NPA Awards - 5 Last Youth Winners

The Youth awards are among the most inspiring of the Skills for Change New Pioneers Awards
(NPA), because young people who come to Canada are great representatives of what immigrants can contribute to this country and fine role models to young newcomers from around the world.


Edona ÇakuEdona Çaku

Like many of the NPA Youth award recipients, 2005 winner Edona Çaku managed to remain a high achiever in high school, while still adjusting to a new language, culture and school setting. One of the secrets of her success was leading an active student life. She took part in many extracurricular activities, joining anti-discrimination and anti-racism clubs and tutoring her peers in languages, mathematics, and sciences.

As a University of Toronto student, Edona received numerous national scholarships, and prestigious honours, such as being named Top 20 Under 20, across Canada. She completed a Bachelors of Science in Medical Radiation Sciences from the University of Toronto (U of T), Faculty of Medicine, and a Diploma in Health Sciences from the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences.

Like many natural leaders, Edona set herself clear goals and worked tirelessly to achieve them. As a recent graduate of U of T’s innovative Masters of Management of Innovation program, Edona is on course to change the face of health care on a global scale.


Sharangabo Ntare PatrickSharangabo Ntare Patrick

2006 NPA Youth award winner, Sharangabo Ntare Patrick, survived the genocide in Rwanda after being wounded and left for dead in a mass grave. Coming to Canada as a convention refugee at the age of 17, he encountered many obstacles in pursuing his educational objectives.

After receiving a high school diploma, Sharangabo discovered that he did not meet the entry-level requirements for admission to university. To set this right he began taking night classes and correspondence courses. He got into and excelled in U of T's Transitional Year Program (TYP). Since graduating in African and Aboriginal Studies and Political Science, Sharangabo has become a compelling spokesperson in the Rwandan community, where he also helps youth deal with the consequences of the genocide by offering them comfort, support and understanding. In addition, he teaches Rwandan traditional dance and language to Rwandan children.


Sadia RafiquddinSadia Rafiquddin

The 2007 winner, Sadia Rafiquddin and her family fled religious persecution in Pakistan and came to Canada as refugees in 1990.

In high school, she took on an intensive course load and two part-time jobs. A dedicated volunteer, she worked for many causes, particularly eliminating violence against women and increasing the self-esteem of young women with disabilities.

After graduation, Ms. Rafiquddin enrolled in the joint specialist International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies program at U of T, where she earned the prestigious William Heaslip Scholarship from Trinity College and served as co-president of the International Relations Society.

She loves Canada for the freedom and opportunity which she otherwise would have been denied as an Ahmadi Muslim woman in Pakistan. "If there is one thing I treasure most after my family, it's my Canadian citizenship and education."


Ellen Xi YangEllen Xi Yang

When 2008 winner, Ellen Xi Yang arrived in 2003, her strength of character, resourcefulness and courage enabled her to overcome three significant barriers to settling in Canada: learning a new language, adapting to a new school, and integrating into Canadian culture.

Believing that "practice makes perfect," she worked hard to speak frequently and accurately in English, achieving an A+ average in all aspects of the ESL program within her first month in Canada.

At Riverdale Collegiate Institute, Ellen earned 12 academic honours over her first three years of high school. Through volunteer work, Ellen began to learn about different cultures. Her activities included helping immigrant children adapt to Canadian culture and working with autistic and developmentally-challenged children.

Ellen comments, "I am very fortunate to be living in a city like Toronto and to be studying at a high school that reflects the city's multicultural nature.”


Mariatu KamaraMariatu Kamara

2009 winner Mariatu Kamara is an inspirational young woman who speaks softly and is always concerned about the well being of others.

When Mariatu first arrived in Canada, she had to deal with extraordinary obstacles - physical disability (her hands had been amputated by rebels during the Sierra Leone civil war), lack of formal education (she had never had the opportunity to attend school) and the inability to communicate in English.

Mariatu achieved her dream of graduating from high school in 1997, and is now in post-secondary studies at George Brown College in the Assaulted Women and Children's Counsellor/Advocate Program.

Her memoir, The Bite of the Mango, tells the story of her life in Sierra Leone, her capture by rebel soldiers and how she came to live in Canada.

Now a UNICEF Canada special representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Mariatu’s life goals include working for the United Nations and counselling abused women and children.


Besides hard work and dedication, the attributes all of these young champions have in common include getting involved in their communities as well as setting clear goals early in their lives and working tirelessly to achieve them.

The lesson: Whether or not you are academically brilliant, you can have a huge impact on society and achieve great success by devoting yourself to making life better for others. Get involved, volunteer and keep your eyes open for opportunities.

If you know someone you believe is worthy of the 2010 New Pioneers Award Youth award, nominate them now here.