had enthusiastically described to us her plans with the Youth against Cancer Group. It was wonderful to see their ideas come to fruition.

Chloe was born in Southampton, England and moved Victoria when she was eight. She attended Monterey Elementary for Grades 3 and 4, Willows elementary for Grade 5 and Monterey Middle School for Grades 6 to 8. She has been at Oak Bay High School since Grade 9 and is currently in her graduating year. As one might imagine, she’s an exceptional student, with a 90% average in Grade 11.

P1020947Chloe has been extensively involve in school and community activities for which she was recognized last year in receiving Oak Bay High’s Green and White Award for excellence in school and community service. Most recently, Chloe describes being humbled by her humanitarian efforts on the “Hero Holiday” in 2013, when she travelled to Mexico with a group of students from her school to help build two homes for Mexican families. “It was an experience I’ll never forget. It opened my eyes up to things we can never really understand unless we experience them. I’ll tell my kids about the trip someday so they will care about this too”. In order to take part in the Hero Holiday, a lot of fundraising had to be done. Chloe was involved in 3 major fundraising events: a “Jail or Bail” event, a Mexican Fiesta Night and a Silent Auction.

P1020998While on the hero Holiday, Chloe became close with an “adorable” seven-year-old girl named Ana Jasmine. Ana Jasmine possessed limited English but that didn’t stop them communicating with their own form of sign language. Ana Jasmine loved piggyback rides, as did all the children they encountered there. And she especially “liked to play with my hair”. As a parting gift, Chloe gave her a beret as a keepsake. But in her broken English and unique sign language the seven-year-old let Chloe know that she couldn’t take it as it looked so good on Chloe.

The Oak Bay students stayed with families in the community while they worked on the house-building project. Chloe warmly recalled how they were made to feel “like a part of the family” and that their hosts “had the best food!” She was inspired to become involved in the Hero Holiday by her 13-month older sister Ella, who had participated herself previously.  In fact, Chloe praised Ella numerous times during the interview as being a wonderful, positive role model in her life; they are very close.

_MG_6441Two initiatives that Chloe has devoted enormous time and energy to are Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock and the school’s Youth Against Cancer group. Last year, she cut 17 inches off her hair to raise $2,500.00 for Cops for Cancer. She and her very good friend Ana Adams also organized a bottle drive that brought in $5,500.00 for this year’s campaign. This year she also coordinated a live grad auction for Cops for Cancer — grad services (including things like dinner preparation) were “purchased” for a week. Chloe’s leadership role in the school’s Youth Against Cancer Group has meant working to increase awareness of issues such as the risks associated with tanning beds and the dangers of flavoured tobacco. The Youth Against Cancer group also holds school fundraisers — including Muffin Morning Mondays — with proceeds being donated to the Cancer Society. As noted in the Oak Bay News article, they prepare Smile Packages for cancer patients who are in for treatment during the Christmas season. This year they went one step further by decorating Canadian Cancer Society’s Vancouver Island Lodge.

Chloe adds volunteering at the Royal Jubilee hospital on Wednesdays to her already packed list of activities. There she chats with patients, delivers books and “gives them an ear – someone who will listen”. While some of conversations revolve simply around complaints about the food, more often than not, they are “really interesting” and she’s heard “a lot of amazing stories”. She thoroughly enjoys these visits and hearing from the largely elderly patients she encounters.

P1030255Chloe is presently taking a heavy load of mathematics and sciences in her final year in preparation for university where she hopes to enroll in a Kinesiology or Human Kinetics program. She eventually wants to practice as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist.

Summers are also a busy time for Chloe. For three years now she has been employed as an assistant teacher in the Victoria International High School Program. There she facilitates interactions between the international students and takes them on outings such as hiking and kayaking. In addition to supporting the students as they improve their English, Chloe helps with organization and program development. She also somehow manages to hold down a part time retail sales clerk job.

While noting there are many great teachers at Oak Bay High, Chloe has been particularly inspired by Roxanne Taggart, the sponsor teacher for Youth Against Cancer, who “is always there when you need her help” and Murray Allan “who really steps up and motivates us – although he can be hard on us, it helps us achieve our goals”.

DSC_1219Chloe loves sports, especially soccer; she’s played with Bays United since moving to Victoria at age 8. Chloe also enjoyed basketball and played on her school team in Grades 9 and 10 as well as the in the local Night League. In 2011 Chloe played on the school volleyball team and in the past she has coached a Grade 6 girls’ team at Monterey Middle School.

Chloe has learned the importance of teamwork through sports and her many extracurricular activities at school and in the community. She is a born leader and someone who can be counted on to follow through with any commitment that she makes. The fact that she is able to accomplish so much outside of school while still maintaining a very high average in a challenging academic program is a testament to Chloe’s dedication, commitment and organizational skills. She’s a proven team player and team leader. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to find out that ten years from now, Chloe is the head physiotherapist working with a semi-professional, or professional sports team. Thank you Chloe for all that you do to improve the lives of those in our community.

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