Celebrating Inspirational Youth Leaders at United Way’s 2016 Youth Now Awards

YouthAwardsGroup2VICTORIA, BC – United Way and the Inter-municipal Youth Programmers’ Committee are proud to introduce the 18th Annual Youth Now Award Recipients. Over 1,000 incredible young people between the ages of 11 and 29 have been recognized for their outstanding contributions as volunteers and community leaders since the Youth Now Awards began in 1999.

Young people have been part of United Way’s work for over 16 years and their voices are deeply rooted in their annual activities. From seeking feedback from youth during the funding application process, to recognizing youth contributions at the youth awards, facilitating two volunteer youth-run councils for expertise, and the latest Youth in Action projects in Hillside/Quadra and Esquimalt, the United Way values and respects the opinions of young people.

In 2015, United Way invested close to $950,000 to support over 27,000 children and youth to grow up healthy and achieve success. United Way’s priority area All that Kids Can Be works to ensure that every infant grows into a healthy child; every child has the support they need to start and succeed in school; and every young person makes a successful transition into the workforce or post-secondary school.

United Way would like to thank their media partners: Victoria News, Oak Bay News, Saanich News, Peninsula News Review, Sooke News and Goldstream News Gazette for their support!

The 2016 Youth Now Award recipients include:

Mya Hewstan Gates 

Individual Volunteer Award – Age 11-14

Through her volunteer work as the host of Verse, a teen video program on Youtube, produced by Stylux Studio, Mya is a person of high integrity and has grown as a leader among her peers both on and off camera. What makes Mya exceptional is her courage to interview her peers, her confidence to appear on a public social platform, her ability to memorize a script and perform under pressure. She is driven to inspire her fellow youth to explore creative and dynamic life paths and reflects a real desire to make a difference in the world. To view her work, please visit: www.styluxstudio.com/verse

KelseyGriffinKelsey Griffin

Individual Volunteer Award – Age 15-19

Kelsey has a strong history of giving back to her community and through the City of Victoria’s Step-Up Youth Leadership Crew she has logged over 250 hours of volunteer work at special events such as Quadra Village Days, Anti-bullying Film Festival, James Bay Community Picnic and the Victoria Goddess Run. In addition, last year she helped raised funds for support two families in need through the Good Food Box program. And while her altruism and work ethic are impressive, it is her resolve to demonstrate these values to her siblings and her peers that make her truly exceptional.

Lauren Deborah Magner

Individual Volunteer Award – Age 20-29

Lauren is an active volunteer in the Galiano Club Community Food Program. She has been involved in the semi-monthly Soup and Bread Luncheons that bring together people of all ages as well as the many other facets of the Food Program including being a member of the Food Program Steering Committee. Lauren connects well with all ages and has worked with children and elders alike. Lauren also volunteers at the Galiano Library, the Galiano School as part of the Galiano Conservancy salmon fry release program with the elementary students and with the Galiano Club’s Cinema Galiano. Lauren has an infectious laugh and her exuberance livens any situation. She also shows a maturity beyond her youthful age.

RubyTangRuby Tang 

Green Award

Recognized for her work with Youth for Environment Stewardship BC and her volunteer work with Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Ruby has demonstrated leadership qualities and organizational abilities in many ways. She was instrumental in building volunteer capacity for the 2015 Off The Grid Music Festival hosted by Oak Bay High School. She was also part of a group of students asking heir MLAs to commit to do what they can to stop attempts to increase thermal coal exports through BC ports.

TeenMentorsTeen Mentors from Edward Milne Community School (Sooke)

Group Volunteer Award

Each year, students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 at Edward Milne Community School become teen mentors to children at Saseenos Elementary School. In 2015, 15 students committed to spending one hour each week with their mentees. By having fun and forming new and healthy friendship, each mentor gets to know their mentee in a way that supports them through difficult days and helps them imagine unlimited possibilities.


DrellaSimpsonDrella Simpson

Big Change Award

Drella Simpson is the Co-Facilitator for the Teens2Twenties Support Group at the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC (BDSBC). Since first attending Teens2Twenties, Drella has become a true role model for others and she has grown and worked extremely hard on her mental health. She recently completed Suicide Education Prevention Training with the BDSBC staff in 2015. Drella has even shared her story on BDSBC’s Stigma-Free Zones Superheroes website http://www.stigmafreezone.com/2016/03/06/bipolar-disorder-does-not-define-me which has ignited great community awareness and she has inspired others to live stigma-free. She is a true stigma stomper, stigma-free zone superhero and an outstanding Bipolar Babe in Victoria’s mental health community. Drella embodies hope, courage and is a true mentor to many young people.

BrookeParlbyBrooke Parlby

Youth Worker Award

Brooke Parlby is the Program Manager at TeenWork, an employment program for youth (ages 15-19) with disabilities offered as part of CanAssist at the University of Victoria. She works with participants to find and retain meaningful, paid employment that provides them with valuable skills, along with confidence in their abilities and their futures. Since starting as a job coach in 2014, Brooke has consistently provided reliable, compassionate and one-on-one supports to the youth on her case load and their families. She has also educated employers on the benefits of inclusive hiring and workplace practices, and as a result, she contributed to the shifting in culture towards inclusion in the labour market. Outside of TeenWork, Brooke is a volunteer for Victoria Sexual Assault center and NEED2 Suicide Prevention and Education.

KaelaDouglasKaela Douglas

Social Justice Award

To date Kaela has spent over 160 hours volunteering as a Youth Mentor at ‘The Meet Up’, a weekly youth social night hosted at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria that supports immigrant and refugee youth (ages 13-19) to make new friends, connect with valuable services/organizations, and develop confidence, while having fun in a safe, inclusive space. Also, she has fundraised to support Syrian Refugees within our community, and after a Muslim classmate faced discrimination, Kaela co-coordinated the “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab’ day at Vic High to raise awareness about stigma some women wearing hijabs may face in our community and to raise religious tolerance.



About Youth Now Council

The United Way’s Youth Now Council exists to promote leadership and volunteerism among youth. Aged between 15 and 19, youth council members make funding and policy recommendations to the United Way Board for approval; plan the annual Youth Now Awards as well as conferences and other opportunities for capacity building and learning for youth; provide support for the community campaign; and connect with other Youth Councils throughout Greater Victoria.

For more information, please contact:
Heather Skydt, Communications & Marketing Director
United Way Greater Victoria
Ph: 250-984-2269

Katie Burke, Marketing and Communications Associate
United Way Greater Victoria
Ph: 250-220-7361