Stampede, Hansen give great students their due
Like the rest of us, Jeffrey Davies is familiar with the story of Nathan Kotylak, the 17-year-old whose foolish and destructive behaviour during last week’s Vancouver post-Stanley Cup riots has brought him international infamy that will surely take years to overcome.
“You know, people make mistakes,” says Jeffrey, also 17, “but there are no excuses for some of those actions. We have a proper and just legal system here in Canada, and we should now rely on it to do the judging.”
Before you go jumping on a social networking site to decry, defame and demonize Jeffrey for showing a modicum of compassion for his foolish peer, consider the fact that the Grade 10 student at William Aberhart High School wouldn’t be caught dead participating in, let alone standing around watching, anything resembling a riot.
“I don’t think I could get swept up in it, no matter what,” he says, and I’m willing to bet the farm he’s as good as his word.
Chatting with him on Monday, I learn a lot about Jeffrey, one of those kids who doesn’t make news headlines because, well, good news is no news.
Over the past several years, Jeffrey has been involved in a wide number of school group and volunteer activities: he’s been involved in local youth leadership organizations and has raised funds for the Terry Fox Run.
He’s not just a good kid, he’s a great one — and at least on this day he’s getting his moment in the spotlight as one of seven Calgarians who will join 10 other teens from across the country at the 2011 Calgary Stampede Parade.
The youths will be the special guests of wheelchair athlete and parade marshal Rick Hansen, chosen from his “Difference Makers” program that celebrates exceptional young people.
Jeffrey and his peers were selected by a joint committee of the Stampede and the Rick Hansen Foundation, singled out for their overcoming of obstacles and community contribution.
Looking over the biographies of those selected, I’m immediately impressed: most are not only achievers in academia, sport and the arts, they’ve also accumulated veritable CVs of volunteer work, everything from running suicide prevention workshops in their communities to doing volunteer work in places like Haiti and raising thousands of dollars for a variety of charities.
Even more inspiring is the first impression they leave in person.
“They call me ‘The Nerd’ at school,” says Kirsten Roggeveen, a Grade 9 student at A.E. Cross School. “I like it. I like being smart, it’s part of who I am. . . . I want to best the best I can be, in everything I do.”
The tiny girl barely comes up to my chest, but it’s clear that Kirsten — selected along with her friends Sarah Vestrum and Annika and Michaela Vacey — is already a force to be reckoned with.
In addition to being a star soccer player and a straight-A student, she’s been involved in a number of charitable endeavours since she was barely into her teens.
“Kirsten’s been her own person from a very young age. She doesn’t succumb to peer pressure,” says her mom, Nicole Taylor, beaming as her daughter poses for photographers. “She won’t waver in her moral choices.”
Like the other kids, Kirsten Roggeveen has an opinion on the continuous worldwide coverage over the past week of teens and other young people wreaking destruction in downtown Vancouver.
“Yes, you can have fun and get ‘caught up in the moment,’ ” says the articulate 14-year-old, “but I’d always know not to cross the line.”
Jeffrey Davies says that he finds it “disheartening” that the attention to the actions of the Vancouver teens can cast a pall on the generation of young Canadians coming into adulthood.
“There are a lot of young people like me who see we can make a difference in the world through our day-to-day actions,” he says. “There are so many ways each one of us can offer something special to the community we live in.”
No, these aren’t the kind of kids who grab newspaper headlines and spark Internet sensations around the globe, but they deserve our attention and appreciation — kudos to the Calgary Stampede and the Rick Hansen Foundation for giving them their due.