Angelique Castelo's hard work in both her veterinary medicine studies and her dedication to a lesbian and gay student vet club have earned her the first Waterloo Region Rainbow Student Award.
Castelo is a second-year student at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College and will be spending her summer in Tanzania an assistant field veterinarian with Vets Without Borders for three months.
She will work with villagers to improve their livestock production and help increase food security within their families.
"It's very exciting because I have never been to Africa," she said. "I heard from one of my good friends who did Uganda last year, she said it was very eye opening and I don't doubt that."
Castelo is the president of Guelph's Lesbian and Gay Veterinary Medical Association (LGVMA).
The group has existed for five years and works to create a supportive and inclusive atmosphere for LGBTQ students at the college.
Castelo has been balancing school work and leading the medical association by arranging lunch talks and social gatherings.
She said it can be a challenge sometimes, but running LGVMA helps her from feeling burnout from her school work.
"I have a lot of fun doing it," she said. "It's an imaginative side of me where I can express myself."
Taking the role as president of LGVMA was a coincidence, she added. The club was going to shut down, so Castelo stepped in.
'Share her gift with others'
The award, which Castelo received on Saturday, was created by SPECTRUM, Waterloo Region's Rainbow Community Space. It's to recognize youth who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community while balancing academic success.
Sunna Murphy, director of community engagement with SPECTRUM, said they chose Castelo because of her charitable work and that she was using her education to help the world around her.
"I found her to be very friendly and personable, a very warm person," Murphy said. "Definitely someone who has a giving spirit and who is very much the kind of person wanting to be of service and wanting to share her gift with others."
Castelo received $1,500, which she said will go towards fundraising for her upcoming Vets Without Borders program in Tanzania and help her financially throughout the rest school year.
"I'm really honoured," Castelo said of the award, crediting professor Andrew Peregrine for his help with LGVMA.
"I'm very fortunate to have Dr. Peregrine's guidance," she said. "He has been such a big factor in the success of the club and this is pretty much recognition of all the hard work we've all been doing collectively as a group."