Our Youth Stories 2016

Maggie Chopra

“I joined Youth Central as a junior high school student because I was eager to find things I was interested in,” Maggie Chopra writes. “Youth Central’s ability to create this link between unique and diverse opportunities and volunteers seemed like the perfect resource.”


Maggie has volunteered with Youth Central since the summer of 2013. She is a part of three committees: TD Youth Earth Ambassadors (YEA), Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) and Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC).


“Representing the YEA at Calgary’s Green Energy Fair was a unique opportunity where we were able to demonstrate a new practical renewable energy source that converts temperature gradients into electrical energy, which can make cities like Calgary more sustainable,” Maggie writes.


“Through this experience, we received $2250 to continue funding sustainable innovation and making environmental change. It is rewarding to see that youth bring such unique and innovative ideas to the table; it has been a pleasure working with YEA for two years.”


Through her volunteer experience, Maggie began to appreciate the importance of her involvement in the community; from volunteering for small projects like our Get Happy Project to bigger ones where she and others research and build prototypes for new and unique renewable energy sources through YEA.


“Youth Central has been able to facilitate this link between youth and the community. Each interaction adds colours to my canvas and with all this experience, Youth Central has helped me to brighten and beautify my painting.”


“I have realized that bringing about change mustn’t always come at once, but changing one thing makes all the difference in the world. I wish to encourage others to integrate their passion and action together as one.”


Maggie has found her passion in helping others and volunteering at the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada. Maggie brings her experience learned from Youth Central to this commitment. Through her passion and empathy, Maggie has found a direction for her future educational path.


“Being paired with a woman who has progressive MS planted a seed in my heart and mind. I would like to understand why such disorders come about by focusing my efforts towards the neurological and biochemical sciences.


“Youth Central has opened doors to so many possibilities for interacting and networking with individuals in diverse situations and has truly made me a far more empathetic person, which without a doubt will forever be a part of my character and help me on my journey of helping others.”

Sarah Nolin

Sarah began volunteering with Youth Central on the Youth Are Awesome blog in June 2015, but her interests soon expanded to the Calgary Youth Foundation (CYF). Through Youth Central, Sarah was able to connect with other young people over common interests.


“There are people similar to me, people with the same goals, people with the same aspirations, people who work as hard as I do, and I could finally relate to other teenagers,” Sarah says.


Sarah has a self-described “selfish” start to volunteering. “I needed to have so many hours to get accepted to university and I needed to be apart of so many other things,” Sarah says. But soon she found herself connected and networking with other young people.


“That’s my favourite part about volunteering; it’s being part of a community with people like me. And that was always hard to find in school.”


Before her volunteer experience, Sarah was busy training 30 hours a week in competitive figure skating. Sarah had been involved in figure skating for ten years. She had plans to train professionally and stay in the field as a coach. Unfortunately, due to multiple injuries, she had to retire early.


“It came to a situation where I couldn’t skate without being in pain, and that was not good for me anymore,” Sarah explains. “It was a combination of factors but it ultimately brought me to focusing completely on school, volunteering, and getting into university.”


Sarah, who is graduating early, is now busy writing her applications to universities. Her goal is to attend UBC in the biochemistry program. She hopes to continue on to medical school afterward.


“Maybe I’ll be a doctor one day, that is the dream. Right now, I’m working on the first step towards it, which is exciting and daunting.”


Sarah has drawn on her experiences with CYF for her applications. Since joining the CYF in the fall of 2016 she has gained an appreciation for responsibility of philanthropic work.


“[CYF] is such an amazing program to be a part of and it makes me feel important,” Sarah explains. “My opinion is valued here. It’s also given me a voice that I know will stay powerful next year.


“Being part of the committee means you are relied on. It was challenging for me but it also allowed me to explore a different type of my communication ability and to better it.”

Hui Wen Zheng

“It doesn’t even feel like it’s volunteering or doing work, it feels like you’re hanging out with your friends and this was the activity you chose to do,” Hui Wen Zheng describes her own experience volunteering with Youth Central.


