This award honours a young women under the age of 25 who shows leadership at school, in the community, and/or in her workplace. In response to the pandemic, she demonstrates perseverance, innovation, and a keen understanding of the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on marginalized people and communities. She inspires others to follow her example, and sets the pace for others to walk alongside her. This exceptional young woman is committed to a cause or the pursuit of a personal dream. She challenges the status quo – and knows that “going back to normal” isn’t good enough. She is an advocate and leader who will continue to inspire us for years to come.
Joëlle Kabisoso is a Congolese born Canadian and graduate of Western University. She is the founder of Sisters In Sync (SIS), a non-profit organization with a mission to support girls and women in education, mental health, financial literacy and day-to-day challenges. Joëlle started SIS as a response to her own experience as a sexual assault survivor and her commitment to supporting individuals with lived experiences of abuse. For her advocacy work, Joëlle has received many awards and recognition, such as CIBWE Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada, Afropolitan Canada’s “2020 Leadership Award”, Regroupement Affaires Femmes “2020 New Generation Award” amongst others.
Ashwini Selvakumaran is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. She has lived in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Yemen, New York and Canada. Ashwini’s valuable lived experiences solidified her passion to mobilize youth into tangible action and become a lifelong advocate for social justice.
For the past five years, Ashwini has been a Youth Ambassador for Plan International Canada. In this role, she utilizes her voice to represent women and youth across Canada. Recently, she was named the Young Director on the Iroquoia Bruce Trails Board by G(irls)20 and is the Chair of the Halton Newcomer Youth Steering Committee. Ashwini is also the author of “COVID-19 Perspectives – a book detailing the impact of COVID-19 on the global student community.
Abygail Montague is a mover and shaker within her community and a leader amongst her peers. She was unanimously elected as the second black woman President of the Student Council at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, where she is a student Aby and her sister launched Janus Skills 4 Success (Janus S4S) where the mission is to empower youth through volunteerism and leadership development. Throughout 2020, Aby led a team of ten students to host two curbside food and clothing drives and also facilitated online discussions/workshops around topics such as Anti-Racism and Youth Mental Health. Balancing competing priorities, she co-launched the BLK OWNED HAMONT platform to showcase and support black owned businesses and also remains a top lacrosse athlete in Hamilton.
Blerina Ago is a community builder, educator, and local mobilizer in Hamilton. Blerina is unwavering in her commitment to advancing equity in education and creating meaningful opportunities for children and youth. As Founder of Backpacks for Brainiacs, Blerina is an advocate who works with local non-profits and after school programs to equip children and youth with the resources they need to have a successful school year, while breaking down the systemic and financial barriers further exacerbated by COVID-19. Each year, Blerina has developed her fundraising, strategy, people, culture, and community to reach new heights. It is her stride, her passion and her commitment that inspires younger and brighter minds to follow in her trailblazing footsteps.
Jess Anderson graduated in 2020 from McMaster University with a combined honours in Anthropology and Sociology with an Integrated Business Studies Certificate. Jess was elected to serve as the second female Vice-President Finance & CFO of the McMaster Students Union (MSU). Recognizing that the pandemic has disproportionately affected community members with lower socioeconomic status, Jess has focused MSU efforts around financial equity and accessibility. Most notably, Jess has saved undergraduate students over $110 in MSU fee reductions and roughly 75% on their HSR transit fee. Jess is a strong advocate for sustainable consumerism, repurposing thrifted clothing in her spare time. Jess also enjoys shedding light on local businesses via social media and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.
Madison Ladd is a 21year-old Hamiltonian pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher. She is an ECE graduate from Mohawk College, and is now in her first year at Brock University. Madison has been nicknamed “Lion,” as she has fiercely overcome many challenges in her life. Madison has epilepsy, and has experienced grand-mal seizures since she was 10 years old. During the early days of the pandemic, she created a presentation offering activities for parents and children to do together. She also started From the Heart, her own small business, , selling tie-dye t-shirts, with $5 per shirt going to McMaster Children’s Hospital, Charity of Hope, and Food Share. While in school, Madison also works part-time at Studio E, a local school for music and arts.
