Ontario Junior Citizen Awards
2018 Ontario Junior Citizen Award Finalists Announced
The Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) is proud to celebrate the excellence of the 13 final recipients who have been chosen to receive 2018 Ontario Junior Citizen Awards. These young men and women range from nine to 17 years of age, and have actively demonstrated strong leadership skills, creativity, determination, generosity and a desire to make a difference within their communities. They will be recognized with an Ontario Junior Citizen Award during a special ceremony on Monday, March 18 in Toronto.
The 2018 Ontario Junior Citizens listed in alphabetical order:
Zara Belanger-Pepper, 13, Chatham
Losing a loved one at the age of eight can be life altering. But Zara managed to focus her grief and attention on to something more positive. She wrote about her experience of losing her father to suicide and produced a book titled “What Have I Learned” to help others heal from loss. The illustrated publication, launched during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in 2017, talks about family, confidence, grief and expressing yourself. Since then she has spoken publicly in front of many organizations and donated printed copies of her book to the Canadian Mental Health’s Grief Works Program, VON Kids Circle Program. But most importantly, she wanted her message to be available to everyone, so the publication can be downloaded online for free. See it here: https://snownet.ca/zara/.
Iman Berry, 17, Windsor
In 2018, Iman founded “Youth Collective” and ran a project that connected Canadian students to refugees with hopes to increase cultural awareness and make newcomers feel more comfortable. She was also a Windsor Youth Consultation Organizer for Canada’s first ever Youth Policy. In this role, Iman worked alongside the Prime Minister’s Privy Council to collect information from youth in Windsor.
As if she didn’t have enough on the go already, Iman was one of 20 Canadian delegates selected to participate in an Economic Trade Mission to China. She is a Windsor Essex Regional Youth Council member, a Windsor Islamic Association Board contributor, a Rotary Club Peace and Conflict Committee member and an Ontario Student Trustee Association Advocacy Committee member. In addition, she organized a “Music for Mental Health” charity community concert and raised $2,900 for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Karanjot Bhatia, 14, Brampton
Karanjot lives with Cerebral Palsy but he does not let it be an obstacle in his pursuit of making a difference within his community. He volunteers his time at ErinoakKids where he shares his passion for robotics and STEM with other physically challenged children. He helps organize recreational trips for the elderly through the Guru Gobind Singh Children’s Foundation and has dedicated time to the Seva Food Bank in Malton as a personal shopper for families in need. In addition, Karanjot is a regular volunteer at a local Gurudwara on Saturdays and Sundays serving food and washing . He also recently participated in the Brampton 2040 Vision Youth Symposium and presented an implementation strategy based on public engagement, collaboration, design, technology, and identity to a panel of judges. His ideas earned him 2nd place out of 250 students that attended the day-long workshop.
Morgan Burke, 16, Haliburton
At just 15 years of age, Morgan decided to start her own business combining her love of nature with her desire to provide a valuable product and service. Her goal? To develop a line of products using honey bees as a resource. She took courses at Trent University to learn about the process of raising bees and successfully applied for a grant through the Kawartha Summer Company Development program. She became a regular face at local summer markets and has even participated in the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto where she received awards for best customer service and best booth display. A year into her entrepreneurship, Morgan began looking for ways to share the success of her business with her community. The “Bee’cause We Care” initiative was born last summer with honey bottled in branded jars supporting Haliburton Highlands Health Services. She has contributed over $1,200 to the organization, all while maintaining honour roll as a grade 11 student.
Taylor Dallin, 16, Toronto
Taylor’s countless contributions began when she was in grade 6 and spoke at a public hearing to stop the destruction of trees in her neighbourhood. She was the youngest in attendance. This act of leadership and drive only fueled her fire, as she then went on to become Head Prefect of her school’s Student Council and was selected to be a page for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. A couple of years later she became an Ambassador for Model City Hall, a non-profit organization with a mission to make municipal politics more accessible for youth, of which she is now Co-Chair. She was the Community Engagement Lead for a youth-led environmental organization called Global Figure and held the role of Student Bill of Rights Ambassador for the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students. In addition, she has helped with the Canadian Cancer Society’s daffodil sales and the RBC Race for the Kids. These are just some examples of the organizations to which Taylor has dedicated more than 885 community hours.
