Youth of the Year is a national initiative celebrating youth leadership and achievement at BGC Clubs across Canada. Youth of the Year aims to foster strong BGC ambassadors and build capacity for Clubs to support more youth leaders in their communities. Our Youth of the Year receive postsecondary scholarships, laptops, and prize packs, along with media and leadership training to prepare them as BGC ambassadors.
In recognizing the need to create equitable spaces for Indigenous Peoples, BGC Canada has created a new initiative launching in 2022: Indigenous Youth of the Year. BGC Canada is committed to creating opportunities and sharing stories of Indigenous youth leadership and achievement, and building meaningful partnerships with Indigenous Peoples across Canada.
In prioritizing the selection of an Indigenous Youth of Year, BGC Canada recognizes its responsibility and commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and remains mindful of the historic exclusion of Indigenous Peoples embedded in the fabric of Canada.
Check out our 2022 Youth of the Year Highlight Reel below!
Meet our 2022 Youth of the Year
Kayla, BGC Battlefords, Indigenous Youth of the Year
Attending BGC Battlefords for 2 years, from member to volunteer to staff. Aspiring chef, with a passion for combating food insecurity and food deserts in Northern Canada. Kayla has had many positive experiences in her Club like attending Raise the Grade, Power UP! Activities, becoming a Program Leader, to incorporating Cree language labels. Outside of her Club she volunteers with Concern for Youth, a community non-profit organization, and is a member of the Community Grants Program Advisory Committee—which guides the program’s funding and reviews grant applications.
Through her community involvement, Kayla has contributed to creating care packages for women in the community and has supported land-based learning, musical artistry, and Indigenous language revitalization projects. As Youth of the Year, Kayla wants to share the supportive community BGC creates and inspire youth to realize their dreams and advocate for their beliefs.
2022 National Youth of the Year
Shahaddah, BGC Eastview
Attending BGC Eastview for 17 years, from member to volunteer to staff. Shahaddah is interested in pursuing a career in broadcast journalism to highlight the intersectionality between human rights-centered issues and pop culture. Shahaddah has been dedicated to her community, volunteering in numerous Club programs such as summer camp, Black Empowerment group, French tutoring for BIPOC youth, and other workshops. She has also been the MC for several Black History Month community events that have hosted over 300 youth and is a spoken word artist who has performed at multiple BGC and external events like the Toronto International Festival of Authors, TDSB Creates, and Black Women in Motion.
Outside of her Club, Shahaddah is President of her school’s Student Activity Council and Black Students’ Association. She is also an advocate for human rights, working with JAYU Canada to host poetry workshops and write poetry to highlight the intersectionality between poetry and human rights. As Youth of the Year, Shahaddah wants to share the incredible impact of BGC programs on youth, inspire Canadian youth to be the change they desire to see, and show Black youth that they have the potential to be revolutionary leaders.
2022 Regional Youth of the Year
Maya, BGC South Coast BC
Attending BGC South Coast BC for 7 years, from member to volunteer. Maya has been dedicated to her Club and her community. From volunteering at day camps to participating in Camp Potlatch to helping at the Virtual National Youth Conference, she is a natural leader that encourages discussion. Through Creating Connections, she found her passion for activism and social justice, and she has gone on to lead her school’s Feminism Club which has hosted events and fundraisers for charity. Maya is also a co-leader of the Trout Lake Youth Council’s Arts and Crafts committee, where she has volunteered at many Trout Lake events and immersed herself in the local arts community.
In addition to excelling academically and becoming involved in her community, Maya loves playing volleyball and has managed two different volleyball teams at her school for the past two years. As Youth of the Year, Maya hopes to represent and speak up for youth across Canada, as well as spread awareness about social issues that impact our present and future.
Domac, BGC Ottawa
Attending BGC Ottawa for 7 years, from member to volunteer to part-time Junior Youth Worker. Domac is interested in studying psychology and wants to advocate for accessible therapy and mental wellness programs. Domac has been actively involved with his Club, participating in Walk this Way and his Club’s summer basketball league among other sports activities. He regularly volunteers at Club events and attends programs such as Youth-Led Mentorship and Homework Club.
In addition, Domac is a Junior High Leader at his church where he leads games and prayer, encourages younger children to voice their thoughts, and runs the sound booth. At school, he supports other students as a mentor and blogs about his week with the class. As Youth of the Year, Domac wants to empower others to unlock their potential in life and share the opportunities he experienced at BGC with other youth, especially in underprivileged communities.
Aparnaa, BGC East Scarborough
Attending BGC East Scarborough for the past four years, from member to volunteer to facilitator. Aparnaa is passionate about education and plans to pursue a career as a primary teacher for young kids with disabilities. Aparnaa is actively involved in her community and Club, assisting in programs such as the Reading Partnership Program and the EarlyOn program. She has contributed over 900 volunteer hours in the past 4 years throughout her community. Outside of her Club, Aparnaa is a part of the Scarborough Village Youth Council which has hosted multiple community events featuring games, guest speakers, and multiculturalism.
She also co-founded Professional Pathways; a youth-led organization that makes information about career paths easily accessible to youth. As the communications coordinator and secretary, she has built Professional Pathways’ social media presence to over 2500 followers and leads 14 brand ambassadors in their involvement with the organization. As Youth of the Year, Aparnaa aims to develop her leadership potential to make a positive lasting impact on her community and future generations.