Negar Balouchestani-Asli is a fourth-year student studying Chemical Biology at McMaster University. As the recent McMaster Students Union (MSU) Part-Time Manager for Horizons—an orientation and leadership conference for incoming McMaster students—Negar surpassed expectations of her supervisors when asked to pivot her team’s planning in response to the pandemic. The MSU’s first virtual Horizons Conference welcomed 1000+ first-year students through seven webinars over two months. Negar has extended community-building into her program as Co-President of the McMaster Undergraduate Society for Chemical Sciences. Recognizing the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on Black communities and communities of colour, Negar teamed up with friends to launch an online auction that would generate $800 in donations, including $230 for Black Lives Matter Toronto.
Nicole Crimi is a medical student at McMaster University, as well as a fine artist and writer. Nicole is passionate about utilizing the arts in knowledge translation and inspiring meaningful change around the world. Recently, she wrote, illustrated, and self-published “Patty and the Pandemic” – a children’s book which uses light-hearted rhyming verses and hand-painted illustrations to teach kids aged 3-8 about COVID-19. Receiving public support from the provincial government, and many other organizations, Patty and the Pandemic has been making waves across the country. With 100% of profits being donated to Face the Future™ Foundation, this book is a source of hope and optimism, and encourages a “Pay it Forward” attitude in a time of need.
Oyinloluwa Aderibigbe is a 12th grade student based in Hamilton. She first fell in love with model government four years ago after joining her school’s Model United Nations delegation. Directing her passion towards amplifying student voices, she joined Model City Hall Hamilton as the Academic Director in 2019. After two successful conferences, she was appointed as the Senior Co-Director of Operations at Model City Hall. At school, she serves as both the President and Founder of the Black Student’s Association and as a College Prefect. Previously, she led the Wee Braveheart Committee and the Senior Ambassador Team. In her spare time, Oyinloluwa loves to analyze literature, study philosophy, and learn new languages.
Sarah Bayliss is an activist and a community role model. While working in multiple shelters and volunteering with Hamilton organizations, Sarah has demonstrated a commitment to seeking justice, and consistently works to combat the inequalities that many marginalized communities, such as BIPOC, transgender and non-binary folks, disabled folk, and homeless folk, face. Sarah is a survivor who safely escaped an abusive home while also living with arthritis and CPTSD. Sarah works tirelessly to educate and spread awareness, shows up for their community by participating in marches and protests, and provides support for those in need during this challenging time.
Susanne Nyaga is a Black, Kenyan community organizer. She is passionate about addressing and dismantling systemic anti-Black racism in all its forms. She has completed her Bachelor of Social Work degree at Ryerson University, where she focused on learning and understanding the nature of systemic anti-Blackness and the importance of applying anti-oppressive practices. Susanne recently completed her Masters of Social Work degree at Howard University. There she focused on building community-based interventions from a Black perspective. She hopes to develop community-based interventions for low-income and racialized communities rooted in social entrepreneurship. Susanne is unapologetically pro-liberation for ALL marginalized communities and continues to advocate for a society that supports difference instead of fearing and criminalizing it.
Gabrielle Warren is a passionate advocate for children’s rights and providing equitable access to education for Canadian children from low-income/BIPOC communities. She holds a Specialist in Political Science and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Education. Through her work in Research & Development with national children’s charity Start2Finish, Gabrielle was the catalyst for the Ontario Ministry of Education adopting Start2Finish’s “Daily 20” virtual fitness program as a Learn at Home Resource during COVID-19 school closures, and has communicated with MPs/MPPs/media in Halton-Hamilton where a number of Start2Finish’s programs operate. During COVID-19, Gabrielle has advocated at all levels of government for long-term solutions that will bridge the learning gaps/disparities amplified by the pandemic, and ensure ALL children have the opportunity to succeed.
Rachel Shadid, is someone who consistently strives to make a difference in the world, and to impact the people around her with hope, resilience, and positivity. As a Student Ambassador for the Dare to Be Youth Charity, an academic student representative, a previous Valedictorian, and a full time Undergraduate student at McMaster University, Rachel’s schedule is full. However, amidst all the business, Rachel recognizes the importance of self-appreciation, the value of mental health care, and tries her best to become a strong, motivational role model in the community.. Dreaming of becoming a writer one day, Rachel hopes to dazzle the world with a sense of togetherness and strives to guide individuals down a positive pathway.