Mya + Nathan Hart, 10 + 9, Ajax
In early 2017, Mya and Nathan helped musician Feist deliver backpacks to children and teens living with AIDS in Malawi. Collectively the siblings gathered 562 backpacks, which would be used to carry medications to and from school. That same year, they decided to spearhead a similar initiative to help those within their own community. They began working with Durham Regional Victim Services and collected 200 flashlights, 200 tubes of toothpaste, 150 toothbrushes, deodorants, soaps, and an additional 100 backpacks.
Seeking other ways to show leadership and make a difference, the two decided to launch a recycling campaign with a mission to educate their peers about the various school supplies that can be recycled so they do not end up in landfills. These items include mechanical pencils, pens, markers and highlighters. They have created recycling bins with easy to follow instructions, which have been placed in classrooms within their school and are encouraging others to be eco-friendlier.
Vanessa Morris, 17, Chelmsford
Vanessa is an exceptional student and leader, maintaining a 92% average and accumulating over 400 hours worth of community service during her first two years of high school alone. She served as a legislative page when she was 13 years old and enriched her knowledge of politics. Since then she has taken on the role of Youth Advisor on the first ever North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Patient and Family Advisory Committee and attends regular meetings weighing in on best practices to service patients and their families. Furthermore, she has crochet “granny squares” and made blankets to help keep cancer patients warm during treatment.
In addition, she was selected to participate in SHAD’s 2018 summer enrichment program, is a student representative on the Conseil Scolaire Catholique du Nouvel-Ontario sectorial tables, and a spends her spare time as a teacher/mentor for the TaeKwonDo Club in her community.
Racheal Ou, 17, Scarborough
Racheal regularly volunteers with Chatting to Wellness, a weekly senior’s program for those with disabilities who need company and conversation. It’s here that she came up with the DREAM program, which stands for “DRop Everything And Meditate” and encourages positive attributions. With a continued desire to improve mental health, she has found additional outlets to do so. For example, after attending Harvard University last summer to study Epidemiology and Statistical Programming, she produced a scientific paper that outlines the relationship between depression and marijuana consumption.
In addition, Racheal is founder of “The Youth Projector”, a non-profit organization that caters to voicing the issues of youth in her community. She is president of the Toronto Youth Environmental Council and promotes environmental activism, an executive member of Sustainable Youth Canada, sits on the Toronto District School Board Student Senate, and is actively involved in many extracurricular activities within her school.
Andrew Poirier, 14, York (Haldimand County)
Andrew has been involved with Wounded Warriors Canada since he was just nine years old. He currently builds and sells birdhouses made from upcycled wood and old license plates to collect funds for therapy dogs for veterans with PTSD. Through this initiative he has donated more than $8,000. Additionally, Andrew has a strong passion for promoting inclusivity. As a result, he has gained permission from his school and is working on organizing its first Mental Wellness Day. He has volunteered his time for several years with the Knights of Columbus, providing support to families with medically fragile children and spends every other Saturday with the Good Shepherd in Hamilton serving meals. He has accomplished all this with determination and resilience while living with juvenile arthritis.
Chyler Sewell, 16, Hamilton
Chyler showed interest in the Neighbour-2-Neighbour Hamilton Community Food Centre when it first came into existence two years ago. Since inception she has volunteered every Wednesday afternoon as a teen lead in the Kids Club After School Program. Her experience at the food centre inspired her to join Eco Ninjas, an after-school club of students who care about the environment and encourage others to become involved in various activities including gardening, advocating for solar panels, and managing recycling or compost need of the school.
Last year she was selected to travel to Pangnirtung, an Inuit hamlet, Qikiqtaaluk Region in Nunavut. She was chosen to represent her Anishnaabek community, about which she is passionate. She recognizes that the traditions of her First Nations heritage are at risk as the elders pass away. As an aspiring writer, she understands the urgency of recording this information for future generations and has been doing so with help from her mother to preserve her community’s rich histories.
