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Celebrating Youth

Paying tribute to a remarkable young woman

Today in the legislature I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Jillian McCue on a job shadow. Jillian is the remarkable young woman who spent three years trying to get Saanich to allow her to have miniature goats in her back garden. I took the opportunity to make a two minute statement highlighting her inspirational achievements.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.

Text of my Statement

A. Weaver: I’d like to pay tribute to an inspirational young woman who I have the distinct honour of hosting on a job shadow today. Her name is Jillian McCue, a 13-year-old grade eight student at Gordon Head Middle School.

I first met Jillian in April 2013 during a meet-and-greet that I was attending in the lead-up to the last election. Midway through the event, Jillian, then only nine, entered and requested that I ask the audience to sign her petition. I didn’t know who she was or what the petition was about, so I suggested she make the pitch directly. It was compelling, grounded in evidence, and eloquently and passionately delivered. Jillian was setting out to change the fact that Saanich municipal bylaws did not permit miniature goats to be kept in backyards, and she convinced every single person in the room to sign the petition.

She’d done her homework. She learned that in 2007, Seattle city council approved keeping miniature goats as pets. She undertook her own research to disarm the potential criticism that goats would be smelly. Participants in her goat-poo smell study were asked to smell two bags: one containing dog poop and the other containing goat poop. They were then asked to rate the smelliness on a Likert scale of 1 to 5. Her survey data confirmed her hypothesis. On average, dog droppings smell twice as bad as goat poop.

Armed with her research, a petition signed by 132 people in her neighbourhood and well-structured PowerPoint slides, Jillian made a presentation to Saanich council. She was peppered with questions that she easily handled, and Saanich subsequently referred the matter to no less than three separate committees. So began the grueling municipal approval process.

Jillian persevered.

She presented to each of the committees and fielded many questions. She responded to numerous media requests. Three years later — yes, that’s three years — Saanich finally agreed to allow a pilot project to be undertaken. Jillian was able to obtain two miniature goats.

After watching Jillian navigate the complexities of municipal politics, I’m convinced that her determination, skills and ability to take on big challenges could allow her to achieve one of her life goals. That is to be the Prime Minister of Canada.

Video of my Statement

Celebrating youth in our community – Robert Lee

This is the 25th 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.

Robert Lee

RobertLeeOak_Bay_Academic_PillarI first met Robert on May 23 last year at a symbolic passing of the torch at the Old Oak Bay High School Farewell Ceremony. Oak Bay High has four pillars that capture its culture: academics, athletics, fine arts, and community leadership and philanthropy. At the event an alumnus, signifying past success in one of Oak Bay’s pillars, was asked to say a few words about the foundation we received at Oak Bay High. I had the distinct honour and privilege of representing the academics pillar and passing the torch to Robert Lee.

RobertLeeStudent_Council_Presidential_CandidatesI met Robert a second time on October 27, 2017 at the Grand Opening of the New Oak Bay High School. Now it was Robert’s turn to say a few words about Oak Bay’s academic pillar and what it meant to him. Upon hearing him speak, I knew that this articulate young man was destined for great things.

Robert was born in New Westminster, BC and moved to Victoria with his parents at a young age. He attended Willows Elementary, Monterey & Arbutus Middle Schools and Oak Bay High School, from where he  graduated  this past June with an exceptional record of academic achievement and community involvement. Robert loves learning and told us his favourite courses are “everything I took in school”. He also loves languages (he speaks a bit of French and Mandarin) and history, but acknowledges that he is more of a “science and math type”.

RobertLeeOak_Bay_Kiwanis_AwardHighly successful in all his courses, Robert  received Honours with Distinction (5.0 Grade Point Average) throughout high school. He has received awards in a wide range of subjects including Top Student in Science 9, Planning 10, Chemistry 11, English 11, French 11, Physics 11 and Mathematics 12. In 2014, the Greater Victoria School District Board of Education honoured him with a Recognition of Outstanding Achievement. His list of awards and achievements is long and impressive.  They include winning the national 2014 Michael Smith Science Challenge (first among 1,753 participants) and the 2016 Oak Bay High School Kiwanis Citizenship and Service Award with Ruby Tang.

