Local teen Sierra Howald was awarded the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers on May 14 at a ceremony in the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Suite.
Lt.-Gov. David C. Onley was on site to hand out the award to seven exceptional youth selected from more than 300 candidates.
Sierra, a Grade 12 student at l’École secondaire du Sacré-Coeur, started volunteering at the age of 11, stocking shelves at a community-owned Francophone bookstore (Grand Ciel Bleu, la librairie du Nouvel Ontario). That’s when she also started learning judo with her family at the local YMCA.
Nearly five years ago, when the head instructor decided to move on, the program was in jeopardy of shutting down.
Although only in Grade 8 at the time, Sierra saw an opportunity to pay it forward and help out. Her decision helped save the judo program and grow it into what is now the Sudbury YMCA’s largest volunteer-run program, with an added value: bilingual classes.
With Sierra’s involvement, the program has grown from one class a week to six classes a week teaching 120 kids, with an added value, bilingual classes, thanks to Sierra’s translation services.
Sierra is also an active volunteer with Sudbury’s Human League Association, which raises funds for school breakfast programs and access to organized sports.
Sierra’s leadership, patience and community engagement have provided youth in Sudbury with not only a positive role model, but access to healthy and productive options for their extra-curricular time, according to a news release.