Jacob Taylor, 11, Metcalfe
At just 11 years old, Jacob is involved in many community groups and has proven to be a role model and inspiration for young generations. In addition to running a monthly Kindness Club at a local seniors home, he is a Metcalfe Community Association Youth Ambassadors Junior Assistant to the Manager of his community’s local farmers market. Last year he organized a collection campaign within his school to donate warm socks to the homeless in Ottawa and continues to help organize an annual toy drive to collect items for a local women’s shelter.
Notably, he became the youngest member to join the Metcalfe Community Association after convincing them to change the Bylaws stating only adults could join. He has since been appointed Youth Ambassador and attends monthly meetings and various community events.
Guramrit Thandi, 16, Brampton
Guramrit is founder of the “Heart Attack Campaign” and is on a mission to educate the elderly about the symptoms and effects of a heart attack. She recognized the lack of counselling services for cardiovascular health and decided to take action. She travels to senior homes across the GTA and leads informational sessions for residents. It has grown to become an official organization within her school with over 60 members contributing through various roles. Furthermore, Guramrit is executive director of her school’s PETA club, president of the Aspiring Medical Professionals club, senior representative of the Science Club, a member of Student Council and a member of the volleyball, track, cross-country and badminton teams.
The Ontario Junior Citizen Awards are promoted through the OCNA. Nominations of eligible youth aged six to 17, are received through 240 community newspaper members committed to recognizing the young leaders who are making a difference in their communities. Nominees may be involved in community service, are contributing to their community while living with a physical or psychological limitation, individuals who have performed acts of heroism or bravery, or those who achieve excellence in personal achievement. Candidates are also recognized for being ‘good kids' who go above and beyond what is expected of their age and show a commitment to making life better for others. A panel of judges unanimously agreed on the final award recipients.
Our goal to recognize outstanding young people in communities across Ontario would not be possible without the generous support of our corporate sponsor, TD Bank Group.
For further information, please contact:
Ontario Junior Citizen Award Coordinator
Ontario Community Newspapers Association
416-923-7724 ext. 4439
Help us celebrate the best of your community!
Nominate an outstanding individual you know, and help us recognize the incredible determination, imagination, and spirit that make our lives and our communities better. If you know someone who is involved in worthwhile community service, is contributing while living with a limitation, has performed an heroic act, demonstrates individual excellence, or is going above and beyond to help others, then please nominate them!
Nominees may be involved in
A committee of newspaper editors, publishers and the program's sponsors will then select up to 12 individual award winners.
Every nominee will receive a certificate of recognition from their local community newspaper, and the final recipients are invited to a special ceremony in Toronto.
The Ontario Junior Citizen Awards are a public service of your community newspaper.
- Almost five million Ontario households receive a paper published by a member of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association. The Association acts on behalf of its members to help them better serve their communities.
- Each submission must include at least two supporting nominations.
- Parents/Guardians must sign to acknowledge the PIPEDA policy.
- Nomination forms are available for download below and from your local community newspaper.
Separate Parent Signature Form
Also available at
& can be returned to
2017 Ontario Junior Citizens Recognized
On Monday, March 5, the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA), hosted the 37th annual Ontario Junior Citizen Awards on the 54th floor of the TD Tower. Twelve outstanding youth from across Ontario were recognized in front of family and friends for their inspiring community involvement. The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, attended as congratulator-in-chief.
Recipients were delighted to also meet Premier Kathleen Wynne on the grand staircase of the Legislative Building after a tour of Queen’s Park.
The OCNA would like to thank its member newspapers and corporate sponsor TD Bank Group for continued support in recognizing tomorrow’s leaders.
Top from left to right: Gary Clement, Senior Manager, Government Relations, TD Bank Group; Graham Beer, 17, Cobourg; Frank Hong, 16, North York; James Potvin, 9, Whitby; Lucas Gordon, 16, Ancaster; Ramsay Jackson, 13, Greensville; William McCormick, 16, Sudbury; Daniel Zhang, 16, Scarborough; Ray Stanton, OCNA President.