In the fall of his grade 12 year, Robert took a Computer Science course at the University of Victoria (in the UVic uStart Dual Credit Program) and received the top mark in the class — that’s a first year university class!

RobertLeeBowker_Creek_in_Netherlands (1)Outside of academics, Robert has also distinguished himself as a leader through various activities at school and in the community. In 2015, with the school’s Bowker Creek Student Group, he participated in an exchange trip to the Netherlands where the students analyzed water samples and plant distribution in Holland’s saltwater marshes and later in Bowker Creek. He led fundraising and successfully secured a grant from a local organization. From his teacher Derek Schrubsole we learned that upon returning from the Netherlands, Robert volunteered his time to assist with a different group of students who would later be attending the Water is Life conference. He assisted with editing, proofreading and formatting the Bowker Creek restoration project and the creation of the project website.

RobertLeeLeadership_Team_Building_Activity (2)What so impressed Mr. Schrubsole was that Robert was happy to help out and donate his time and effort despite the fact that he was not even attending the conference this year.

Other school involvement includes Student Council, Peer Tutoring, Project Leader for the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock Campaign in 2015 and Leader in the Community Leadership Program since September 2015. Robert was Co-Leader of the school’s Reach for the Top Team that competed against Vancouver schools in April of 2016.

RobertLeeSeniors_Program_GroupRobert was pleased to tell us about his work as Leader and Organizer of University of Victoria’s Senior’s Program, where students from his school and other local high schools volunteer their time to teach seniors computer skills. In this role, he created teaching materials, wrote news releases, recruited volunteers and seniors, solicited funding, managed Senior’s program inquiries, mentored volunteers, delegated responsibilities and delivered workshops. All this because Robert wanted to “give back” to his community and he loved working with seniors.

unspecifiedSince 2014, Robert has been a member of the City of Victoria Youth Council, engaging in several events each year, including Go Out and Vote (for the civic election in 2014) and the Employment Fair. In the latter he helped youth find resources to build their resume and practice interviewing skills. As a member of the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) Teen Council, Robert participated in youth focus groups, was a Reading Buddy and a Tech Buddy and acted in an advisory capacity to the GVPL.

Robert LeeRobert has been inspired by many teachers, including his Physics teacher Mr. Simonson, Science teacher and Environment Club sponsor Mr. Shrubsole and Planning teacher Mr. Alexander, who helped him with scholarship applications. “He’s a kid who I think we will hear a lot more about in the future with his ideas and drive” says Mr. Alexander. Frankly, I suspect Robert has inspired many teachers as well!

Robert Lee (2)Robert is one of only 25 recipients across Canada of the prestigious $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship in engineering.  He’ll be taking up this scholarship at the University of Victoria where he hopes to eventually explore his passion regarding the electrification and automation of transportation, a field he sees himself working in sometime in the next decade.

At the end of our interview I asked him if he’d ever driven an electric car before. He hadn’t so I pulled out an N to put on the back of my Nissan Leaf and let Robert drive himself home with me as a passenger. Upon exiting the car he let me know that he is determined to convince his family to buy an electric vehicle!

RobertLeeLeadership_Team_Building_Activity (1)Mr. Shrubsole gave us a fine example of Robert’s humility: during one of the Environment Club meetings, a fellow student came in congratulating Robert for winning the Schulich Leaders Scholarship. Robert, who had not said a word about it prior to this, simply smiled and indicated he was thankful for the amazing opportunity. “Robert is one of those students I felt honoured to work with, both in the classroom and out” says Mr. Shrubsole.

