An usher showing guests to their seats noted that the Mount Pearl Glacier Arena was certainly a lot swankier than usual.
For the 30th annual Focus on Youth Awards, the Glacier was in full swinging style, with ball room gowns, smoky blue lights overhead, and a Michael Bublé soundtrack serenading the audiences
Hundreds gathered for the annual awards banquet and ceremony, which honours the finest among the city’s youth.
Coun. Andrew Ledwell opened the show with a greeting, while Alexis Hedd, chairperson of the Youth Action Team, said the grace for the meal.
The Mount Pearl Senior High Chamber Choir and cast and band of “Happy Days— The Musical” provided entertainment during the meal.
Co-hosting the show were 2017’s Male and Female Youth of the Year, Nathan Pitts and Emily Garlie.
Following a piano performance by Focus on Youth Award alumni Dr. Philip Roberts, Mayor Dave Aker gave a greeting.
“The Focus on Youth Awards celebrate the achievements of our City’s tremendous youth. The awards honour outstanding contributions to the community in the areas of arts, sports, science, self-improvement and volunteerism. I would like to congratulate all nominees and winners, and say a special thank you to staff, volunteers and sponsors on the success of another terrific show,” said Aker.
First Choice Haircutters sponsored the first award of the Night, the Performing Arts Rendition Award, which went to the cast of “Footloose: The Musical” from O’Donel High School, the O’Donel High Jazz band, and the cast, crew and band of Mount Pearl Senior High’s “Happy Days— The Musical.”
The Adult Volunteer Working with Youth Award, which was also sponsored by First Choice Haircutters, went to Mary Ann Hounsell, a Girl Guides volunteer.
The S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Art, Maths) award, which was first introduced in 2015, was awarded to Sarah Kennedy. The O’Donel student, was recognized for her near perfect scores in science and mathematics. In June, Kennedy was awarded a $15,100 scholarship from the provincial government’s RISE (Research Inspired Student Enrichment) program to attend the Research Science Institute held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . While there, she worked under a chemical engineering student to complete a project that used 3D imaging to observe brains grown from stem cells. The award was sponsored by the Sunrise Animal Hospital, who also sponsored the Literary Arts Award.
The Youth-In-Service award, sponsored by the RNC, was awarded to Michael Chislett of O’Donel High, who is president of the student council, and chairman and youth leader with the Ambassadors. Chislett also founded the Youth Musicals Ensemble, while maintaining top grades and tutoring other students.
Following that award, Speak-off winners Emily March-MacCuish and Cameron Kinsella both presented their speeches; March-MacCuish spoke to the need of balance in a busy world, while Kinsella spoke of why he’s optimistic about the future of mankind.
Next up was a guitar performance by Performing Arts finalist Gavin Hull, who both strummed and drummed his guitar for a one-man band sound.
Next up, the Youth Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Eastern Audio Ltd, was awarded to Claire Osmond. Osmond, of O’Donel, is the co-chairperson of the province’s only high school First Responders group, chair of the outreach team, and student chair of the Relay for Life event, which raised over $15,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. She has hosted blood donor events at her school and is a member of student council and various school committees, and tutors students in both music and academics, while volunteering with the Salvation Army, amongst other volunteer activities.
The Literary Arts award went to Lily Perchard, of O’Donel, who wrote and illustrated the children’s book ‘Colours.’
Youth Group of the Year, sponsored by Young Driver’s of Canada, was awarded to the 13 members of the Mount Pearl Senior High Student Council. The group has organized many events including a Terry Fox walk, a Jamarama event, Thanksgiving and Christmas food drives, a school coffee house event, a Christmas party for staff children, and a positive Post-it day, as well as annual school events such as dances and spirit week activities.
Next was a trombone performance of the hymn “Dwelling in Beulah Land” by Performing Arts finalist Megan Diamond, and then the Official of the Year Award, sponsored by the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance. That award went to Campia Gymnastics judge Renee Quick, chairperson of Women’s Judging at Campia and Gymnastics NL’s Judging Development Committee.
Next up was the Youth Sports Team of the year, sponsored by H.J. Bartlett Electrical Inc.
It went to the ten members of the St. Peter’s Junior High Grade 9 Boys Volleyball team, who won the regional tier 1 provincial title for three consecutive years, on top of winning other tournaments, all while maintaining good grades and active community involvement.