Bottom from left to right: Holly Tetzlaff, 17, Trenton; Subrana Rahman, 17, Toronto; the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; John Perry, 8, Collingwood; Autumn Peltier, 13, Wikwemikong First Nation.
2017 Ontario Junior Citizens Announced
The 2017 Ontario Junior Citizen Finalists have been selected and will be recognized by OCNA member newspapers for their outstanding achievements. The 12 individuals are future leaders making conscious efforts to see change in society and are working hard to make a difference both locally and globally. Although very different and unique, they all share one aspect in common - they are all truly inspiring, and their stories illustrate creativity, determination and generosity.
These final recipients and their families will be invited to a special ceremony in Toronto to receive their award.
The 2017 Ontario Junior Citizens, listed in alphabetical order:
Graham Beer, 17, Cobourg
Graham is Executive Producer and Host for Cobourg Media, an online news and multimedia business he launched at the age of 12 with a complete studio set up in his basement. He has videotaped and reported hundreds of events within his community, proving to be an ambassador and strong supporter for various organizations and fundraising events including Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and Ribfest Harvest Festival. Through his Cobourg Media Christmas Specials, he has raised over $6,000 for the Salvation Army and Northumberland Food Share. His passion for journalism has led to many great opportunities, including a segment on CityTV covering Vimy Ridge’s 100th Anniversary from France. He believes “it only takes one decision to make a difference that can empower others to make a substantial impact that can last a lifetime”.
Marcus Deans, 16, Windsor
Marcus’ many contributions include extra-curricular activities within his school and community, as well as personal achievements in science research. As Vice-Chair of the Young Philanthropists, he has helped raise $7,000 and presented grants to low-income schools and community organizations within the city of Windsor. His involvement as Co-President of his school’s Student Council helped collect 10,000 cans (from a school of fewer than 150 students) to help feed hungry and less fortunate people at the Downtown Mission.
Marcus is also a STEM enthusiast and his $2 water filter for developing counties, the ‘NOGOS’, won best Junior Prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in 2015. More recently, he concluded research on inhibitors of the Zika Virus and identified 14 compounds with high potential for stopping the dangerous disease.
Lucas Gordon, 16, Ancaster
Five years ago, Lucas poured his love of Halloween into a fundraising initiative and transformed his parent’s garage into a haunted house, encouraging visitors to donate one non-perishable food item as admission. The charitable movement saw more than 600 guests in its first year and collected more than 250 pounds of non-perishable items for a local food bank.
Just a couple of years ago he founded a company called RedReach, which is an online job posting and application platform, specifically for youth employment. RedReach has partnered with McMaster University, and has been accepted into the McMaster Startup Business Incubator, The Forge, making Lucas the youngest person to have been accepted into the business incubator. In addition, among many other notable contributions on his resume, Lucas also recently joined Plan International Canada’s I AM A Girl National Speakers Bureau as a Public Speaker, and advocates for female rights.
Frank Hong, 16, North York
Frank has been volunteering with his local constituency since he was just nine years old. During the 2015 Federal Election campaign he was voted as one of the Liberal Party’s youngest Community Team Leaders. His extensive work in politics and advocacy landed him a spot on MUCH’s first youth digital series, SIDES*. As a panelist on the show, Frank discusses current events and issues with an intelligent, thoughtful and moderate perspective.
Just a couple of Frank’s noteworthy achievements include holding the position of Vice President of the Toronto District School Board’s Super Council, representing over 250,000 students, and helping coordinate many city-wide events. In addition, a first-place finish at the HOSA International Leadership Conference and a team-effort invention of the Epi-Strip (a more effective, painless method for delivering epinephrine doses) earned Frank the position of National Officer at HOSA Canada.
Ramsay Jackson, 13, Greensville
Ramsay is a hero. His courage and noble qualities essentially saved a Life Skills Class from being dismantled. His school was slated for amalgamation, and an original plan saw the Life Skills Program being terminated, with intent to disperse special needs students throughout the school board. Ramsay recognized a need to advocate for those who, he felt, didn’t have a voice, and took it upon himself to create a petition called ‘Keep Us Together’. He single-handedly collected more than 120 signatures at the small, rural school. His determination and strong moral compass had an impact and helped reverse the school board’s intentions, ensuring the Life Skills Class remained intact for the future.