This summer, Robert will spend six weeks working at TRIUMF on the University of British Columbia campus, coincidentally the exact same place I had my first undergraduate summer job.  He is a recipient of TRIUMF’s High School Fellowship Program that offers fellowships each year to graduating secondary students entering their first undergraduate year at a recognized post-secondary institution. The Fellowship includes an award of $3,000 and a six-week summer research experience at TRIUMF.

unspecifiedRobert is a brilliant young man who approaches life with great humility, scientific curiosity and a tremendous work ethic. He quietly goes about tackling challenges and accomplishing great things. We expect to hear much more about his accomplishments in the years to come. And while I thought that May 23, 2015 was the first time I met Robert, closer inspection of the image he provided us to the right from when he volunteered at UVic’s Science Venture shows that it obviously was not! My own son is seen sitting in the front row. And I guess that what’s we all love about Victoria, you are never more than one step of separation from any one in our community.



Celebrating youth in our community – Nikki Frazer

This is the 24th 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.

Nikki Frazer

Nikki cover photo 2While reading the Oak Bay News a couple of months ago, I came across an article about Nikki Frazer. Nikki, a grade 12 student at Oak Bay High School, had just been announced as a finalist in the Start Something with Alesse scholarship contest thanks to her business proposal: Bee-utiful Fashion to Save the Bees. Her idea was to create an online store selling mainly bee-related fashion items, as well as ethically-sourced beeswax accessories like soap and candles, in order to raise money and awareness for the declining native bee population here in Canada – an issue she had become aware of after watching a TED Talk on the plight of bees.

After being selected to the top 10 finalists from more than 1,500 entries across Canada, Nikki’s proposal received over 1,000 votes in just 3 weeks. Nikki eventually finished 3rd in the For-Profit Category, helping to bring a renewed attention to this important issue along the way.

Interact Amazing Race Group PhotoInspired by her passion and ingenuity, I invited Nikki to be a part of our celebrating youth series. After meeting with Nikki at my constituency office last month it was clear that that Oak Bay News article was just a small sample of the passion and determination she possesses.

Born in Kamloops but raised in Victoria, Niki attended Sir James Douglas Elementary and Monterey Middle School before ending up at Oak Bay High. Currently in her final year of High School, Nikki is the definition of an all-around-student. She is currently taking a full course load, including Calculous, AP English, Chemistry and Band, as well as serving on Oak Bay Student Council, the Community Leadership group, and the Oak Bay High Interact Club, of which she is Vice President, all while maintaining an exceptional academic standing. While she has a passion for classical literature and creative writing, Nikki’s favorite areas are mathematics and theoretical physics. In fact, she will be attending the University of Toronto next fall to do a double major in mathematics and physics.

Soap for Hope picOutside of school, Nikki volunteers with the UVic Seniors Program, where she teaches seniors how to use social media outlets such as Facebook, Gmail and Twitter, and with Disaster Aid Canada, where she organized over 100 Disaster Relief Kits to be sent out to disaster areas, such as Nepal. Through her work with Disaster Relief Canada Nikki also organized a team of youth volunteers for the Soap for Hope program. Once a week during the summer, and once a month during the school year, the group gets together to collect mini soap, shampoo and conditioner bottles donated from local hotels in order to create hygiene kits for local shelters and international organizations.

Oak Bay Orchestra Concert photoWhen not volunteering, Nikki has delivered newspapers for the Times Colonist (a job she discontinued last month to allow more time for exam studying) and has worked with the SMUS International Student Program, as a Canadian Ambassador for Japanese students, and with the Victoria International Education Centre (VIEC), assisting in ESL Classroom lessons and acting as a tour guide during fieldtrips.

While Nikki is clearly an exceptionally accomplished and determined young woman, perhaps what struck me most in my meeting with her was how modest and humble she was about her accomplishments. It was clear that she truly enjoys and believes in every project she has been involved with, and that her passion for community involvement is a key driving force behind her many endeavors. In fact, it was this humble nature that had her casually skimming over one of her more personal, but equally impressive, accomplishments: Nikki recently earned her Black Belt in Traditional Japanese Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate.

