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top 20 under 20

Top 20 under 20 Community and Volunteerism winners. Top row L-R: Jacinthe Veillette, Caitlin Stockwell, Corey Cook, Mohsin Khan. Bottom row L-R: Ben Kim, Anoop Virk, Darren Cole, Tiffany Harrington, Sameer Dhar, and Megan Fulz.

From eating disorders to homelessness, these Top 20 Under 20 award recipients are working tirelessly on big problems. Follow the links below to read profiles about more winners.

Youth in Motion ( is the non-profit organization that runs the Top 20 Under 20 awards program. A national panel selects the winners. Their ages are listed as what they were on Dec. 31, 2010.

Full list of winners:

  • Ivneet Bains, 19, Surrey, B.C.
  • Jennifer Cloutier, 19, Ottawa
  • Darren Cole, 16, Toronto
  • Corey Cook, 17, Winnipeg
  • Sameer Dhar, 17, Edmonton
  • Megan Fultz, 19, Winnipeg
  • Tiffany Harrington, 17, Oshawa
  • Mohsin Khan, 19, Toronto
  • Ben Kim, 18, Mississauga, Ont.
  • Rita-Clare Leblanc, 16, Halifax
  • Michael Lim, 19, West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Yale Michaels, 19, Winnipeg
  • Adam Moscoe, 19, Ottawa
  • Madison Schill, 17, Oshawa, Ont.
  • Corey Sherwood, 19, Brampton, Ont.
  • Rui Song, 15, Saskatoon
  • Grant Sparling, 18, Blyth, Ontario
  • Caitlin Stockwell, 17, Victoria, B.C.
  • Jacinthe Veillette, 19, Saint-Tite, Que.
  • Anoop Virk, 17, Coquitlam, B.C.

Darren Cole, 16, Toronto

Darren Cole was shocked into action to eradicate hunger in Canada when he learned in 2007 that nearly a million people, about one-third of them children, were relying on food banks.

The next year, the Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute student founded Kids Against Canadian Hunger (KACH). The 16-year-old's organization has not only raised about $12,000 for Food Banks Canada since 2008, but has educated thousands of young people about how to help combat hunger.

"It is my vision to eventually expand KACH nationally, because it was established to address the national problem of hunger," he says. "I see KACH growing steadily, one student at a time."

Despite challenges in his own life, including being one of three boys raised by a single mother, as well as combatting a health issue, Mr. Cole has helped get thousands of students involved in raising funds for Food Banks Canada. He cites as one of his biggest accomplishments organizing a special Hunger Conference in Toronto last fall that attracted 100 students and raised $2,000.

With marks in the 90s in business courses in high school, one would think Mr. Cole was destined for a corporate career. But he was in the expedited math and science program at Marc Garneau and contemplated medicine, assisting in a genetics lab at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto last summer.

Still, business won out, and Mr. Cole plans to hold another Hunger Conference this year and continue to run KACH when he starts university in September, likely taking the commerce program at Queen's in Kingston, Ont. "I learned business gives you a strong grounding in philanthropy - you can work for the non-profit arms of corporations, for instance."

Corey Cook, 17, Winnipeg

It was a big deal for Corey Cook when, at the age of 15, he received an eagle feather during the opening ceremony for the University of Manitoba's Aboriginal House, the centre built in 2008 for the school's native students.

"It's the highest honour in aboriginal culture, since the eagle represents love in our traditional teachings," says Mr. Cook, an Ojibwa who grew up in a First Nations community near Winnipeg.

Mr. Cook earned the feather by agreeing to speak at the opening ceremony about his difficult childhood - when he experienced physical, mental and sexual abuse - but most importantly, about how living "the good life" without drugs or alcohol is helping him build a better future and can do the same for others.

Mr. Cook says his life changed four years ago when he joined Mimo Bimaadiziwin - Ojibway for "the good life" - a program introduced in 2007 at Southeast Collegiate, a Winnipeg high school for native students. The program started out as a challenge for students to abstain from drugs and alcohol but quickly evolved into a support group for students in crisis.

After his University of Manitoba speaking engagement - the first time he had ever given a public speech - Mr. Cook began getting requests to deliver his message to other audiences. Last year, as a spokesperson for the Mimo Bimaadiziwin program, he went on a speaking tour across the province as part of the National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week.

He continues to spread his message of hope by visiting schools in various native communities in the province.

Sameer Dhar, 17, Edmonton

In 2009, Sameer Dhar co-founded GEOMEER, an organization that helps families in need, with his high-school student council adviser.

Mr. Dhar doesn't expect to know the names of the people his Edmonton-based organization helps through its Helping Hampers project, which delivers thousands of dollars' worth of household goods and grocery gift cards.

"We work with a network of elementary and junior high schools in the Edmonton area and they select the families who will be receive our Helping Hampers," explains Mr. Dhar, a first-year science student at the University of Alberta. "We deliver the hampers to the school and they deliver it to the families."

But shortly after Helping Hampers distributed its first round of donations to eight families - with each family receiving about $2,000 worth of goods and gift cards - Mr. Dhar was approached by one of the families.