Abbey, BGC Hamilton-Halton
Attending BGC Hamilton-Halton for 15 years, from member to volunteer to facilitator and Youth Council member. Abbey is passionate about the entertainment industry and has performed in four musicals and attended many acting programs. Abbey has had many positive experiences at her Club like developing her swimming skills, attending Raise the Grade, and creating meaningful connections with councilors and other youth. She is passionate about rediscovering her Indigenous culture and has helped organize events such as Have a Heart Day and Orange Shirt Day to teach younger children how we can support Indigenous communities.
Outside of her Club, Abbey is a leader for the mental health section of the Health Action Team at her school—promoting wellness and safety in her community through initiatives such as informational newsletters. She also regularly volunteers for community initiatives like the Giving Closet thrift shop and Hamilton Fringe festivals. As Youth of the Year, Abbey wants to help youth find their voice and realize there are no limits when it comes to their goals.
Muhammad, BGC Albion Club
Attending BGC Albion Club for 3 years, from member to volunteer. Muhammad is passionate about public speaking and hopes to become a public figure who inspires others. Muhammad is a leader and advocate at his Club, volunteering at summer camps and as a professional photographer on the Rexpressions media team. He has also been actively involved at school, participating in Robotics Club and the Graduation Committee.
Muhammad has also consistently attended weekly Islamic lectures at his local mosque for several years and volunteered with international language classes at school for 13 years, demonstrating great commitment. He is also busy modeling and shadowing local barbers to learn about professional hair cutting! As Regional Youth of the Year, Muhammad wishes to learn new skills, gain experience, network, and become the best version of himself.
Meet our 2021 Youth of the Year
2021 National Youth of the Year
Valentina Shamoun, BGC East Scarborough
Attending BGC East Scarborough for 7 years, now president of the Youth Council and staff in the Club’s after school program. Going into pre-medicine, attending the University of Toronto for a Bachelor of Health Science, and planning to pursue a career in the medical field. Valentina has had many opportunities with her Club through their Youth Council, including an exchange trip to Ghana, a Youth Summit event, and a BGC x YMCA exchange trip with Winnipeg. Outside of her Club, Valentina volunteers with Footprints 4 Autism and as a peer tutor. She is also the founder of The Butterfly Effect Non-profit Project—a youth led initiative collecting funds for families in Syria through art and embroidery, one of the hobbies she picked up during the pandemic. As National Youth of the Year, she hopes to share her personal story of the inclusivity and incredible opportunities that her BGC Club has provided her and to be a positive voice for BGC youth across the country.
2021 Regional Youth of the Year
Jasleen Bahia, BGC South Coast BC
Attending the Fraserview location of BGC South Coast BC for over 12 years, from member to volunteer to now a tutor in the Raise the Grade program. Second year studying Management and Organizational Studies, with a focus on social impact and non-profit sectors. Jasleen has had so many positive experiences at her Club, from sports to being featured on Breakfast Television to camps to many amazing mentors. She is also busy outside the Club and school! She supports first years in their transition to university, she’s a mentor with Girls Who LEAP, a leadership program to empower girls in grades 6 to 12 in East Vancouver, and she is working on a video-based project called HerStory, which empowers female-identifying individuals to share their stories and experiences to inspire others—AND she loves all things fitness and sports. As Youth of the Year, she hopes to share her story across the country (and beyond!!) so more people are aware and understand the valuable role that BGC Clubs play in changing youth’s lives.
Kowmitha Satkunarajan, BGC West Scarborough
Attending BGC West Scarborough for 5 years, from member to volunteer to facilitator and now Youth Rep on their Board of Directors. Currently studying International Development Studies and Political Science and working towards a Global Scholar certificate. Kowmitha is dedicated to her community, from volunteering on several boards to advocate for youth mental health, her current work as an Impact Thought Leader at the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity, and being recognized during the pandemic as a C.A.R.E.S Volunteer for her contribution to the Collective Action and Response for Everyone in Scarborough initiative. Kowmitha is on the debate team and she loves to read and write on her personal blog. As Youth of the Year, she wants to share her story of overcoming mental health challenges and trauma to show people, and especially young women of colour, that with the right support it is possible to not only make change in their life and in society, but also learn to live the good life.
Savannah Lapensee, BGC Cornwall/SDG
Attending BGC Cornwall/SDG for almost 11 years, from member to volunteer to facilitator. Recently graduated from the Introduction to Music Industry Arts program at Algonquin College and plans to pursue a career as a composer for film and media. Savannah enjoys all things creative like photography, videography, music, and graphic design. They were president of the Cornwall Club’s youth council and had the opportunity to attend two BGC National Youth Forums held in Ottawa and Montréal. Now, they sit on BGC Canada’s National Youth Council. Outside of BGC, Savannah was involved in their community through the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet program for 4 years and also volunteers for The Butterfly Effect Non-profit Project as a core member and committee leader. As Youth of the Year, Savannah hopes to encourage and inspire youth to instill change in the areas they are passionate about.
Shealah Hart, BGC Botwood
Attending BGC Botwood for the past 13 years, from member to volunteer to staff. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work at Memorial University, further strengthening her passion for public policy, feminism, youth, community development, Reconciliation, civic engagement, and social justice. Shealah is actively involved in her community of Northern Arm, from organizing annual winter clothing drives to organizing public speaking competitions for children. In recognition of her community involvement, Shealah spent two terms with BGC Canada’s National Youth Council and was the first to receive the Northern Arm Volunteer Award. Outside of studying and contributing to her community, Shealah enjoys cooking and cuddling with one or all three of her four-legged friends. As Youth of the Year, she wants to work to improve the lives of other Club youth by creating new opportunities for learning and growth.