Why 13-year-old Harveer Gill wants to be a role model for her peers

CBC Calgary is highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Asian Calgarians through a series of 10 self-profiles to mark Asian Heritage Month. Here is the latest profile, from Harveer Gill.

Harveer Gill is big on youth initiatives, volunteering with several local organizations

Harveer Gill, 13, is a champion for youth initiatives in Calgary and was titled YouthLink's first female ambassador for 2021. She's won four back-to-back awards for her continued service to youth. (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

May is Asian Heritage Month. To celebrate, CBC Calgary is highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Asian Calgarians through a series of 10 profiles throughout the month. We welcomed nominations of diverse individuals with different goals and interests, and a common commitment to giving back to the community. Through an internal voting process, CBC Calgary staff selected the Asian Changemakers for 2022 and asked them each to write a self-profile. Here is the latest, from Harveer Gill:

My name is Harveer Gill, I'm 13 and I'm in junior high. I enjoy dancing, reading, learning and volunteering in my free time. 

One of my objectives is to improve youth communication. I've noticed that young people, particularly in recent years, have a hard time talking about — and asking for help with — the challenges they're dealing with. I want to be a role model for them and offer them a voice! In addition, some of my long-term aspirations include becoming a journalist and a fashion model.

When Harveer is not volunteering, she contributes to cultural and fundraising events in her community, often participating in fashion, modeling and dance activities. (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

I am involved with the community on a frequent basis through a diverse range of activities from volunteering in YouthLink to being a cadet with the Calgary Police Service. I also volunteer with the Calgary Police Youth Foundation (CPYF) and KidsPlay Foundation. Both of these organizations provide support to youth who are at risk of becoming criminals or victims of crime related to gangs, violence, drugs, etc. I've also more recently joined as a volunteer with YYC youth helping youth, a non-profit organization looking to make the world a better place for the youth of Calgary. 

At YouthLink, I had the amazing opportunity to be the youth ambassador for 2021-2022, where I helped CPS officers better understand some issues that youth are facing today. I do similar work as a board member with the YYC Youth Advisory Board, where we take more of an initiative to help solve some of these issues. As a CADET Corps member, I learn what it's like to be an officer with a focus on discipline, courage and vigilance.

Lily Singh and Erim Kaur are the top two inspiring South Asian women who have made me happy to be Sikh/South Asian. Lily Singh, who has won several Teen Choice Awards as well as the People's Choice Award, released her first feature film, A Trip to Unicorn Island, in 2016. In addition, her first book, How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in March 2017. Aside from her acting career, she is well-known for her rapping abilities and has a few songs to her credit. Lily is the first openly bisexual person and the first woman of Indian origin to host a major American late-night talk show. To top it all off, she plans to reinvent late-night talk shows with her own set of rules and distinct presentation style. 

I've felt isolated in the past because of how I expressed my love for my culture.- Harveer Gill

Erim Kaur is a young Punjabi woman who is a social influencer and the CEO and founder of ByErim, a luxury hair care brand. Erim has built her own company from the ground up. She draws inspiration for her all-natural, vegan-friendly, cruelty-free and unisex hair oil from a recipe passed down from her daadi (grandma). Both are super successful business owners who have used their platforms to unite people of different ethnicities.

Harveer believes anything is possible if you have the right work ethic. (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

I am Sikh and my family comes from Punjab, India. I speak Punjabi fluently but have not yet learned how to read or write the language. What makes me proud of my Asian heritage is the liveliness and the comfort. I see it in every part of life, from culture and arts to language, community, and many types of music, as well as the fusion of lived experiences. I love the way that we express ourselves, and how inclusive we are of other religions, which has taught me to be a more accepting person.

On the contrary, I've felt isolated in the past because of how I expressed my love for my culture. I often found myself feeling dismayed at gatherings with friends because I looked different or spoke with an accent. Over the pandemic, I've seen myself get closed-off from being able to express myself freely. I want to make sure that no one feels that they are going to be judged for being themselves and expressing who they are and what they love. I would like to see more inclusion and education being spread about different cultures and religions.

I also believe that asking for help does not make you weak or insignificant, and you should not be hesitant to seek assistance when you require it. And that whatever you do, do it for you. Do it with a happy heart and good intentions, the person you are a year from now reflects the choices you make today. Anything is possible if you have the right work ethic and stop letting other people's thoughts get in the way of your journey to achieving your goals.