"It was a pretty emotional meeting - I was close to tears," recalls Mr. Dhar, who juggles his studies with his work on GEOMEER, which takes up about 8 hours a week, and dozens of hours more during campaign weeks for Helping Hampers.

GEOMEER has, so far, raised about $100,000 worth of goods and financial donations for its Helping Hampers project. Its network of schools has expanded from the initial six to 41 elementary and junior high schools. GEOMEER is now getting ready to launch its Suit Up project, which will give families in need gift cards to buy new clothes.

Megan Fultz, 19, Winnipeg

When Megan Fultz received a $70,000 scholarship cheque three years ago from TD Canada Trust, she figured she had more then enough to finance her university education. So she donated a generous portion of her scholarship money to the University of Winnipeg's bursary fund for refugees and native students.

"I needed to provide opportunities for other people who didn't have the same chance to go university," says Ms. Fultz, who just finished her second year of studies at the University of Winnipeg, where she is pursuing a double major in human rights and global studies, and international development.

Those who know Ms. Fultz wouldn't be surprised by her act of generosity. While still in high school, she co-founded the Winnipeg chapter of Oxfam Canada, which works to secure basic human rights in impoverished communities around the world. Shortly after, she helped set up two Oxfam student groups - one at the University of Winnipeg and the other at University of Manitoba. The groups have partnered with other organizations to put on fundraising events, including Run 4 Darfur, which raised $15,000.

Ms. Fultz, who is now Oxfam Canada's regional chair for the Prairies, visited India last year as part of an Oxfam International trip. Although she has brittle bone disease and often uses a wheelchair, she bravely navigated the slums of New Delhi on crutches.

"It was a challenging experience but also wonderful," she recalls. "It was hard to see people living in such difficult conditions, but at the same time the people were some of the nicest and most special people I have ever met."

Tiffany Harrington, 17, Oshawa

Age is just a number. At least that's how Tiffany Harrington, a Monsignor Paul Dwyer high school student sees it.

The 17-year-old from Oshawa, Ont. is the founder of the Cross Generational Exchange, which inspires youth and seniors to get together - and hang out. The idea for the project for the Seize your Future leadership program formed the day she realized the respect for elders in her aboriginal community was lacking elsewhere.

The program is run through her local public and Catholic school boards, and a senior's centre, and the elders and teens are paired up by common interests. In one case, an avid gardener and a student interested in ecology became partners. In another, a former model paired up with a girl interested in fashion.

"Once you have a common ground, you're able to build upon that relationship and see it flourish," she says.

In one event, seniors hit the books at the local high school with their teen partners before heading back to the senior's centre together to play shuffleboard, eat lunch and discuss the day.

"People just need to be given the opportunity to learn from one another," says Ms. Harrington. "Once you get to know another person, it's hard to uphold stereotypes because there's so much more to who they are."

She is currently training other high school students to run the program and will be attending McGill University on a scholarship this fall to study economics and Canadian studies.

Mohsin Khan, 19, Toronto

Lead2peace, an organization Mohsin Khan started with five friends in order to inspire young people to get involved in their community, actually began with an interest in martial arts.

"A group of friends wanted to teach martial arts in the community," Mr. Khan recalls.

"We were sitting around the table talking and we came up with the idea to try and impact the community our own way," he says.

They started the group because they felt that none of the community service groups they knew about were open format enough to let young people pursue their own ideas or passions, such as martial arts.

So, they pursued funding and mentors, who helped them create programming for classrooms.

"We would teach kids about poverty, the environment, and so on," he explains.

"Then we would ask them to do something about it."

And, of course, Mr. Khan, a blackbelt in Taekwondo, taught martial arts to students who wouldn't have been able to afford classes otherwise.

Projects students have taken on include organizing a talent show to raise money for homeless youth shelter Covenant House, and creating a community garden to help with a lunch program that lost funding.

"The whole concept was teaching kids to be more disciplined and focused and less stressed," he says of the young people in his less privileged neighbourhood, that includes Regent Park and Moss Park.

"We're having kids come back to us and say, because of the skills we taught them, they're taking on harder projects and tasks."

As Mr. Khan pursues his engineering degree at Ryerson University and hopes to make the Olympics in martial arts, he is working toward more funding and making sure young people are ready to take over Lead2Peace in a couple of years, so the organization continues to survive and thrive.

Ben Kim, 18, Mississauga, Ont.

For most teens, when summer camp season winds down, it's back to the books. But for Ben Kim, now a life sciences student at the University of Toronto, the end of camp turned into the beginning of a new non-profit organization.

Mr. Kim is the founder and president of Musicians without Borders Canada, empowering young people to make the world a better place through music. The idea came to Mr. Kim as he was saying goodbye to his new friends at the Shad Valley science, technology and entrepreneurship summer program. Wanting to stay in touch, he and 50 others merged their passion for music and humanitarian work during the school year. Today, the organization boasts more than 400 youth volunteers across Canada.

