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‘Top 20 Under 20’ recognizes young Canadians making a difference

Josh Tiessen , 17, Ontario


Twenty Canadians are being recognized for initiatives that range from curbing environmental damage in the oil sands to tackling job discrimination to conducting original microbiology studies – and they are all under 20 years of age.

The Top 20 Under 20 Awards, an RBC-sponsored program run by the charitable organization Youth in Motion, is a national awards endeavor that reaches out to thousands of youth across the country before finalizing a list of 20 up-and-comers who embody leadership, innovation and achievement.

Whether it's a creative mind who started an online space for high school kids to express themselves artistically, a student who started training youth on bullying prevention when she felt teachers weren't properly trained, or a 13-year-old girl who built her own microbiology lab after being denied access to university resources for being too young – each recipient has worked to improve their community.

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Although students are often recommended by teachers and councillors to apply for the award, the program is not exclusive to schools, said Larry Mah, Youth in Motion programs director.

"We don't ask for transcripts," he said. "We don't associate success with grades."

The final group is vetted and judged by a panel of Order of Canada recipients.

"We thought it was important for these individuals who have been recognized with the highest civil award to select the up-and-coming," said Mr. Mah.

Past recipients have gone on to invent solar paint, develop kinetic-energy-generating shoes and receive funding from the Canadian reality TV show Dragon's Den.

Top 20 Under 20 alumni winners have together reached out to 3 million youth through their initiatives, raised more than $10-million for various charity organizations and earned more than $50-million for entrepreneurial business ventures, according to statistics provided by Youth in Motion.

The full list of 2013 recipients includes: Amanda Belzowski, 15 (Ont.); Armin Rezaiean-Asel, 19 (BC); Cameron Krisko, 19 (Man.); Ceilidh Millar, 19 (B.C.); Ellen Song, 18 (NS); Fahd Alhattab, 19 (Ont.); Habiba Cooper Diallo, 16 (NS); Howard Feng, 17 (Ont.); Jared Valdron, 19 (NB); Josh Tiessen, 17 (Ont.); Joshua Miller, 18 (Ont.); Kelcie Miller-Anderson, 18 (Alta.); Maya Burhanpurkar, 13 (Ont.); Michael Smith, 19 (Alta.); Preston Lim, 17 (BC); Sarthak Sinha, 16 (Alta.); Scott Adams, 19 (Sask.); Shane Feldman, 18 (Ont.); Simone Cavanaugh, 19 (Que.); and Victoria Chok, 18 (Ont.).

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Click here to meet all 20.

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