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.
Meet our 2021 Youth of the Year
2021 National Youth of the Year
Valentina Shamoun, BGC East Scarborough
18 years old
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
19 years old
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
19 years old
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
20 years old
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
20 years old
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.