Seven students from Newmarket have received Give Back Awards from Neighbourhood Network in recognition of their contributions to the community.
The award is given to 20 students graduating from Grade 12 every year. Each winner receives $1,000.
Newmarket resident Artin Khiabani was among this year’s winners. The 17-year-old goes to Dr. G.W. Williams Secondary School in Aurora, where he was originally enrolled in the pre-IB program.
“I really dedicated myself to volunteering not only for the past four years, but before that as well,” he said.
One of his biggest initiatives centres around helping youth who have immigrated to Canada, inspired by his own experiences.
Khiabani was born in Iran and moved to Malaysia when he was three. From there, his family moved to Thailand and Singapore before coming to Canada in 2012.
“Being that I’ve gone through so much immigration, I understand the system really well and I know problems are in it because I’ve experienced it first-hand,” he said.
Khiabani said he found that while there are a number of programs for newcomer adults, there are not many for youth.
“Those kids are often a missing part of that equation and they’re not getting the help that they deserve and they need,” he said.
To help fill that gap, he began connecting with Iranian youth who had recently come to Canada to offer support to them as a peer, including tutoring and talking about adjusting to life in Canada.
Over the past four years, Khiabani said he has connected with more than 500 youth.
Fellow Newmarket resident Lindsay McMurter was another recipient of the award this year. The 17-year-old is a student at Newmarket High School.
Her volunteer experience spans a lot of areas, including Girl Guides, peer tutoring at school, and helping out at various local events.
“Those kids are often a missing part of that equation and they’re not getting the help that they deserve and they need,” McMurter said. ““It gives you more of a sense of community if you help your neighbour.”
One cause she is especially passionate about is the Ontario SPCA.
McMurter said she is an animal lover and was volunteering weekly at the shelter before the pandemic. When COVID-19 arrived, she kept helping out in other ways such as online fundraisers and building cat shelters in the winter.
This love of animals has led McMurter to the University of Guelph, where she will study zoology beginning next fall. She said she hopes to do the doctor of veterinary medicine program there after and one day wants to work as a zoo vet.
Khiabani will also be going to post-secondary school in September. He’s off to the University of Toronto, where he said he wants to major in ethics, society, and law, a unique interdisciplinary program offered there.
He said he wants to go to law school after and one day would love to work at the United Nations.
Here is a full list of this year’s Give Back Award recipients:
- Caitlin Barton, of Newmarket, Sir William Mulock Secondary School
- David Buckley, of Newmarket, St. Andrew's College
- Munira Chakera, of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Stouffville District Secondary School
- Elaine Danaee, of Richmond Hill, Ecole Secondaire Catholique Renaissance
- Daneika Hammith, of Newmarket, Sacred Heart Catholic High School
- Claire Johnson, of Aurora, Sir William Mulock Secondary School
- Artin Khiabani, of Newmarket, Dr. G. W. Williams Secondary School
- Mira Kindo-Yeung, of Newmarket, Newmarket High School
- Katelin Martin, of King, King City Secondary School
- Lindsay McMurter, of Newmarket, Newmarket High School
- Elora Morrison-Burgess, of Keswick, Keswick High School
- Emily Peelar, of King, King City Secondary School
- Kesha Rajkumar, of Sutton, Sutton District High School
- Emma Roccatani, of King, King City Secondary School
- Julia Scolamiero, of Aurora, Aurora High School
- Allyson Surgenor, of Aurora, Dr. G. W. Williams Secondary School
- Spencer Thomson, of Aurora, St. Andrew's College
- Katherine Viney, of Aurora, Aurora High School
- Joela Xhumri, of Bradford, Ecole Secondaire Catholique Renaissance
- Christine Xue, of Newmarket, Dr. G. W. Williams Secondary School