"I've realized that anybody who has an idea and is willing to fulfill the vision can achieve great things. It doesn't matter how old you are," he says.

By hosting festivals and concerts across the country, the registered non-profit puts 100 per cent of the money raised toward its causes. It recently raised $10,000 to buy a truck for Tekera, a rural village in Uganda. The truck can be used to transport the sick to city hospitals and deliver fresh produce.

Mr. Kim, who plans to go into medicine, is now temporarily in Peru volunteering at a low-income family medical clinic as he researches new projects there for Musicians Without Borders Canada.

He is also a cellist for the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra and hopes to go into dermatology.

Caitlin Stockwell, 17, Victoria, B.C.

When Caitlin Stockwell noticed that most of her fellow students drove to school every day - including those who lived within walking distance of Victoria, B.C.'s Claremont Secondary - the environmentally-conscious 17-year-old began thinking of ways to encourage them to bike or walk to class.

After much deliberation, Ms. Stockwell organized an event last year called cc (Climate Change) 350. The bike relay to promote sustainable living saw 11 teams of five cyclists from the school and community ride 350 laps around Claremont's running track.

The event raised $2,700 for bike racks and compost bins, and inspired Ms. Stockwell to take the event to the next level this year.

"I learned that a lot of people in the community are really willing to help when they know what you're doing is for a good cause," the Grade 12 student says. "Because it's a biking relay, you also get people involved who wouldn't necessarily come out to a sustainability event, who are just interested in the competitive aspect."

This year's cc350 doubled in size to 20 teams and was sponsored by the likes of B.C. Hydro and outdoor sporting goods retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op, raising an impressive $8,000. That amount - coupled with a $20,000 grant which Ms. Stockwell had applied for and won from SolarBC's Solar Schools program - will be enough to install a solar panel system on Claremont's roof, providing power for several classrooms.

Ms. Stockwell, whose family moved to Victoria from Perth, Australia, in 2004, is quick to point out that for her, helping to raise awareness about sustainability and deliver a lasting contribution for her school has proven a time-honoured cliché: Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

"When I first thought of the idea of having a biking event, I didn't think it would succeed in getting solar panels on our school's roof," she says. "You need to realize you can accomplish things no matter how big they are."

She plans to study international development and political science at McGill University next year, and hopes to eventually earn a law degree in human rights and environmental law.

Jacinthe Veillette, 19, Saint-Tite, Que.

Jacinthe Veillette didn't simply struggle with her anorexia ... She made body image her political battle.

The Saint-Tite, Que., resident began by giving talks in schools about her personal experiences with an eating disorder, then went a step further: She created a petition denouncing homogeneous standards of beauty in fashion and the media.

"The majority of women don't recognize themselves in these images," she said in an interview given in French.

She collected more than 2,000 signatures and submitted the petition to the provincial minister responsible for the status of women. This resulted in the ministry creating a charter in 2009 encouraging healthy and diverse body images, and Ms. Veillette was asked to help create a website and to be the spokesperson for the charter.

Today, she feels there is more discussion about body image issues and eating disorders, at least in Quebec.

She has also participated in several volunteer efforts, from Marche Mondiale des Femmes, an international movement to improve the condition of women, to fundraising to help children with cancer, as well as international humanitarian efforts.

She continues to speak about the issue of beauty standards and eating disorders, especially in schools, colleges and universities. She will be travelling to Africa on a humanitarian mission and hopes to work and volunteer abroad and enter the field of social work.

Anoop Virk, 17, Coquitlam, B.C.

Growing up in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, Anoop Virk wanted to help homeless people in the troubled downtown east-side of the city. But unlike the many organizations that provide food, clothing and shelter, Ms. Virk and her classmates at Dr. Charles Best Secondary School were determined to take a different approach.

Their idea: create home-made Christmas cards and encourage homeless people to send them to family they may have lost touch with. "No one had ever done this before," says Ms. Virk, who co-founded Project HELLO (Helping Everyone Locate Loved Ones) with a school counsellor.

Her initial contact in late 2010 proved very successful. A woman who had not seen her daughter for more than 10 years agreed to write the card. After Ms. Virk did extensive sleuthing on the Internet, she tracked her daughter down in Alberta. Thanks to some fund-raising, Ms. Virk and her small group of students flew the daughter to Vancouver and brought the two women together for a three-day reunion.

"There have been lots of stories like this one," says Ms. Virk, adding that not all cases involved elaborate reunions such as the first one. "We've brought together 170 families. And it's impacted so many people: brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers."

Last Mother's Day, Project HELLO helped to re-connect another 30 homeless people with their families.

"We've passed on the torch to the younger students at school," says Ms. Virk. "The life lessons we learned on some of the harshest streets in Canada really opened our eyes. The eastside is only 20 minutes away and people are suffering. But we're instilling hope."

Ms. Virk, who has not decided which university to attend in the fall, plans to become a pediatrician. "My passion is helping people."

Profile writers: Chris Atchison, Marlene Habib, Marjo Johne, Michael Ryval, Christina Varga, Kira Vermond.

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