One of Canada’s top Air Cadets and an honours student with a bent for social activism have been named Mount Pearl’s Male and female Youths of the Year.
Harrison Latham and Noubahar Hasnain were accorded the honour during the 26th annual Focus on Youth Awards held at the Glacier last week.
The event was emceed by Mount Pearl Deputy Mayor Jim Locke. “It’s truly my pleasure to be here this evening as we celebrate the outstanding contributions made to our amazing city by our youth as well as by our adults who give their time to work with our youth,” said Locke. “I know I speak for all of our council when I say this event is a highlight in our calendar every year.”
The evening was co-hosted by last year’s Youths of the Year, Lauren Winsor, who is a first year Memorial University student intending to study medicine, and Colin Hunt, who is graduating from Mount Pearl Senior High this year and planning to study engineering.
“They did a great job this year representing the youth at so many different functions,” Locke said.
“We’ve had a great year working together as youth ambassadors for the City,” Hunt allowed.
Winsor thanked the City of Mount Pearl for continuing to showcase youth achievement.
Some 15 awards were handed out during the night, with Mount Pearl Show Choir providing the entertainment, and four of the nominees in the category of Performing Arts Youth Award, also taking to the stage to perform. Ryan MacDonald performed the speech that won him the Speak Off as part of the Youth of the Year competition. The subject was chivalry in the modern age. That was followed by the female winner in the same category, Victoria Jackman, who looked at the subject of changing attitudes towards people with development disabilities.
The event is held as part of Youth Week, which is organized by the Youth Action Team, the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance and the City of Mount Pearl.
The highlight of the ceremony was the announcement of Male and Female Youths of the Year.
Winsor and Hunt noted that the first ever Male Youth of the Year, John Rossiter, died in 2003 while working as a paramedic in Nova Scotia during Hurricane Juan. Rossiter was a gifted athlete, coach, student and actor, Hunt said. “It is in his boundless spirit that we give the award tonight.”
Two members of Rossiter’s family helped present the award to Latham, a first class honours student at O’Donel.
Latham has already experienced more things than most students ever get to, Hunt said. “He is the top Air Cadet in Newfoundland and has been nominated as the top Air Cadet in Canada,” he added. “Latham is also a cadet instructor and was named top drill instructor, commanding over 500 people.”
Latham competes as a biathlete and marksman. At O’Donel, he is a member of the First Responder Team, the Robotics Club and the Model UN. “Outside school, he makes time for his volunteer work, collecting for food hampers and participating in the Run for the Cure for the last four years,” said Hunt.
“It’s an honour to be here,” said Latham. “I’m really proud to say I am a citizen of Mount Pearl. This whole ceremony has really been something. We see all of the talents of the youths and indeed the diversity. We’re really a great community.”
Latham said winning an award named for John Rossiter is especially meaningful.
“This is rally personal for me,” he explained. “My grandfather was also affected by Hurricane Juan. He was paralyzed from the waist down.”
Latham thanked his fellow nominee, Ryan MacDonald, for doing “an excellent job. You really deserved it.”
The Female Youth of the Year, Noubahar Hasnain, is no stranger to anyone familiar with youth leaders in Mount Pearl.
“As an academic and as a leader, Husnain assumes a great deal of responsibility in both her school and her community,” said Hunt. “She is an honours student with the highest average in her grade level, earning numerous certificates for her academic achievements.”
Husnain is a member of the school council, debate team, newspaper club, a mathlete, member of the underwater ROV team, and the yearbook committee. She is also president of the Mount Pearl Youth Action team, chairperson of Causes for Concern, and co-chairperson of her school’s Animal Rights/Environmental Club. Husnain sits on the Provincial Youth Advisory Committee and volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Society, the Janeway and the City of Mount Pearl. She is a tutor and a poet, with one of her poems having been published in a national anthology.
Husnain thanked the City of Mount of Mount Pearl for making the Focus on Youth Awards possible. “It really shows that they prioritize their youth, and that’s really important,” she said.
Husnain also congratulated all the award winners and nominees. “Regardless of whether you win an award, the effect that you have on your community as a youth citizen is everlasting and you should be really proud of that,” she said.
A new award this year, the STEM Award (for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathemathics), sponsored by Sunrise Animal Hospital, went to Lauren Coombs, the president of her student council and a strong math student.
The winners of the Performing Arts Recognition Award, sponsored by First Choice Hair Cutters, included the O’Donel Jazz Band, Mount Pearl Show Choir, O’Donel Sound of Music, the Mount Pearl Senior High Drama Club and Etcetera 28: True Colours.
The Performing Arts Youth Award, which attracted 17 nominees, went to Jenny Mallard. It was sponsored by Reid Music.
The RNC Youth in Service Award went to Emily Gallant, who volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The Visual Arts Award, sponsored by Eastern Audio, went to O’Donel High student Sarah Hiscock.
Eastern Audio also sponsored the Youth Volunteer of the Year, which was presented to Cassandra Chislett. The O’Donel High student maintains honours grades, acts as a student mentor, and is a member of the school’s Outreach Team, First Responder Team. The Welcome Team, the Beyond the Hurt Team, Patriot Paws and the Best Buddy program. Outside of school, she is a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a volunteer with Eastern Health and Ronald McDonald House, and tutors other students in math and science.