Karate Dojo Group PhotoBeginning her Karate practice learning Shotokan Karate, the more common Karate form practiced in the Western Hemisphere, Nikki won two competitions and earned her 4th degree Brown Belt before switching over to the more traditional Shorin Ryu form. She currently trains under Sensei Masanbou Kikukawa, dedicating 12 hours a week to her Shorin Ryu practice.

Shorin Ryu has a strong emphasis on patience and respect. While practitioners train their bodies to be able to defend themselves physically, they also train their minds to never have to —instead developing the strength of mind to walk away from a fight, unless given no other choice.

Cops for Cancer Group Photo 2015While listening to Nikki talk about Shorin Ryu it became clear to me that the patience, respect and strength of mind that she has developed through her practice has benefited her in all aspects of her life and will continue to benefit her throughout her future. In fact, she is already looking for a Sensei in Toronto that share’s Sensei Kikukawa’s philosophies so that she can carry on her practice while at U of T. And when I asked her about her career goals for the future, she said she would like to be in a Management position at a physics company and have her own Dojo (Karate School).

Nikki’s humble nature, strength of mind and passion for life will no doubt lead her to a brilliant future. And one day Shorin Ryu students may be vying for the chance to practice under Sensei Frazer.

Celebrating youth in our community – Nathan Kuehne

This is the 23rd 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.

Nathan Kuehne

Building Lego RecentIt seems like just yesterday that I met Nathan as a young lad in Mr. Brooks’ Grade 5 boys class on the beach campus of Glenlyon Norfolk. In what feels like a blink of the eye, he’s 18 and now graduating from Grade 12 in a few months. Nathan is what’s termed a “lifer”, having attended Glenlyon Norfolk ever since Kindergarten. He’s an exceptional student with a passion for science and since Grade 9 he has competed at a very high level in Science Fairs. Nathan presently serves as Head Boy of the school this year and so serves as a role model and an ambassador for the school. He is also involved in the organization of numerous student activities including co-organizing weekly assemblies.

Science FairNathan has had a love of science for as long as he can remember. In Grade 9, he qualified for the National Science Fair after placing 6th in the Regional Science Fair, where his project involved the use of charcoal in soil to help plants grow. It was at the Regional Science Fair that he met a Grade 12 student who inspired and “wowed” him with his university level research. The Grade 12 student captivated Nathan and made him feel empowered, wondering to himself “how far can I go with this?” And indeed he has gone a very long way already.

CBC Interview 2After his inspirational experience at the competition in Grade 9, Nathan undertook a science project in Grade 10 that looked at detecting multiple types of cancer though a urine sample. His goal was to make testing for cancer easier and cheaper.

Nathan noted that he has had the benefit of an outstanding teacher mentor, Ms. Dallin, at Glenlyon Norfolk. Ms. Dallin has put in countless volunteer hours to support Nathan, including time during the summer months when Nathan consulted with a professor at the University of Victoria on his research. His Grade 10 science project landed him a spot on Team BC and a Gold Medal at the Canada wide Science Fair (in the Top 10 nationally).

TEDx TalkIn Grade 11, Nathan carried his research further with a project on Phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare inherited disorder that causes an amino acid to build up in the body. He presented a platform for disease detection that is inexpensive, accessible and will screen for many diseases. He presented a chemical protocol in looking for amino acids (which are elevated with diseases). The title of his project was “pH-Dependent Colorimetric Assays for Biomarking Amino Acids”. He received the President’s Award for 1st Place Overall at the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair and a Gold Medal at the National Science Fair. Nathan was a TedX Victoria speaker in 2015 called “DIY Diagnostic: A Life-Changing Test for PKU Patients”.

Nathan is one of two students from BC who was selected to compete at the recently held Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona.

IMG_6674Nathan has been the recipient of many academic awards and scholarships, including top academic awards in Grades 9 to 11, the Glenlyon Norfolk Alumni Association Scholarship for academic success and contribution to the school and a Recognition Award for Excellence in International Baccalaureate Personal Project.

