Picture – Victor Neglia president of the South Woolwich Optimist Club, Stephen Pacheco (Breslau teacher), Leah Campbell (Breslau), Athena Kanellis (St. Boniface), Owen Brown (St. Boniface), Henry Bink (grade 7 / 8 teacher St. Boniface School)
The South Woolwich Optimist Club held their annual youth appreciation banquet on Wednesday, June 12th at the Bloomingdale Recreation Center Hall. President Victor Neglia introduced the special student guests and their parents and siblings as well as Breslau teacher Stephen Pacheco and St. Boniface School grade 7 /8 teacher Henry Bink.
Victor spoke briefly on the Optimist Club and their purpose, creed and dedication to “Bringing Out the Best in Kids” and doing their part through community service programs. “Optimist members are people getting together with friends to do things for the youth of the community.”
Henry Bink, grade 7 / 8 teachers at St. Boniface thanked the South Woolwich Optimist Club which recognizes two young students from St. Boniface every year as well as students from Breslau Public School. Every year, he worries that this award may not be able to be continued, but was thrilled when he received the email from Dave Wood informing him about the upcoming dinner and award celebration. The Optimist Club asks for the names of two Grade 8 students who are good role models, have good leadership skills, are committed to their academics, are athletic, and are good citizens. I don’t know very many adults who possess those qualities, let alone two 13 or 14-year-olds. But I’m proud to say that both of our St. Boniface recipients do possess all these qualities and more. I also know the Breslau Public School recipients possess them too. And that should give us hope for the future.
I think it would be a huge challenge to be a young adult in 2019. I think what we, as adults, know about the life of a young adult today, is just the tip of the iceberg with what really goes on in their lives. We live in an age where young people have an incredible amount of pressure put upon them. They have school, sports, family obligations, community service hours for high school, and the ever-increasing pace and pressure that our tech world puts on our youth.
Every year I present this award, I also remind everyone about the influence that the media has on our kids today. Who are the role models these students have? What messages are they receiving every time they turn on the TV, or play a video game, or listen to music? How much time to students spend on the Internet, or on their device – Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else happens to be the newest, latest, social media venue? Do our students spend more time doing those things that they do participate in family events, sporting events, fitness, working, doing community service, helping around the house? I fear that with some students, there isn’t a balance. The media loves to report the not-so-nice events. But, there is hope.
Being here tonight is that hope. It is the hope for our future. These are the young people that will lead, that will take care of us in the years to come. They are already doing great things in their communities, in their schools, in their homes, and in their Church communities. They are good role models, they have good leadership skills, they are committed to their academics, they are athletic, they are good citizens, and they demonstrate strong values. These qualities have been taught and encouraged since they were born, by parents, grandparents, family members and friends, their teachers and every other staff member along the way. Athena Kanellis and Owen Brown have paid close attention to these people, and the result is being celebrated tonight.
The South Woolwich Optimist Club Youth Appreciation Award is a very important award. On Graduation night we present an athlete award, a Christian living award, a leadership award, an academic proficiency award, a spirit award, and several others that are very respected and honourable. This one, however, is like a combination of all of those things together. The recipients of this particular award have to be strong in all those areas. This is the one award that encompasses all of the others! So on Grad night, all the other awards will be presented, but this one will also be “represented” in front of their families, friends, and peers.
This is also another message I like to bring up every year. The three of you – the recipients of the South Woolwich Optimist Club Youth Appreciation Award – when you fill out a job application, or when you put together your resume when you are trying to get into that college or university program, be sure to include this award on your resume. Schools and companies out there know what the Optimist Clubs in the communities of Ontario are all about, and when they see this award listed there amongst your other achievements, it will be noticed.
One benefit of teaching at St. Boniface for as long as I have, is that I’ve been able to see these two students grow up. I saw them come in at a very young age and I’ve seen them pass through my classroom door for Grade 8. Owen and Athena, you both have grown into such incredible young adults. You possess all of the qualities and requirements that this award holds – you are academically strong, athletic, kind and compassionate. You both get involved when the opportunity arises. You both balance your school work with your outside of school activities – Owen – your Hockey, and Athena – your involvement at Golfs. You are leaders by example. You make good decisions for yourself, and for your classmates. You possess all the qualities that are needed for success in school and in the future. The young students of St. Boniface look up to you as their role models. Your parents should be proud of the young adults that you are today. Their hopes and the hopes of everyone here are that you continue on this good path. Continue doing what you’re doing. You are our hope!
And so, it is with mixed emotions that I present this award tonight. I am honoured and proud to present this award to Owen Brown and Athena Kanellis-two Grade 8 students who truly deserve it. I am happy for you, and I am optimistic that your future holds many more awards and accomplishments. But, it is also with some sadness that I present this award to you, knowing that my time with you, as your teacher, is slowly, but surely coming to an end. Everyone else at St. Boniface will miss you next year when you continue your journeys through high school. Know that you are always, always welcome to return to visit. I know that the Staff has made the right decision in selecting you both as this year’s recipients of the South Woolwich Optimist Club Youth Appreciation Award. Congratulations to Owen Brown and Athena Kanellis.
Stephen Pacheco spoke on Breslau School’s Leah Campbell. They have seen her grow in confidence and seen her share her many talents with others. She’s been active in the drawing club, particularly supporting the younger students. She’s been involved with the creation of this year’s grad book and she often volunteers her time to help out with other activities such as scorekeeping for our intramural programs.
Leah’s a gifted artist. She has won the Legion’s Remembrance Day competitions several times and she currently has a drawing hanging in the Art Gallery of KW.
Leah also seeks out new challenges. This year, she joined the school basketball team and I had the privilege of being one of her coaches. Leah endeared herself to everyone with her positive attitude and commitment to the team.
She is very active outside of school as well, as a member of the ‘Junior Guelph Gryphons’ curling league at the Guelph curling club for 3 years and she is looking forward to trying out for the G.R.C.I. Curling Club. She also plays house league softball with the Waterloo Ghost and is about to begin her second year of being a Counsellor in Training (BYLD) with the City of Kitchener summer camps’ program. She has been accepted at the Humane Society Counsellor in Training program for this summer as well. She babysits and has been part of the Girl Guides of Canada for 6 years. For 3 years she has volunteered at the Donkey Sanctuary to help clean up the grounds in the springtime.
What really sets Leah apart is her service to others. In addition to the things I’ve already mentioned, Leah has donated her birthday money, proceeds from yard sales and funds raised through a lemonade stand to the Humane society. Leah is also a loving granddaughter. Whenever she has an opportunity to visit her grandmother, who’s afflicted with an advanced form of Alzheimer’s, she feeds her and sings to her.
When I asked one of Leah’s other teachers if there was anything that she wanted me to say on her behalf, she simply said, “Just that she’s wonderful”. That pretty much sums up how we all feel about Leah.
The youth appreciation award was started in 1956 with the South Woolwich Optimist youth appreciation beginning in 1996.
The banquet closed with the everyone repeating the Optimist Creed:
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.