By Nikki Jamieson
Local community-minded youth were honoured at the APEX Youth Awards last Wednesday evening, in a gala event that saw four admirable candidates take home prestigious bursaries for their hard work in their communities.
An impressive 23 nominees were recognized at the dinner in their honour and thanked for their accomplishments and community service. At the end of the night, four of them were presented with $1,500 bursaries, sponsored by four local businesses (Legacy Dodge, Avail LLP, Grower’s Supply Ltd. and South Country Co-op). The two runners-up were also awarded bursaries of $250 from the APEX Committee.
The night featured Eliza Yawney as a guest speaker, and she spoke about overcoming obstacles and empathy for others, using the example of the snowboarding accident that left her in a wheelchair, and thanked each nominee for their work, saying they will be great leaders for her children.
The bursary winners were Deacon Schwartz (ACE Place), Ty Anderson (W.R. Myers High School), Gaby Castaneda (St. Mary’s High School) and Kyle Molnar (Barnwell School).
Anderson was honoured to be named a winner, although he hadn’t thought he would win, adding it was “cool to be recognized for it”.
“To know that there are people out there that think that I can be a leader, that I can lead for the children of tomorrow. I hope I can and will be able to,” said Anderson. “I am going to put that (bursary) forward to my college fund, or might invest, split it a little, 50-50, between buying some more animals or something. I found out through the years that buying animals and selling calves has made me some, a little bit of money, when the market has been good, and I’ll apply that to my college funds.”
Molnar had congratulations for all the other nominees in the running for this “amazing opportunity”, and hoped that they all continued to make the world a better place. Like Anderson, he also hopes to invest, although in sheep and farm equipment, and put it into his college fund.
“Somebody tells you you can’t do something, it just gives you a better reason to do it,” said Molnar. “Stay happy, keep on smiling and make others smile. That’s my motto.”
When it was announced Schwartz had won, he went up and gave a speech thanking those who had helped him become an APEX winner. His bursary is going into his college fund, and he advised that anyone who sees someone in need of help or left out, should stop and help them.
“I felt that I need to thank everyone who made a difference in my life, the people who helped me through everything I’ve been through,” said Schwartz. “It’s an extreme privilege just to be considered for this event.”
Castaneda thanked the person who nominated her, and is a still surprised she won. She has been been accepted to attend the University of Alberta, and the bursary will go towards her tuition.
“I did not expect to win actually, but I feel very elated,” said Castaneda. “People might not notice right now, but in the long run, people will notice and they’ll see that all of your hard work has finally paid off, and it’s nice to see it all paid off.”
Maegan and Analiese Vissers (Vauxhall High School) both took home the runner-up prizes. Both plan on saving their bursaries in their college fund.
“It’s a true honour to be able to represent such an amazing group of young people. Everyone deserves it,” said Maegan. “Keep following your dreams, keep working hard and lend a hand whenever you can. It’s really important, people will see it and appreciate it, and it will get you far in life.”
“There is so many amazing people, and it’s just an honour to be nominated,” said Analiese. “There’s so many kids that aren’t here tonight that have done so much in their communities, and it’s so amazing. If those kids keep on striving to do their best in their communities, they’ll go far.”
The APEX Awards were developed to recognize individuals who represent the best qualities in Taber and area youth, who unselfishly give of themselves in the service of others. The award event was hosted at the Taber Community Centre Auditorium on March 22 and sponsored by the APEX Committee and The Taber Times, this year’s event — celebrating 16 years for the APEX Youth Awards — featured youth nominees hailing from Taber, Vauxhall and Barnwell, among other communities.
In 2002 the APEX Youth program started as a partnership with the Taber Rotary Club and The Taber Times, but when the original Rotary Club of Taber disbanded in 2008, concerned community leaders felt the APEX program was important enough to continue, and formed the APEX Committee, which continues to organize the annual event. The Taber Times is a main sponsor of the youth award.
Over the past 16 years the APEX Youth Awards have recognized and celebrated the contributions of over 350 youth who have made a difference in their community. With the continued support of local business, there has been over $90,000 in bursaries given to over 60 APEX winners.
The banquet is made possible by the generosity of the local business community. Their contributions allow all the nominees and two members of their families to attend at no cost.