Thank you to all those who have applied for the 2017 Young Scholar Award! Our Young Scholar Selection Committee has been carefully reviewing all applications from across Ontario. Due to the overwhelming number of applicants, the selection committee decided to select a total of 10 finalists this year (listed alphabetically by last name).

2017 Young Scholar Award Recipient

Aidan Brushett

School: Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute
Grade: 12

Since a young age, Aidan has participated in education-based wilderness trips to remote regions of Canada, sparking a lifelong passion for the natural world that surrounds us. He founded his school's EcoTeam, and he is quite involved in sustainable global development initiatives. As a member of the Ontario Nature Youth Council, Aidan's advocacy for native pollinators has led to formal recognition of both his school and the Town of Whitby for new pollinator conservation strategies. He is currently organizing an environmental summit for the Durham District School Board.

Aidan firmly believes that young people have a unique ability to make their voices heard to promote positive, collaborative change in their communities, and strives to share this dream with others. He seeks to combine his future education in Wildlife Biology with his love for all things green to continue generating the 'conservation conversation' and advocate for our common home--the planet.

2017 Young Scholar Award Finalists

Shehryar Assad
School:Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute

Vicky Chang

School: Markham District High School
Grade: 12

Vicky was born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area. During her years in high school, she has contributed and participated in numerous leadership positions and non-profit opportunities. Over the four years of her high school career, Vicky has represented her school at various conferences and competitions, including HOSA Canada's Spring Leadership Conference 2016, where she placed in the top five nationally in Dental Science.

Vicky regularly receives acknowledgement for her academic achievements and is recently the recipient of the WISE Conference Award for Youth Leaders. Currently, she has graduated from high school early and is working as a volunteer research assistant at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine, as well as participating in the STEM Scholars program with The New York Academy of Sciences. In the future, Vicky plans to continue her passion and studies in the health sciences to better serve her community.

Iris (Luo Jia) Chen

School: Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute, Kitchener
Grade: 12

As a Student Senator and Communications Representative at the Waterloo Region District School Board, Iris is a committed advocate for the significance of student voice. She has also dedicated her role as the president of her school newspaper and Science Club to promoting the relevance of STEM in society. Furthermore, her enthusiasm and curiosity for math is the drive behind her academic excellence as she hopes to study Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. In her spare time, Iris volunteers at the city hospital, teaches piano, and works as a Lifeguard and Swimming Instructor at a community pool.

Jennifer Chen

School: Markham District High School
Grade: 12

Jennifer is a dedicated member of the community who loves to give back, collecting over 800 hours since grade 9. Some of the highlights from her volunteering experiences include working with several community leaders to plan a mock youth City Council meeting, and helping organize a fundraiser to raise over $2000 towards mental health research. Jennifer is also an involved member of her school: she was formerly Captain of her school's robotics team, where she led the team to qualification at the provincial championships. Jennifer balances her extracurriculars and volunteer work to make time for her academic studies, she has been on the honor roll consistently, and was awarded in grade 9 and 10 for achieving one of the top 5 averages in her grade. In the future, she hopes to receive an education at an engineering program, so she is able to continue growing her passion for the STEM fields.

Henry Mann

School: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School, Oakville
Grade: 12

Henry was born and raised in Oakville, and has attended high school at St. Thomas Aquinas since 2014. In the past three and a half years he has shown commitment to hard work, academic excellence and leadership, serving as a member of the Oakville Provincial Youth Advisory Committee, the senior mock trial team, and as Student Director of Model United Nations.

Henry has led and participated in a diverse range of initiatives including a 2017 report on the necessity of financial literacy education in the Ontario curriculum presented to Ontario's Deputy Premier, Minister of Education and Minister of Labour, and the 2015 CIVIX Student Vote at his high school. Henry has won several awards, including Student of the Year for 2016-2017, and Best Advocate in the 2016 Ontario Justice Education Network Central West Mock Trial tournament. He plans to attend university in fall 2018 to study political science and French.

Advait Maybhate

School: Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School
Grade: 12

Advait Maybhate is a budding software developer and SHAD fellow who lives in Waterloo, Ontario. As the president of science club and executive of computer science club, Advait delivers weekly lessons on concepts such as time complexity and recursion in addition to organizing fun experiments e.g. decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. He has won three gold medals at the regional science fair. Additionally, he has won a silver medal and the Statistics Society of Canada Award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair for his project involving the creation of a novel computational algorithm to identify biological motifs within DNA sequences. He has also won first place at WearHacks for an automated teleprompter for the Pebble smartwatch, the Cockroach Labs prize at Hack the North for a speech-to-text summarizer and 'Best Hardware Hack' at THacks 2 for an automated camera perspective switcher.

Carlee Olsen

School: Branksome Hall
Grade: 12

Carlee is an enthusiastic student, who has been at Branksome Hall since Junior Kindergarten. In Grade Twelve, she was appointed by the principal to be the Junior School Parents and Alumnae Association representative to act as a liaison between students, and the parents and alumnae.

Outside of school, Carlee has participated in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including tennis, dance, Junior Achievement and DECA. In her involvements at Junior Achievement, she demonstrated exemplary leadership and received the First Year Achiever of the Year Award. She continued entrepreneurship at her school by organizing a school-wide hackathon, inviting guest speakers and establishing workshops.

Carlee is also independent. In Grade Nine and Ten, she worked in an optometrist office assisting the office manager in administrative tasks. In Grade Eleven, she obtained her Tennis Coaching Certificate and worked at the Bayview Village Tennis Club coaching young aspiring tennis players.

Muneeza Sheikh

School: Bishop Reding Catholic Secondary School
Grade: 12

Apart from my regular academic responsibilities, I am the Vice President of the Syrian Refugee Family Sponsorship Committee where I lead, manage and coordinate advocacy events and fundraisers. I also demonstrate my passion for women and girl's rights by serving as a Youth Speaker at Plan International's Speakers Bureau. This year, I had the amazing opportunity to step into the role of Dr. Deborah MacLatchy, President and distinguished endocrinologist at Wilfrid Laurier University in light of a global movement called International Day of the Girl. I advocated for the need for women and girls in STEM areas and taking on leadership positions in areas where they are traditionally underrepresented. In the future, I aspire to study a subject that never fails to fascinate me- biology!

Xuesi (Athena) Zhong

School: Bayview Secondary School, Richmond Hill
Grade: 12

Xuesi (Athena) Zhong is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program at Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She achieved the Gold Medalist Award in the 2016 Ontario Calcy Contest's visual arts category.

In school, Athena is the President of Aide Committee and Engineering Club. She initiated the annual Push-ups for Poverty event, raised $1400, and partnered with the Toilet Twinning Organization to build blocks of toilets in several countries. She has also held various volunteering positions including at the North York Harvest Food Bank, Canadian Cancer Society, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. As the Outreach Coordinator of the Yellow Brick House organization, she helps rebuild the lives of abused women and children.

Athena enjoys meeting new people, figure skating, and scrapbooking. She is passionate about making an impact on the world and plans to pursue a career in healthcare to continually achieve her goal of improving everyone's lives.