Hui Wen first began writing for the Youth Are Awesome (YAA) blog in July 2012. Even before she began volunteering with YAA, Hui Wen had her own blog where she could write and share her thoughts.


“It matured from that and I still wanted to write something and share what I was thinking through the web sphere,” Hui Wen says. “Seeing the YAA blog was a thing I could get involved with and where I knew I would enjoy my time. It seemed natural for me to sign up.”


Hui Wen is currently the Arts & Culture editor for YAA. She will graduate this year and hopes to enroll at the University of Toronto with a double major in political science and international studies.


“Before I joined Youth Central, I was like math, science, numbers; woo! But then when I joined Youth Central that’s when I discovered what I truly enjoy. Seeing the amount of youth activism and the dedication of youth leadership in the city to make it a better place. It really inspired me and got me thinking more about social issues.


“In high school, I totally went 180° and now that’s what I want to pursue. Youth Central played a huge part in helping me realize that and I am really thankful for it. It’s a huge part of me.”


Through Youth Central’s diverse programs, Hui Wen has been able to explore different aspects of Calgary and its culture. She is a returning member of the Mayor’s Youth Council where she is able to impact other Calgarian’s lives.


Hui Wen emigrated here with her family from China in 2007. This has instilled an appreciation for volunteering and community support. “The sense of being able to do justice and give back to something, when I have the ability to, is important to me.


“I don’t feel like it’s a burden to get out because I know that with every project and every committee I’m apart of, I’m there because I truly care about it.”


“It’s a very supportive environment; the people around you, they become your friends.  I don’t know another kind of setting where you would be able to meet people who are just as passionate as you and who are able to inspire you to become a better person. I would never have met anyone outside of Western if it wasn’t for Youth Central,” Hui Wen shares.


“The amount of diversity in terms of projects and the programs offered, and the people within in our database, shows you a lot of the world in just a little city.”

Joe Juanerio


Joe Juanerio is a returning committee member of Youth Central’s Youth of Distinction Awards (YODA). This is his second year volunteering on the YODA committee after initially joining in October 2015.


“When I first came I didn’t really know what I was doing and what I was into, so it was a learning experience – it was a good experience. I met lots of people and it was really fun too,” Joe explains.


“It feels exciting just to be back and help other people on the committee. I can share some experiences and guide them.”


YODA celebrates youth by facilitating an event where youth can be nominated to win awards in advocacy, perseverance, peer support, environmentalism, arts and culture, sportsmanship, leadership, and volunteerism. Members of this committee work many hours sorting nominations and preparing for the awards ceremony.


“My favourite memory is giving out the awards in the ceremony. You put in all this time and effort and work to plan the event. To finally see it happen is pretty exciting.”


Joe has gained a lot of experience from volunteering on the YODA committee, from learning patience to dealing with frustration to personal organization.


“My advice is: don’t hesitate to join, don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s always good to experience other programs and different kinds of people.”


Currently, Joe is in Grade 12 at Father Lacombe High School. He looks forward to a hopeful future in broadcasting and “maybe even politics.” Through his volunteering at Youth Central, he has gained many skills to help reach his future goals.


“I gained a lot of confidence in my public speaking, especially at the award ceremony, while volunteering. It was my first time speaking to a really big audience and I was nervous at the time, but it gave me the confidence to present.”

Bridget Eichel


 “I’m proud of every project I’ve participated in, throughout my school and our community,” Bridget Eichel writes. “Every event I contribute towards pushes me out of my comfort zone while being able to help and support others.”


Bridget is a Youth Central volunteer who is involved in the Outreach program. She is part of the Discovering Choices Youth Council. Through her experience on the council, she has been involved in many events, such as Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, The Rainbow Society of Alberta, the Calgary Food Bank, the Calgary Humane Society, as well as Inn from The Cold.


Bridget was new to the Bowness Discovering Choices School and she initially wasn’t interested in joining the youth council.