William McCormick, 16, Sudbury
Since becoming a member of the Chief’s Youth Advisory Council last year, William has been an active leader and helped organize a Crime Prevention Conference where he spoke about the positive impact volunteering can have on youth. Volunteerism is something William has practiced for many years, donating his time to a local food bank, nursing home, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Learning Disabilities Association and St. John Ambulance since the age of 10.
Most notably, however, William founded a national initiative called ‘Service Not Forgotten’, which provides personal support to homeless veterans in the form of backpacks filled with personal items. More than 5,000 items have been collected and donated to shelters across the country. The organization also raises awareness for the issue
Autumn Peltier, 13, Wikwemikong First Nation
At just 13 years old, Autumn is a role model and veteran activist. She is proud to be Indigenous and feels very passionate about preserving the environment and creating awareness for the importance of clean drinking water. She was one of two youth advocates chosen to represent Canada during the 2015 Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, and during the 2016 Winter Meeting of Canada’s Premiers in Vancouver, she addressed her concerns directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Autumn recognizes that water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth and it needs to be protected. Through traditional water ceremonies and speeches across the country, Autumn is helping to “make the world a better place for kids that come after her”.
John Perry, 8, Collingwood
Despite challenges living with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, John remains focused on helping others and creating more accessible programs for children with physical disabilities. He is actively involved with the Ontario Track 3 Ski Association, a ski program for children with mobility challenges. John’s cookie sales have raised over $1,000 for the program to purchase specialized ski equipment, and as co-chair of the Disc Ability fundraising event, he has helped collect enough funds to install accessible washroom facilities. At just eight years old, John manages to approach each day with a positive attitude and inspires others to give back.
James Potvin, 9, Whitby
James had to overcome many social anxieties associated with Autism after he travelled 450km on a bicycle and raised $10,000 for the Grandview Children’s Centre. The ride garnered much attention and he was invited to many major news networks, local newspapers and radio stations across the province for interviews. Although the ride was intended solely to benefit the not-for-profit treatment centre, James also helped raise awareness for Autism and became a role model for others – especially those with development disorders - proving that anyone can accomplish something if they put their mind to it.
Subrana Rahman, 17, Toronto
Subrana’s community has experienced gun violence, theft and substance abuse, but despite (or perhaps because of this) she strives for excellence and works diligently to help those in need. She has contributed to Pathways to Education for the past three years and has been awarded Best Director for her efforts. She helps newcomers to Canada feel more at home, cooks for the homeless, makes shelter beds and feeds the mentally/physically disabled. In addition, Subrana is currently registered in the MaST (Math Science and Technology) program at the Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute. She is thriving in the program and somehow finds the time to balance her academics, extracurricular activities, work, family and friends.
Holly Tetzlaff, 17, Trenton
Holly chooses to focus on issues that are important to her and manages to find ways to make them important to others. She is founder of the ‘Red Fish Route Environmental Awareness Campaign’, leading elementary students through hands-on experiments to raise awareness of disintegration rates of toilet paper vs. commonly flushed items. The program aims to develop environmentally-friendly habits. She has attended World Environmental Day as guest presenter and student panelist, and was an exhibitor at the Tri-County Children’s Water Festival, which saw roughly 3,000 students attend.
In addition, she promotes peace through a global initiative she spearheaded called the ‘Peace Crane Project’. Holly taught every student in her class how to fold an origami crane, which would each be accompanied by a letter explaining the project, a travel log to record its travels, and a request for the recipient to visit a symbol of peace in their community before sending it to someone else. Since then the entire student body, staff and administration have participated, and over the years, cranes from Holly’s initiative have landed on almost every continent.