Tervor Budgell, midget and peewee AAA hockey coach, was awarded the Adult Volunteer Working with Youth in Sport Award, sponsored by Mount Pearl/Paradise YBC. Budgell is also committed to expanding ball hockey in the province, organizing Mount Pearl’s ball hockey league, and this summer will be taking on a role with the NLBHA (Newfoundland and Labrador Ball Hockey Association) to help develop the program across the province.
Following a vocal performance by Performing Arts finalist Grace Diamond, Smitty’s Family Restaurant presented the Female Youth Athlete of the Year to Kate Sullivan, bronze medalist in the three-kilometre open water event at the Canadian Junior Championships in Winnipeg. Overall, she finished as the best 15-year-old female in the country. She has also captured bronze medals at an international level, and broke seven provincial records this season alone.
The Male Youth Athlete of the Year Award, also sponsored by Smitty’s Family Restaurant, went to Max Tavenor, an active force in both the rugby and hockey world. He’s the starter on the Dog’s Rugby team, as well as on the provincial Rock Rugby team. He also played with the U18 national team, earning Junior Player of the Year award. He also plays as an underager on the Junior Blades hockey team.
The Performing Arts award, sponsored by Reid Music, was awarded to Grace Nolan, of Mount Pearl Senior High, who has received several accolades for both her vocal and piano performances. She was named the 2019 Junior Vocal Rose Bowl winner. She is a member of her school Chamber Choir, and the Shallaway Youth choir.
The prestigious Male and Female Youth of the Year awards were the last awards of the night to be doled out.
“It’s so important to recognize their accomplishments, and to give recognition to the youth, and the adults working with them, as they make outstanding contributions in our communities,” said Chris Grimes of the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union (NLCU), which sponsored both awards. Grimes noted the NLCU has been sponsoring the Youth of the Year award since the ceremony’s inception in 1989.
Male Youth of the Year was awarded to Cameron Kinsella, of Mount Pearl Senior High, and Female Youth of the year was awarded to Sarah Kennedy, of O’Donel High School.
Kinsella has a near perfect academic record, with averages consistently in the high-nineties, achieving the highest overall score in his school in chemistry and physics, winning gold for his science fair project ‘Patterns and Probability in Rock, Paper, Scissors.’ He is the CEO, and pilot, of his school’s robotics team, and will be heading to Tennessee this summer to compete with that team on an international stage.
He also volunteers with a local soup kitchen, teaches martial arts at MAX, and coaches Special Olympic athletes in bowling on Tuesday nights. He is also a member of MP Seamus O’Regan’s Constituency Youth Council.
Kinsella is active with the 807 Mount Pearl Kinsman Air Cadet Squadron. He was recently named Squadron Commander. He teaches classes, leads the Squadron band, and leads drill practises. In 2018 he received the 'Top Drill Team Member' and 'Top Marksman' awards, and for the last three years has received Gold Standing in his Fitness tests.
He attended the Power Pilot Course this past summer, and not only did he earn his power pilot’s license, but also the record for highest score ever in Atlantic Canada on the Transport Canada Test. He was recognized with an Air Force Association Medal for being the Top Cadet in the Atlantic region Power Pilot Scholarship program.
Kinsella is also an award-winning speaker. He took first place in the Regional Air Cadet League Effective Speaking Competition and has won the speak-off Focus on Youth award two years running.
On top of those achievements, he still finds time to take private Japanese language lessons.
Sarah Kennedy is a French immersion student who consistently achieves near-perfect scores in her subjects.
Kennedy's high scores in mathematics competitions, such as Pascal, Cayley and the Fermat competition, resulted in an invitation to the Blundon seminar at Memorial University. In June, Kennedy was awarded a $15,100 scholarship from the provincial government’s RISE (Research Inspired Student Enrichment) program to attend the Research Science Institute held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology .
She was also offered a position at the SHAD Valley program, and has earned her silver level Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Kennedy is also a competitive gymnast, training 23 hours a week to compete as a level 9 athlete. She's been a member of the provincial team since she was 10 years old and has performed at the Atlantic and Eastern Competitions. She is also a judge and a volunteer coach at Campia, working with younger athletes on how to behave, train and develop a work ethic.
The night closed out with a performance by the Mount Pearl Senior High Jazz Band— performing favorites such as Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond and Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne— and a final note of appreciation from Coun. Andrew Ledwell, on behalf of council, to Garry Fraser, who has organized the awards ceremony since it’s inception in 1989.
The announcement was meet with a standing ovation.