Yukon teenagers who stepped up recognized for volunteer work
`If you get out there and volunteer you won't regret it,` says recipient Katie Vowk
Four teenage Yukoners were honoured Wednesday for volunteer work. They've been busy with coaching and hospital work, helping people get enough food and keeping people safe through firefighting.
This is the fifth annual Outstanding Youth Achievement Awards for Yukon.
This year's winners are all 18 or younger. They were recognized and each given a $250 bursary today by Doug Phillips, Commissioner of Yukon, on the front lawn of Taylor House: a historic log building in downtown Whitehorse which serves as the Commissioner's Office.
"Yukoners are people who rally around those in need and come together to make things happen. Volunteers make our communities what they are today. Today it's my honour to recognise four young Yukoners who are leading the next generation of volunteers in their communities," Phillips said.
Elizabeth Boyd: Volunteer Firefighter and Junior Ranger
One of the girls accepted the award wearing a camouflage baseball cap.
Elizabeth Boyd is 18 and from Mount Lorne. She's been a volunteer firefighter for two years now. It's a family tradition with her father and brother both working with the Mount Lorne Volunteer Fire Department.
"It stated with my dad, he started volunteering when I was little. And we've been hanging out at the fire department down the road from us since then." Boyd says her brother also signed on when he reached the age of 16.
"I fell it love with it," she says of firefighting. "At first all I was doing was the basic training. Ladders, hoses, how to run the trucks, stuff like that."
Boyd recently attended Yukon's Ember Academy which is a program introducing women to firefighting and teaching skills. She's also represented Yukon at Fire Fit Competitions held in B.C..
Recently a sauna caught fire in Mount Lorne and she got some real-world experience. "I got to run the truck on that one," she says.
Boyd is hoping to attend the University of Fairbanks, Alaska, in the Fire Science program. She's also been part of the Junior Rangers program.
Jack Royle: The Jack of All Trades
All the camera flashes and attention were surprising for Jack Royle, 17, who is being recognised for helping people in need. He admits he is shy and was surprised by all the attention at today's event. "I have anxiety and this is — I am trying not to pass out right now," he said with a laugh.
Royle has worked in soup kitchens and helped organize many food drives at Vanier Catholic school. He's also a founding member of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance and works in its Social Justice Club. He's also been recognized by Yukon's Sourdough Rendezvous and the Rotary Club of Whitehorse for various work, helping as needed.
He remembers his first volunteer work was sorting cutlery at a soup kitchen when he was about eight years old.
"I first started volunteering with my mom because she volunteers for everything," he says.
His message to other youth is to get involved. "Go do what you gotta do," he says.
Katie Vowk: Inspired by coaches and community volunteers
Katie Vowk, 17, was recognised for her work in sports and coaching. She has been a mentor to young skiers and swimmers with the Alpine Ski Association and Synchro Yukon for the past five years.
Vowk says she was inspired by good influences: her family, coaches and community volunteers.
"All my life I've been an athlete and I've been surrounded by loads of volunteers," she says. "Basically I followed their footsteps."
She's also helped with the training of Special Olympics athletes in Yukon.
Vowk admits, it's not always easy. Sometimes there are some early mornings or coaching sessions right after school. Sometimes seven or eight year-olds can be tough to wrangle and keep safe in the pool.
'Overall I love it," she says. "I'm really proud and was really not expecting this. I think there's a lot of people in this town who should get credit too. If you get out there and volunteer you won't regret it."
Jetta Bilsky: Volunteering as emotional, not just physical work
Jetta Bilsky helps out at the Whitehorse General Hospital. She was the first person who signed up to the hospital's new initiative which sees volunteers working with patients.
Bilsky works in the elder care unit. She says the work involves "meeting people to hear their stories, and help them out — if they need water or if they need someone to listen. I go room to room, visit people, ask them how they're doing. Some people wouldn't get a lot of visitors," she says.
She has also worked with the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen in Whitehorse.
"It's such an honour to be recognized," she said. "And to see all the recipients and their hard work, it just goes to show the Youth in the Yukon is quite phenomenal."
Winners of the Outstanding Youth Achievement Award receive $250, a poster featuring their photo and a certificate of recognition from the Commissioner's Office.