This is the fourteenth 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.
Each year, 83 outstanding scholars from around the world are awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Eleven of these students are from Canada and only one from the Province of British Columbia. Past Rhodes Scholars include former Prime Minister John Turner, former President Bill Clinton, former premiers Bob Rae (Ontario), Danny Williams (Newfoundland) and Allan Blakeney (Saskatchewan) as well as Andrew Wilkinson the MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena and Minister of Advanced Education. This year, Oak Bay High School graduate Logan Graham joins the Rhodes Scholars Elect class of 2015. In so doing, his name is added to a distinguished group of 108 previous British Columbia Rhodes Scholarship winners since 1904.
During our interview with Logan, it became obvious to us why he was awarded a 2015 Rhodes Scholarship. In just twenty years, Logan has accomplished more than many people achieve in a lifetime. And he’s done so while facing significant health challenges, having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 4 and suffering massive complications from the illness between ages 4 and 8 years.
Logan is in his final year at UBC working towards an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Economics through funding from a UBC Major Entrance Scholarship for outstanding leadership, academics and entrepreneurship and the ConocoPhillips Centennial Scholarship administered by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada for young Canadian visionaries. But Logan’s family roots are here in our community. Remarkably, and coincidentally, I found out during our discussions that his uncle was James Graham (now a Fine Arts professor at the University of Lethbridge). James and I were good friends in high school and both graduated from Oak Bay in 1979. While some might argue that we are all only six degrees of separation from each other, in Victoria it’s more like one degree it seems!
Prior to moving to Victoria with his family, Logan, who was born in Vancouver, attended West Point Grey Academy until Grade 7. At the tender age of seven, when most grade two children are focused on school, their friends and playing, Logan set out to form a foundation to advocate for children afflicted with rheumatic illnesses. That year Logan made a remarkable New Year’s resolution: “I’m going to hold a car wash and raise money for kids with arthritis”. The car wash raised $10,000 and since that first fundraising event, the Children’s Arthritis Foundation that Logan established with his parents and sister has raised over $160,000.
To date, Logan, as Founder of the Children’s Arthritis Foundation has delivered presentations to over 5,000 people across Canada and the U.S., developed matching partnerships with donors and recruited several hundred students to help him run fundraisers. He’s done all of this because “kids with rheumatic illness have a really small say in the medical and political world that affects them. So over the past fourteen years, we’ve done things like provide the right shoes to kids for free, initiate the establishment of a research chair at UBC and train the next generation of health practitioners”. His motivation for starting the foundation came from a desire to help his friends – other children he had met with similar conditions.
When his family came to Victoria, Logan skipped grade 8 and went straight into grade 9 at Oak Bay High School. Not surprisingly, he excelled academically and was elected Valedictorian for his 2011 graduating class. During grade 9, he was part of the founding group of Oak Bay youth who worked with a municipal councilor whose goal was to make Oak Bay a youth-friendly place. He participated in the Leadership program at Oak Bay High and was on the Student Council. In 2010, he helped co-organize and lead an Oak Bay delegation and presentation to a Vancouver Island symposium on the recession.
As President of the local Rotary Interact Club from 2010 to 2011, Logan worked to raise money in support of a project in Rwanda. He also coordinated a “Memory Café” through partnership with Oak Bay Lodge to hold youth-senior discussion sessions.
While in his last years at Oak Bay High School, Logan took up debating under the direction of Tim Bradshaw, an inspirational teacher who Logan described as the “sort of teacher where you look back and say he’s the one who opened up my eyes”. He excelled in debating and participated in several competitions including Oak Bay High’s annual Golden Gnome debate tournament, Model UN sessions, and a BC Commonwealth Debate competition hostedat St. Michaels University School.
Logan’s interest in financial economics, which ultimately took him to UBC, were nurtured and inspired by Chad Jacques, a teacher at Oak Bay. He recalls his teacher walking into business class one day and asking, “Do you know what today is”. Nobody responded. “Today is the start of a recession,” proclaimed Chad Jacques. For Logan, these words were motivating. He couldn’t believe that society could mess things up so badly; Logan went off to the library to start pouring through economics books.
In grade 10 Chad Jacques also wrote a letter in support of Logan’s desire to attend a month long summer program at Oxford University in International Economics. Despite the prohibitive cost to register, Logan was determined to go. So during the course of the year he used his entrepreneurial skills to set up an estate management and home care company that allowed him to subsequently earn the $10,000 required. Clients were easy for him to come by, as his compelling story about wanting to attend the program at Oxford University was a door opener.
Ever since Logan was ten years old, he knew that Oxford was “a place I want to end up”. During a family vacation “his eyes lit up” at the magnificence and splendor of Oxford’s collegiate architecture. And sure enough, in 2015 Logan will fulfill his dream as he starts an MPhil in Economics.
Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family environment, Logan knows what it means to take risks, show leadership and develop a strategy to reach one’s goals. In his first year at UBC, he founded the UBC Social Enterprise Club, as a place for student to apply “business techniques to real-life situations in order to solve social issues”. His passion for social enterprise together with his recognition of the need to facilitate ways for students to become involved in innovative business ventures that have significant social impact, has ensured the club has been a huge success. Through the club, hundreds of students and high-profile social impact professionals have come together to help bring ideas into reality. The club has created three employment opportunities by establishing Canada’s first student social venture consultancy and consulting with nine fast-growth local social ventures.
Last year, while attending the Global Social Business Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Logan had the good fortune to meet 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank (known as the Bank of the Poor) and the concept of microfinancing in Bangladesh during the 1970s. Inspired by this workshop that was designed to bring young social entrepreneurs together with established more seasoned world leaders, Logan, along with three of his peers, launched another organization called: Yunus & Youth. This online platform connects young entrepreneurs and pairs them with world-renowned mentors, trains them with these experts and connects them with a global support network.
Logan has a strong desire to continue to travel the world. After an exchange to the National University of Singapore in 2013 he had the opportunity to backpack around parts of China and was fascinated by what he witnessed. Logan commented to us on how China’s remarkable economic growth in recent years can be viewed as the world’s “single best poverty reduction program”. Sometime in the future Logan see himself spending time working in China, perhaps Guangzhou, a city he found to be most welcoming and exhilarating.
An article from the UBC Vancouver School of Economics aptly notes that Logan is “an entrepreneur with a passion for using the principles of economics to solve social problems”. Whether at school, in business, or DJing under the catchy handle “Logarhythm”, Logan excels in all that he does. Yet family, and in particular his sister, are incredibly important to Logan. They struggled together as Logan battled rheumatoid arthritis at an early age. Logan is never short of praise for his family. He described his sister Tookie as “the smartest most caring person I know” and on social media when letting his friends know about his award he started off by saying: “Before anything else, I want to say that my biggest mentor, educator and inspiration has always been my sister Tookie Graham. From the moment you first tried to drag me through the bars of my crib, you have always been trying to show me the world.”
Logan views the Rhodes Scholarship as “a free path to learn about anything and then challenge everything”. I’m sure he had no idea how inspiring it was for me to hear him describe his academic aspirations in such terms. Whether it is poverty and homelessness, global population growth and sustainable development, climate change and water availability, or sustaining global biodiversity, the world’s greatest challenges require creative approaches in developing innovative solutions. We need visionaries in today’s youth to emerge as our political leaders of tomorrow. And it is our job, as the decisison-makers of today, to remove the barriers that otherwise would limit these social entrepreneurs from succeeding. Thank you Logan for all that you do.
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