Community·Q&A

Meet the next generation of young Ottawa changemakers

Here's a look at some of this year's RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Award winners

Here's a look at some of this year's RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Award winners

Photo credit: Hot Shoe Productions, a Youth Ottawa social enterprise

Youth Ottawa's RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards celebrates the extraordinary accomplishments of youth who are making our community, and the world, a better place. CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with Youth Ottawa and the RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards. We asked a few of this year's winners to tell us more about their work, inspirations and aspirations. 

Their answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

Suheyma Duale

Take a Stand Award

Suheyma is a warrior against inequality, a member of Students 4 Change at her high school and a strong advocate for her culture. She recently resurrected the Black History Month Committee at Ridgemont High School resulting in the largest celebration of Black History Month the school has ever seen.

All you have to do to make a difference is start with one word, and the rest will come.- Suheyma

What inspired you to do the work you do?

The small changes that I had noticed after our Black History Month assembly. I noticed how when people would look at me, they saw a person that wasn't afraid to speak their mind, and give them the courage to do so as well. I even had fellow students telling me about the struggles that they had gone through, and I would respond as someone that has faced those same trials and could give them some sort of comfort. 

What advice do you have for other youth who want to make a difference in the city?

Just do it. There is a lot of fear with trying to speak up about something, and sometimes you're the only one, but once you start it gets a lot easier. Saying one word could turn into a sentence, which turns into a paragraph, which turns into a speech, which turns into a brave person with a mic in their hand telling the truth that deserves to be heard. All you have to do to make a difference is start with one word, and the rest will come.

How do you see yourself impacting Ottawa in the next 10 years?

In 10 years I hopefully see myself as a lawyer taking on projects in our very own city. I have always had a strong sense of justice and it is something that I want to carry with me into the future for as long as I live.

Grace Salomonie

Academic Perseverance Award

Grace has overcome many obstacles to achieve academic success and find her passion through science. She is a persistent leader who wants to use her voice to uplift fellow Indigenous youth and change the way science is taught in northern Indigenous communities.

Everyone is capable and has a voice.- Grace

What inspired you to do the work you do?

My inspiration comes from knowing that what I am doing will make a difference in my community and that putting my time and energy into something so different will be rewarding. It gives me a platform to voice issues and share my input on things happening in my community. It is very empowering.

What advice do you have for other youth who want to make a difference in the city?

Everyone is capable and has a voice. There are so many different platforms out there that will allow you to address things you see happening in the community and there are many tools to help you get to where you want to be. Having a network of people to raise you up and support you is very important.

How do you see yourself impacting Ottawa in the next 10 years?

In the next 10 years I see myself more involved in the Indigenous community as a leader. I also plan on receiving post-secondary education in science and using my education to make a difference locally.

Malindu 
Danthanarayana

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Award

Malindu Danthanarayana is an ambitious young entrepreneur, and the founder of Inventure, a non-profit start-up accelerator that aspires to benefit youth in Ottawa by helping them start their own tech venture.

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and be a leader.- Malindu

What inspired you to do the work you do?

I was inspired to launch Inventure after realizing that the current ecosystem for entrepreneurship could be better tailored to youth. I tried to launch a health tech startup that would better connect doctors with patients back in high school, but it was only an idea and I didn't know where to start.

What advice do you have for other youth who want to make a difference in the city?

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and be a leader. Sometimes, you may have an idea that no one else has ever thought of. That doesn't mean that there isn't any room for that idea to transpire and come to life. 

How do you see yourself impacting Ottawa in the next 10 years?

I hope to become a doctor one day in the future. I hope to see myself improving the lives of others and making a difference in the community every day.


The full list of winners will be announced at Ottawa City Hall on May 14 during an awards ceremony hosted by CBC Ottawa's Adrian Harewood. Tickets are free and can be reserved by clicking here.