Strengthening Communities through Service

“No young person should be held back due to financial barriers.”

These are the words of 18 year-old Vicky Vo, a recent high school graduate and aspiring neurologist. Vicky attended the New Circles’ Prom Boutique last spring and was recently one of five youth to receive the Community Service Award recognizing her substantial contributions to her community.

According to New Circles Executive Director Alykhan Suleman, investing in people to strengthen communities is central to longer-term solutions to poverty, and education plays an important role. “Education is not solely for the purpose of personal gain; it is also a way to improve society,” he said.

Knowing the value of engaged youth, the Community Service Awards help support young people to pursue their academic dreams, while recognizing them for their community contributions. The five young people selected for the award this year embody this ideal fully, cumulatively giving more than 4,000 hours of service.

“This year’s winners demonstrate the ethic of service and thinking beyond the self in their educational and volunteer pursuits,” said Alykhan. Vicky echoed this sentiment when she expressed her gratitude to New Circles and her parents at the award ceremony on August 19.  “With this award, I can continue to strive in my education and give back to my community,” she said.

Vicky Vo is a graduate from George Harvey Collegiate Institute. While attending school, she worked as a ride operator at Canada’s Wonderland, and volunteered at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital as a medical assistant. She will be attending the University of Toronto in the fall, where she will pursue an Honours degree in science, with a specialization in neuroscience.

Irene Zhu is a graduate of Middlefield College Institute in Markham. She contributed 755 volunteer service hours through work with the Millikan Youth Council, Best Buddies, Central East Youth Take Action (York Region Public Health) and a social enterprise she founded as part of the Junior Achievement program. Irene will be attending the University of Toronto this September for Honours Integrated Sciences. She aspires to work in the non-profit or public health sectors.

Hikmat Sahak graduated from the gifted program at Don Mills Collegiate Institute, where he earned the title of Valedictorian, as well as the Governor General’s Award for highest academic achievement. Outside of school, he was involved with the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office summer recreational and peer tutoring programs. He has also volunteered with the Mural Routes Rainbow Tunnel project, and at Leaside Retirement Living. He will be attending the University of Toronto in the fall to study biomedical engineering.

Gul-e Rana contributed 1500 volunteer service hours through a wide variety of initiatives, including a monthly wellness café to raise awareness about youth mental health, the Thorncliffe Youth Waste Strategy, peer mentoring, and various school social committees. She has also volunteered at Toronto East General Hospital and writes and edits for Be Scene magazine. She was recently selected as a finalist for the TD Award of Merit for Community Leadership. Gul-e will attend the University of Toronto in the fall to study neuroscience and biological sciences. She plans to pursue a career as a general surgeon.

Niya Abdullahi has served her community in Malvern through various youth programs with the Toronto Police Service and City of Toronto. She has also volunteered for former MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan and hopes to run for office herself in the future. She held the role of VP of Communications for the first Toronto DECA regional competition. After graduating with honours, she will be attending Ryerson University to study business technology management. She maintains a food blog, Confessions of a Teen Foodie, and plans to one day own her own business.

This program would not be possible without the generous support from our sponsors. Thank you to David Harpula, Andrea Wolff and Andrea Bartell, Patrick Rocca, Mackenzie Investments Charitable Foundation and Gibson’s Cleaners for supporting youth to enhance their communities and pursue academic excellence.

2016 Community Service Award winners (from left to right): Niya Abdullahi, Hikmat Sahak, Gule-e Rana, Vicky Vo, and Denise Zhu (sister of Irene Zhu)

New Circles' GLOW clothing service is the largest clothing bank in Toronto. We help 12,000 people of all ages annually.