Langley youth astound judges in annual community service awards

Anoki Amaradasa
Eli Hacker
Praveen Wichramaarchshi
Setare Maleki
William Taylor
Ye On Choi
Anneke Cairnie

Seven young Langley residents showed they’re pretty sassy but in this case, that’s a good thing.

The Service Above Self Student Youth (SASSY) awards went to the seven out of a worthy field.

The winner were Setare Maleki, Ye On Choi, Eli Hacker, William Taylor, Anneke Cairnie, Anoki Amaradasa, and Praveen Wickramaarachshi.

“Judges, as with every year, were blown away with the quality of applicants we had,” said Andria Popovici, who chaired the SASSY Award Langley and is a member of the Rotary Club of Langley Sunrise. “The feedback we received from judges resembled the same regardless of who I asked: sheer awe. To see and hear what these youth have been up to over the past year or so in our communities is powerful and inspiring.”

This year came with the added burden of COVID-19 but that didn’t stop these young people from helping others.

“To know that there are people in our community who don’t stop contributing no matter what life is throwing at them, is humbling and it fills our hearts with so much gratitude,” she added.

Popovici said there was no doubt the SASSY Awards would take place this year, despite the pandemic.

“We knew it needed to happen and that these youth deserved the opportunity to be recognized,” she said. “It’s always our honour to be able to facilitate this program, provide the acknowledgement and awards the way that we do. Last year we were weeks away from our interview day when the world went into lockdown and we shifted gears as fast as we possibly could to host the interview day via Zoom; so we already knew we could do it and this year we were more well-equipped to manage it with efficiency thanks to a powerhouse committee of dedicated people.”

The awards are open to local youth ages 16 to 25. The winners got to decide on a charity that would receive a donation.

“We’ll be sending off checks totalling $2,000,” Popovici noted.

A donation of $1,000 will go to the Langley Youth Hub. There’s $500 for the Starfish program, and the Community Justice Institute will receive $500 for the local youth restorative action program.

• The Sports award went to Anneke Cairnie, a Grade 12 student at Walnut Grove Secondary.

Last year she worked with Special Olympics. The 17-year-old received a grant and was able to host a basketball clinic for about 40 secondary school students

“It was really awesome to create that inclusive culture,” she said.

• The International Service award went to Ye On (Ellen) Choi.

The 19-year-old graduate of R.E. Mountain Secondary went to Turkey to help Syrian refugees two years ago and four years ago.

“It was such a valuable experience which made me want to go again,” she said.

• The Leadership through Adversity award was given to William Taylor, an 18-year-old R.E. Mountain Secondary.

“Something that’s really lit me up is my volunteering at the pool,” he said.

At Walnut Grove Community Centre pool, he teaches children that they can have fun at the pool but also how to be safe around water.

“I love seeing their faces light up when we play,” he said.

• The SASSY Arts and Culture award went to Walnut Grove Secondary student Praveen Wichramaarchshi, a 17-year-old who takes part in many arts-related extracurricular activities.

While he plans to purse an engineering degree, he hopes to maintain his hobbies including music and tutoring.

“It’s something that has helped me to keep myself sane,’ he chuckled.

• The Youth Leadership award winner was Setare Maleki. The 18-year-old is an R.E. Mountain Secondary International Baccalaureate program who founded two mentorship programs.

“One is related to innovation for a little bit older kids,” she said. “One is related to social justice for like teaching anti-racism to younger kids.”

• The Environmental Leadership honours went to Eli Hacker.

The Grade 11 student in Walnut Grove Secondary had the opportunity to create a bilingual environment and climate based education curriculum for youth.

“What got me really excited was I was able to collaborate with community stakeholders at Trinity Western University, with LEPS, with Simon Fraser and with my school,” he said.

In addition the project features a leadership component for students so they can take action on what’s important to them.

He’s looking to a career in government so he can help people.

• Winning the Community Service award was Anoki Amaradasa

The 17-year-old Murrayville resident goes to R.E. Mountain Secondary who is in the International Baccalaureate program.

She volunteers at Langley Memorial Hospital.

“Every Saturday we run a tea part for the residents at the long-term care halls there,” she said.

She plans to become a pediatrician.

The awards are sponsored by various groups and businesses in the community, including Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“Thank you for your commitment and dedication to your local community and our global family. The good work you do is inspiring an impactful,” said Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Alan Davis.

The Rotary clubs work with the Langley School District and others to determine the SASSY Award winners.

“Our kids that have still despite the circumstances, role modelling, leaders still in terms of helping families. I’ve seen so many youth step up around anti-racism. You know they’re leading the way,” Gordon Stewart, Langley School District superintendent.

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• READ MORE: Langley Township youth awards

• READ MORE: Youth unite in music initiative


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