The Literary Arts Award, sponsored by Sunrise Animal Hospital, went to Breanna Sheppard of Mount Pearl Senior High. Sheppard has branched out from short fiction and poetry and is working on her first novel. She recently won the Junior Poetry section category in the provincial Arts & Letters Awards. “Her ability with tone, structure and visual metaphor is what sets her apart from the crowd,” said Hunt.
The Youth Group of the Year Award, sponsored by Young Drivers of Canada, went to the O’Donel Patriot Mentors. The group consists of 18 academically gifted students who help other students with their studies.
Swimming judge and timer Jeff Butler was named Official of the Year. The award was sponsored by the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance. Butler is vice president of the Mount Pearl Marlins swim club.
H.J. Bartlett Electrical sponsored the Youth Sports Team of the Year Award. It was won by the Mount Pearl Girls Under 14 Celtics Basketball team. The 16 player squad took the silver medal last year at the provincial club championships and made it to the championship game at all seven tournaments they played in. This year they won the gold medal at the provincial club championships.
The David Holloway Adult Volunteer Working with Youth Award was sponsored Pearlgate Lanes Youth Bowling Club and presented by members of Holloway’s family. It went to Mount Pearl Minor Baseball Association president Brian Hunt, father of the evening’s co-host, Colin Hunt, who got to announce his father’s name as the winner.
The Male and Female Youth Athlete of the Year Awards were sponsored by Smitty’s Restaurant. Sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball star Liam Hickey of O’Donel High took the honour in the male category, while Emily Bailey, a soccer ace on Memorial University’s varsity team, won the female category.
Hickey is the first athlete from this province to be named to both the junior and senior national wheelchair basketball teams and is the lead scorer in the Maritime Travel League. He had to decline an invitation to try out for the national sledge hockey team because of his basketball commitments. Bailey helped lead MUN to its first Atlantic soccer championship, came second in league scoring and earned the Atlantic Conference’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Mayor Randy Simms thanked all the volunteers who helped stage the event” It is a humongous, monstrous task,” he said. “It’s all done by volunteers and what a tremendous labour of love it is.”
Simms also thanked the parents of the nominees. “You’re the ones who have every right to be most proud tonight when you see what’s going on here and you hear the names of the young people who are nominated in so many different categories,” he said.
The mayor also singled out the event’s sponsors, including the major sponsors, Reddy Killowatt Credit Union, Eastern Audio and Smitty’s Restaurant. “Without the contribution of our business community, without their recognition that they not only do business here, but that they live here, without that, none of this would actually be possible,” he argued. “I’m not sure that they get a lot of business out of it. I’ve talked to so many of them over the years and I’m pretty sure that none of them do it because of the ROI (return on investment). Because I think the only ROI is the sense of satisfaction from knowing that you’re building and supporting and setting up a foundation of a great community that hopefully your business can prosper in.”
Simms said the awards recognize the best about Mount Pearl itself. “To the nominees, and there are so many of them… I want you to know this and to recognize it, that this is not a competition and it is not a contest, that the recipients tonight are not in and of themselves winners. They are representatives of all of you and all of you are winners. There are no losers, there are no ‘also rans.’ I believe the recipients of these awards and those whose names appear on this list, represent the best of our values.”
Simms said he was blown away recently when he had to present some Duke of Edinburgh awards and there were so many young people winning scholarships and awards.
“Despite what we hear about young people, despite the debate over whether or not the clothing is right in schools, despite the debate over whether or not young people are as disciplined as they were in ‘my day…’ I think you will agree with me at the end of this night, our future … is in really great hands.”
MHA Steve Kent, a previous five time winner of the Male Youth of the Tear Award, acknowledged the awards have been a part of his life for many years. “It’s an incredible event because it recognizes the amazing talents of our young people,” he said. “And it’s a tribute to our first class youth, our great volunteers, the City of Mount Pearl and the entire province… Every year, I’m truly overwhelmed to hear all the accomplishments of the young people and the adults and the groups who are nominated. Tonight is no exception. Your dedication and your contribution to our city and to or province is invaluable and I sincerely commend you for your efforts.”
Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane also addressed the crowd. “When we talk about the Mount Pearl Focus on Youth Awards, and I’ve had a number of conversations over the years with colleagues and friends, we’re talking about our future leaders,” Lane said. “But they are not future leaders. The young people we are talking about this evening are leaders of today. They are leaders in their schools, they are leaders in their sports teams, they are leaders in our community, and they lead by example. And they are excelling… We are so fortunate to be living in a community which has such wonderful and talented youth.”
Mount Pearl, Lane added, is a wonderful city to live and work and raise a family. “And of the great attributes we have here – and it’s not only our great roads and great snow clearing and so on – it’s also our sense of community.”
St. John’s South - Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary called attention to the two Speak Off presenters, noting he competed in Speak Offs during his two final years of high school and placed third each time. “I didn’t lose,” he added. “I did it. It gave me confidence in myself. But it also gave me determination to the point that today I speak in the House of Commons.”
Sheila Hynes-Brenton of the Reddy Killowatt Credit Union, noted the awards have grown from five categories when it started to 15 today. The Credit Union has been a sponsor of the event for 25 years. “Looking at the categories and all the nominees tonight, I think you can all agree with me that it must have been a challenge for the selection com