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YOUTH WEEK: Next generation of volunteers are dedicated to community service

Langley youth are putting in the work

It was through her love of soccer that Saje Keller discovered her passion to help people.

Keller developed a lifelong passion for soccer when she started playing at five years old. Continuing the sport into her adolescence, she was chosen as captain and led her team to second place at the Division 1 level in the provincials.

She volunteered for two years as a junior coach, before she was hired as a certified coach and now runs her own academy sessions for Langley United Soccer Association.

But during one game in 2022, Keller suffered a knee injury and has been going to physiotherapy sessions since.

“I tore my ACL, so I’ve been going through physiotherapy for a while now, and with my work through that my physiotherapist has been amazing and I’ve seen how beneficial her work is,” she shared.

After her graduation this year, Keller, from Murrayville, intends to pursue a bachelor of science at the University of the Fraser Valley, and then transfer to Simon Fraser University for a major in behavioural neuroscience.

“This program marries two areas which I am eager to learn about – physiology and psychology – and will provide me with the skills I need to become a physiotherapist,” said the Grade 12 student at D.W. Poppy Secondary.

Keller has taken on multiple volunteer roles going back to 2019, some of which she continues today. She is involved in her school’s arts program, serves as her grad council president, is a peer mediator for the Langley school district, and many other positions.

“My favourite thing about volunteering is the connections I can make throughout Langley… being a part of the community has given me purpose and motivated me to continue serving others,” Keller said.

Parker Zhang, a Grade 12 student at Walnut Grove Secondary, started his community work at school as well, where he joined the student council in Grade 8 as a grade representative before becoming secretary this year, in which he has organized annual food drives.

“One of the biggest reasons for me, personally, was when I was growing up my parents and I were in a low-income household. They worked really hard to put food on the table, and when I saw other people during the pandemic and more people relying on food banks, I felt that I needed to do something,” he shared.

He has also organized fundraisers to support humanitarian organizations, and is the editor in chief of his school’s student paper.

READ MORE: 2 Langley students make finalists in Canada-wide awards

Zhang is planning to attend the University of Toronto to pursue a double-major in political science and economics, to eventually land him into a human rights lawyer career.

“Before I get into law, I want to make sure I have a great understanding of both political science and economics in Canada,” he said.

As a second generation immigrant, he noticed growing up that first and second generation immigrants is a lack of connections within the community.

“I wasn’t able to speak to any lawyer – the thought of becoming a lawyer or even interacting with one was an unknown concept,” Zhang explained.

He joined the Youth Leaders and Law organization and quickly got involved with administration and hosting an annual conference for youth to meet with lawyers and law professors.

“Usually, you wouldn’t have that opportunity, for example, to speak to an Indigenous lawyer unless you had a family member,” he commented.

Last year the conference saw 150 young people attend.

Zhang said, as a young person, its important to think about what you want to do in life and always apply.

“Stay true to yourself.”

Both Keller and Zhang were nominated for the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award at the 2024 Langley Township volunteer appreciation night for their dedicated work at their schools and within the broader Langley community.

They were two of seven nominees, the others being: Armaan Brar from Aldergrove Community Secondary, Mackenzie Hurtubise from Langley Secondary, Annah Kuehl from Langley Christian Secondary, Grace Jerome from Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary school, and Ranaiman Dhaliwal from R.E. Mountain Secondary – who was the recipient of the award.

READ MORE: Langley Township celebrates community volunteers

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Kyler Emerson

About the Author: Kyler Emerson

I'm honoured to focus my career in the growing community of Aldergrove and work with our many local organizations.
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