Daniel Zhang, 16, Scarborough
Daniel shows true dedication to his volunteer efforts, often travelling 1.5 hours to a hospital after school to help deliver meals. He has done so every week for the past few years and has consistently been involved in community activities since age eight. He spends his Saturdays playing the piano for recuperating patients to provide them with a soothing environment, and shows initiative and leadership skills that exemplify the good virtue of respectable citizenship. Additionally, Daniel demonstrates excellence in personal achievements academically and recently attended SHAD Summer Camp at the University of British Columbia, a competitive enrichment program in science, technology and entrepreneurship for gifted high school students from all over the world.
The Ontario Junior Citizen Awards are promoted through the 280 member newspapers of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association. Nominations of eligible youth aged six to 17, are received through member newspapers committed to recognizing the outstanding leaders who are making a difference in their communities. Nominees may be involved in community service, are young people who are contributing to their community while living with a physical or psychological limitation, or individuals who have performed acts of heroism or bravery. Candidates are also recognized for being ‘good kids' who show a commitment to making life better for others. A panel of judges unanimously agreed on the final award recipients.
Updates on a few previous Ontario Junior Citizens:
Justin Hines, 1999 Ontario Junior Citizen, Stouffville, ON
Justin was recognized for applying his musical talents, and incredible optimism and spirit to support charities and help others, all while dealing with his own physical challenges.
Justin has since toured internationally, and is recognized worldwide for his advocacy. He continues to sing, write, and speak about hope and helping others, and received the Order of Ontario in 2014 for his charitable work and international success.
Annaleise Carr, 2012 and 2014 Ontario Junior Citizen, Simcoe, ON
At age 14, Annaleise was the youngest person to ever swim across Lake Ontario. Two years later, Annaleise swam across Lake Erie. Combined these efforts raised awareness and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Camp Trillium, a family camp for children with cancer.
Since then, her book, Annaleise Carr: How I Conquered Lake Ontario to Help Kids Battling Cancer has sold thousands of copies, and inspired many others to take on great challenges and help others.
Maya Burhanpurkar, 2010 Ontario Junior Citizen, Shanty Bay, ON
At age 11, Maya was an ‘A' student who had already conducted her own research on plant-based antibiotics, donated her hair for wigs for children with cancer, and volunteered for a summer at a rural hospital in India.
Since then, Maya raised money for Haitian earthquake relief, received many humanitarian and science awards, and discovered the physical nature of a previously only theorized property in physics!
We would like to thank our generous sponsors
TD Community Giving
TD Bank Group invests in communities in order to effect positive change in the places where it operates and where its clients and employees live and work. In 2014, TD donated over $82 million to support community organizations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. In Canada, TD focuses on education and financial literacy, creating opportunities for young people and the environment. For further information, please visit www.td.com/corporate-responsibility.
Fergus Printing Inc.
McLaren Press Graphics Ltd
Temiskaming Printing Co.
For more information on the Ontario Junior Citizens Awards,
- Please contact Kelly Gorven 416-923-7724 ext. 4439.
2016 Ontario Junior Citizens Honoured During a Special Ceremony
On Monday, March 20, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, hosted the 36th annual Ontario Junior Citizen Awards ceremony in her Suite at Queen’s Park. Thirteen outstanding youth from across Ontario were recognized in front of family and friends for their inspiring community involvement.
Recipients were delighted to also meet Premier Kathleen Wynne on the grand staircase of the Legislative Building after the ceremony.
The Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) would like to thank corporate sponsor TD Bank Group and its member newspapers for continued support to recognize tomorrow’s leaders.
Pictured top from left to right: Claire Jordan, 11, Toronto; Gordon Cameron, OCNA Past President and Group Managing Editor, Hamilton Community News; Sarah Jordan, 14, Toronto; Jack Mogus, 16, Oakville; Blaise Barber, 18, Hamilton; Brooklyn Lampi, 13, Kincardine; Dario Smagata-Bryan, 17, Welland; Veronica Chan, 17, Markham; Gary Clement, Senior Manager, Government Relations, TD Bank Group.
Pictured bottom from left to right: Nadine Carter, 13, Stouffville; Hira Waheed, 17, Hannon; Corbin Evans, 12, Brockville; the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; Miranda Li, 17, Toronto; Sharon Lim, 16, Oakville; Mansimran Anand, 17, Brampton.