It did not surprise us to learn that Nathan has a long term goal of undertaking medical research. He has won a variety of scholarships, including the prestigious Chancellor’s Scholarship at Queen’s University and a National Scholarship at the University of Toronto, offered annually to approximately ten students from across Canada.

Ukrainian DanceIn addition to his passion for science, Nathan has other interests. He speaks five languages: English, Russian, German, Spanish and French (at varying levels of proficiency, he notes). He played basketball on the school team this year and he enjoys movies and hiking with friends. He loves working as a volunteer with younger students who love science. His hope is to inspire them the same way he was inspired by an older student when he was in Grade 9. Another of Nathan’s passions is Ukrainian dance – he has been dancing and competing since age 10. Now, he also teaches Ukrainian dance to 8 to 10 year olds at Victoria’s Veselka Dance group.

Nathan is a very engaging young man who has already accomplished a great deal and will no doubt go on to do ground-breaking medical research. His love of science, his intelligence and high degree of motivation will carry him far and we look forward to hearing a lot more about Nathan’s accomplishments in the future.



Congratulation to all Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (Y.E.S.) Award Winners

ChvdmZdUgAAhWYG.jpg_largeToday I had the privilege of attending the 9th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (Y.E.S) awards ceremony at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre where 12 exceptionally talented youth in grades 6 to 10 were honoured for their achievements.

As noted by the YES Awards Committee, Chaired by Hazel Braithwaite, that administers the awards, “The goal of the awards is to emphasize the positive achievements of Oak Bay’s young people by recognizing those who have distinguished themselves in such areas as volunteerism, arts, citizenship, academics, athletics and/or who have overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.”

Congratulations to this year’s award winners: Cara Butler, Vanilia Chotou, Kaden Cortini, Annabelle Fieltsch, Rose Hanneson-Schwenger, Rebecca Hartley, Sidney Hurst, Jasmine Lambert, Aiden Leibel, Nicole Quast, Elmer Thomas and Jack Walmsley.

I had the pleasure of presenting the award to Cara Butler. Below is the text of my speech.

Text of Speech

In the words of her nominator, Nichelle Soetaert, Cara Butler is an outstanding young woman – driven, kind, diligent, reliable, creative and dedicated to all of her endeavours. She inspires her peers to become more engaged in the community and consistently emerges as a leader both inside and outside of the classroom. Her teachers consider it a genuine pleasure to have her in class, her peers seek her out for advice and guidance, and the influence of her generosity and dedication is felt from the Oak Bay Community all the way to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico.

Cara’s academic prowess is extremely impressive and she achieved at or above 93% in each of her 8 classes. She also competes with the senior field hockey team, has achieved a provincial level competing in track and field and is a leader on the junior girls’ Oak Bay soccer team. You would imagine that maintaining grades above 90% would be no easy feat with all of these things on her plate, yet Cara continues to excel academically and in all others areas of her busy life.

As a grade ten student, Cara has become deeply ensconced in the Oak Bay Community. She was involved in two major events that took place through Oak Bay High this year. The first of these events is very close to the heart of the school – Cops for Cancer. Cara worked tirelessly during her summer and throughout the month of September to organize fundraisers and to plan the arrival of the Tour de Rock participants at the school. At every event, she wore a smile and encouraged others to be engaged in the process, leading by example.

Another important achievement for Cara this year is her involvement in the Live Different program. Every second year, a group of 36 Oak Bay students travel to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico to build a home for a deserving family in a very impoverished area. The dedication and commitment required by this program is intensive, including a year and a half of preparation. Cara was committed from the first moment, working hard to raise money for the “Jail or Bail” event, spending countless hours preparing for the dance, and building new connections with all group members. During the trip, she was always actively involved. She helped others understand and cope with intense emotions (while certainly experiencing those same emotions herself), and was able to connect with the larger world at a very deep level.

Cara really embodies all of the attributes of a Young Exceptional Star not only in her school, but in her community too and it gives me great pleasure to present her with an award this year.