By Mike Moore
It was a cause for celebration Wednesday night at the Glacier in Mount Pearl as the city’s brightest youth were dressed to impress to take in the Focus on Youth Awards gala.
The old Glacier was transformed from a gritty minor hockey rink into an upscale banquet hall, complete with stage, lights, decorations and even a spotlight for those lucky enough to receive the honour of hearing their name called as the winner of one of 16 awards doled out over the three-hour celebration.
Live entertainment was provided by the O’Donel High School cast of Footloose, O’Donel High School Jazz Band and the finalists in the Performing Arts category.
Mayor Dave Aker and other members of city council were in attendance to take in the ceremony and to help in applauding this year’s winners.
“Tonight this is a celebration of community with a focus on our youth,” Aker said. “It is not about whether someone is going to win or lose here tonight, I mean that’s the reason why we’re having the dinner here, (but) that’s only the excuse to get together and have a good time.”
While 16 awards were handed out in total, two of those came in the form of the top honours of Female and Male Youth of the Year. This year’s winners of those awards were Emily Garlie and Nathan Pitts, both from O’Donel high school.
Pitts’ resume is packed with both academic and extracurricular achievements as outlined during the pre-award nominees’ descriptions.
“Pitts is an outstanding student who demonstrates a keen social awareness through his community outreach,” said last year’s Youth of the Year Award winner, Patrick Breen, in describing his successor. “In 2017 Pitts took on a challenging workload with a triple science and world studies’ schedule and graduated with a 100 per cent overall average. His perfect academic scores earned him excellence awards throughout his high school career. He also earned the highest math competition score in his school, and his teachers note that he is an exemplary team player, always willing to boost his peers with a can do teamwork attitude. He is also a certified member of the first responders team with training in CPR and AED. He’s a water safety instructor and national lifeguard instructor at the Summit, and has also worked at the Aquarena.
Pitts has applied his knowledge to coaching as well having served as a swimming, golf and floor hockey coach for the Special Olympics program. Pitts is a multi-sport athlete playing on O’Donels’ senior boys basketball team and hockey team, and last year on the volleyball team.”
Garlie’s history is just as impressive.
“Emily Garlie is a late French immersion student who last year had a heavy course load and graduated with an overall average of 95 per cent,” said 2017 Female Youth of the Year Award winner Andie Winsor. “Her skills make her a natural for the Patriots Mentors Program which requires her to guide other students who may have difficulties with their academics. She is also quite active in other areas of her school life. She serves as a secretary with the first responders and is also a standing member of the Welcome Team, Patriot Paws, and the Yearbook Club. Outside of school, she stars as the coach and general team coordinator of the Mount Pearl Youth Action team, a demanding position that requires her to organize events and teams of volunteers.”
Winsor said Garlie’s leadership abilities are also demonstrated in other ways. “Last summer she volunteered as a cultural ambassador of The Rooms where she shared her knowledge and passion about our province’s heritage with museum visitors,” Winsor noted. “She is also a member and volunteer for the Association For the Arts in Mount Pearl, which sees her take on all sorts of roles throughout the year from murder mystery actress to taco and karaoke enthusiast. Outside of that she also volunteered making cotton candy for Navaeh’s Lemonade Stand, which brings in money for cancer research. She is also a highly regarded public speaker and was the first runner up for the Lions Club speak off last year. Garlie is also a lifeguard and instructor at the Mount Pearl Summit Centre, which requires her to hold up to date training, certification and first aid, CPR and other lifesaving skills.”
Here is a complete list of this year’s Focus on Youth Awards winners:
Performing Arts Recognition - O’Donel High Jazz Band, MPSH Little Shop of Horrors cast, band and crew, MPSH Drama Festival
Adult Volunteer Working with Youth - Paul Price
S.T.E.M - Abygail Pike
RNC Youth in Service - Kelsey Stanford
Visual Arts - Rebecca Purcell
Youth Volunteer of the Year - Brianna Hepditch
Literary Arts Award - Erin Burke
Youth Group of the Year - O’Donel Outreach Team
Official of the Year - Renee Quick
Team of the Year - Mount Pearl Paradise YBC Senior Boys Team 2017
Adult Volunteer Working with Youth in Sport - Claudette Whelan
Male Athlete - Alexander French
Female Athlete - Camryn Bonia
Performing Arts - Andrew Hepditch
Male Youth of the Year - Andrew Pitts
Female Youth of the Year - Emily Garlie