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Katherine Dziedzic is the winner of the inaugural Helene and George Coward YMCA Young Leader Award.

If you’ve ever wondered whether investing in youth really makes a difference, look no further than Katherine Dziedzic’s experience, part of a ripple effect created by a legacy gift from Kenneth Coward.

Mr. Coward was a philanthropist who believed in the power of youth and education. His connection to the YMCA mission developed during his time at Sir George Williams University in Montreal (founded by the YMCA and now known as Concordia University). The bi-annual award his gift created is named in honour of his parents and recognizes outstanding youth leadership aligned with the YMCA’s commitment to fostering a sense of belonging for all.

In recognition of her leadership efforts in building healthier and more inclusive communities, Ms. Dziedzic was awarded the inaugural Helene and George Coward YMCA Young Leader Award.

The award includes an international education opportunity, and Ms. Dziedzic says she gained valuable insights during her leadership development experience in Kenya earlier this year.

“Having a chance to see different ways of engaging youth has informed my approach back at home.”

As supervisor, Camp & Youth Engagement at the YMCA, Ms. Dziedzic believes young people are among the most versatile and resourceful individuals in our society.

She says, “The biggest challenge is not getting them into the room, but in ensuring they feel confident that their voices will be heard and respected.” When youth are empowered to use their voices and become involved in decision-making, they bring passion and a dedication to creative innovation.

Creating opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills inspires meaningful action, suggests Ms. Dziedzic.

She believes this to be true from personal experience, as she has held roles of increasing responsibility at the YMCA since she started at 19 years old and now manages multiple programs throughout the year, positively impacting thousands of children, youth and families.

“My hope is that people understand the value of young people and the importance of offering support and opportunities for development, partnership, mentoring and engagement,” says Ms. Dziedzic.

Surely Mr. Coward would agree. An investment in the future – on bridging generations – is at the heart of Mr. Coward’s legacy gift, which will continue to create opportunities for future generations of community leaders across the country.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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