Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia woman wins Queen's award for volunteer work

Jane Roy, the founder of leadership program for youth with limited opportunities, was honoured with the Commonwealth Points of Light award at Government House Tuesday afternoon.

Jane Roy, founder of Catapult Leadership Society, runs camp for youth with limited opportunities

Jane Roy, founder of Catapult Leadership Society, runs a camp for youth with limited opportunities. (CBC)

A Halifax woman is being honoured with a volunteer award signed by Queen Elizabeth II for her work with a camp for youth who display natural leadership qualities but have few opportunities to grow them.

Jane Roy, the founder of the Catapult Leadership Society, was honoured Tuesday afternoon with the Commonwealth Points of Light award at Government House in Halifax.

"This award is surreal and very humbling and it needs to be shared with everybody here," she said.

Roy said she was inspired to start a leadership program after watching her son and his friend playing basketball. Her son was signed up to go to a leadership camp in Europe, but her son's friend — who was also a natural leader — couldn't afford to do the same.

"I thought, what would a leadership camp do for him? And my gut told me that the impact could be huge," Roy said.

Jane Roy, centre, at Government House Tuesday afternoon receiving the Point of Light award. (CBC)

With encouragement from her family, Roy launched the non-profit Catapult Camp. It started in 2009 and hosts 50 teens each summer. They're taught leadership skills such as self-confidence, how to work as a team, communicate better and solve problems.

"The students are mature for their age, they're kind, they're a little more serious about their future," Roy said.

"They take this experience a lot more seriously perhaps than kids who have a lot of opportunities, and the biggest thing is they're so grateful for it and they make the most of it."

Close up of Roy's Points of Light award, which is signed by Queen Elizabeth II. (CBC)

The Queen is honouring volunteers from the 53 Commonwealth nations in the lead up to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London later this month. Roy is the 46th to receive the award.

"Today's celebration is really a celebration of our Catapulters," she said.

She said the free camp, which is held in August at Acadia University, has so far hosted 450 students from 188 communities across Nova Scotia.

A quarter of them have become involved in student government, she said, almost all graduate from high school and three-quarters go on to post-secondary education.

Roy has also started a program, Catapult Plus, which gives students more help in areas like public speaking, conflict resolution and time management. It includes a pay-it-forward project and a four-day conference focused on post-secondary planning.

Tyler Sweeney is a former 'Catapulter.' (CBC)

Tyler Sweeney from West Chezzetcook was chosen to go to Catapult in 2010 when he was 15.

"It was kind of life-changing to go through a program that inspires you to be better and to strive for your best always, and it gave me confidence I didn't know I had," Sweeney said.

He said Roy still gives him advice and the recognition from the Queen is well-deserved.

"It's phenomenal. You couldn't ask for a higher award. She already, to me, is a big light and to a lot of us, we already believe in her so much so it's great to see this recognition come from elsewhere because she's impacted us so much," said Sweeney.

Sweeney, now 23, said he uses skills he learned in the program all the time. He studied marketing at Saint Mary's University and currently works in retail. He said he is working toward a career in event planning.

"It came in very handy for me to be able to do group projects and already have an expectation of how to work with a team and guide a team," he said.

With files from Colleen Jones