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Inspire: 40 volunteer hours to graduate? For this top student, it’s 350 and counting

Lauren Coffin channels what seems to be an endless reserve of energy to work on behalf of her school and her community

If Lauren Coffin was applying for a job as a reporter, she would get hired. Although still in high school, she has won several awards for her news articles published in a Franco-Ontarian newspaper. 

The École secondaire catholique l’Horizon student is fluently bilingual, well-spoken and an inspiring role model with a 99-per-cent average.

This past year she read 300 books. 

"In French or English, whatever strikes my fancy," she said.

Currently she is reading "Plague" (La Peste) by Albert Camus in French – the book written in 1947 has a renewed relevance – and, in English, "A Study in Scarlet," the first novel in the Sherlock Holmes series, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

The Grade 12 student even started a book club at her school to encourage classmates to read more books and to share their opinions about authors and their ideas.

She enjoys reading and writing, but for now, Lauren is not interested in journalism as a career. She has applied to three universities to study chemical engineering.

Her passion is science. This past summer she worked as a "Bluecoat" science demonstrator at Dynamic Earth.

"I always went to Science North and Dynamic Earth science camps and I always looked up to  the Bluecoats, so it was amazing for me," she said.

The teen sits on Science North's student advisory committee and is a member of Horizon's environmental club.

"Right now, we (the club) are focusing on recycling. Often the recycling bins are contaminated (with non-recyclable items) … Every week, we highlight (to the students) how to properly recycle.

"This week we focused on which papers are recyclable and which ones are not. We are trying to bring awareness so what we put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled."

Lauren was in Grade 10 when the pandemic first hit and her classes were online for much of 2020 and 2021. She's been back at school since September, but the graduating Class of '22 has been forced to come up with creative ways to enjoy extracurricular activities.

A member of the YMCA Community Action Network (YCAN), Lauren and other young leaders "had to think outside the box," she said.

"A project we were able to implement was a mural. Each member of the group received a canvas and some paints, and we had to paint a puzzle piece. Each piece had to represent a group or a community. We wanted to communicate that all communities are welcome at the YMCA."

Lauren's piece represented Franco-Ontarians. The mural was assembled at the Y on Durham Street in downtown Sudbury.

A regular contributor to “Tapage”, a newspaper and online news source for French high school students that is published by Le Voyageur, Lauren is particularly proud of winning an award for best news article. 

Her topic concerned how ignorance of addiction issues results in blaming opioid users and can be a roadblock to finding a solution to the problem.

She was inspired to write the article after participating in a YCAN Network project to create a public service video about opioid addiction stigmatization.

Lauren is a Blezard Valley girl. The daughter of Marcus and Julie Coffin, she has completed 350 volunteer hours. Ontario students must have 40 volunteer hours to graduate.

"I was once told not to be afraid to get involved and (I) fully embraced this advice. Once you find organizations, causes, and places that you hold dear and are passionate about, volunteering and leadership initiatives become second nature," she said.

Lauren Coffin's Words of Inspiration

(The following is a translated excerpt from Lauren's article for Tapage, titled “The Perils of the Stigmatization of Opioid Use”.)

"There is no doubt that discrimination considerably influenced the opioid crisis. This can make individuals with substance-use disorders feel ashamed of their situation. Also, the shame created by stigma and discriminatory barriers can prevent these individuals from accessing the necessary treatment and care. Furthermore, they may be inclined to use substances alone, increasing the risk of overdose and death. There are many ways to do your part to combat the stigmatization of the opioid crisis. Even a simple change of vocabulary can incite a change of perception. In summary, the values of empathy, compassion and respect are indispensable. Also, it is important to remember not to carry preconceived judgments because it is impossible to know the past experiences or life of an individual without first speaking to them."

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer.


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Vicki Gilhula

About the Author: Vicki Gilhula

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer.
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