“It was a new school and I told myself I would only go in to do school and get home as fast as I could. My teacher at Discovering Choices Janine signed me up for Youth Council and now after a year of being a part of it I am so thankful she pushed me out of my comfort zone, otherwise I may not have had the great year I did.”


From her experience this past year, Bridget met new people, supportive teachers, and students from other Discovering Choices youth councils. She has been able to understand that her contribution to organizations can come from time and support. “All you have to do is ask, ‘how can I help?’”


“If you are unsure about whether or not an organization will need your help just contact them. Even if you feel as though your participation is not needed or too small to make an impact — it isn’t. Every bit of action adds up to making a difference in our community or someone else’s life.


“Youth Council has shown just how important your friendships and relationships with the people in your life is — it’s what makes life enjoyable. I believe no matter where I go in life I will always give a helping hand to someone who may need it; hopefully one day they may be able to do the same.”




Chloe Loblaw

Chloe Loblaw joined Youth Central in the summer of 2013. While she originally was looking for something to do just for the summer, she has continued volunteering with Youth Central.


Chloe is a part of the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) steering committee, which she joined in September 2015. “I wanted to do more within Youth Central,” Chloe says. “YVC steering committee is one that I thought sounded fun.”


“I’ve had the opportunity to do some really fun things like plan the block party. It was last June and there was a lot of planning that went into it. It ended up raining the entire day but it was good anyways – it was cool to see everything come together even if it wasn’t completely what we thought it was going to be.”


The YVC block party was held in the open space by Eau Claire Market where there were different volunteer organizations, dance and rap battles that showcased youth talent, and a few volunteer speakers.


“It was amazing seeing everything we planned,” Chloe says. “From being in contact with people and to seeing it all come together was really rewarding.”


Chloe is planning on going into health science next year after she graduates from William Aberhart High School. From her experience with Youth Central, she has learned to “interact with a big group of people, how to plan events, be part of a bigger community, and also making a positive impact wherever you are.”


“I’ve met so many people who do incredible things. People who started initiatives and implemented them into the community – it definitely inspires you to do that kind of thing yourself.


“You see youth action can have an impact in the community and change things, at least a little bit. It’s made me want to do more stuff like that. Everyone here is so inclusive and nice because we are all here for the same reasons.”


In the past four years with Youth Central, Chloe has been happy she decided to become a part of it.  “I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met thanks to Youth Central and all the opportunities that it’s given me over the past few years.”


“[Youth should] get involved as soon as they can. If you’re going to commit to it, it’s really great to do as much as you can. It’s a good thing to do, obviously, but the more you do it, the more excited you will get about doing it and you’ll want to help more.”

Tommy Le

“I would not be who I am today without Youth Central,” Tommy Le writes. “I gained confidence and had the opportunity to travel around Calgary for different projects.”

Tommy Le joined Youth Central in July 2015 for his first experience with volunteerism. “I didn’t know how much fun volunteering was until I signed up for my first project.”


Tommy has been involved in the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) steering committee since September 2016 and is the co-leader of the YVC club for Lester B. Pearson High School.


“In the YVC club and the steering committee there are many challenges I face, but with the help of past volunteering experiences, I always manage to get through them.”


Tommy’s passion for volunteering translated into him gaining valuable skills such as “leadership skills, interpersonal communication, and more.” His experiences with Youth Central have ranged from volunteering at festivals, marathons, and summer camps.


“I got to experience what Calgary has to offer and meet new people.


“When I volunteered every day in the summer, my friends kept asking why I always volunteered. Back then, I didn’t know how to answer that question.


“I realized that it does not only benefit me when I volunteer but I inspired my friends to volunteer, too. I was making a difference.”


Volunteerism connected Tommy to other volunteers in Calgary. “Before I started to volunteer, I was scared because I didn’t know anyone. I thought everyone knew each other and were very close, but it turns out I was very wrong! Everyone was very welcoming and created a strong bond.”


Tommy will be graduating from Lester B. Pearson High School and hopes to become an engineer in the future. He expects that the skills he has acquired volunteering will lead to some incredible opportunities.


“Just give a voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering!”