As a young girl, Joanna El-Mikati remembers driving around the University of British Columbia campus with her father.
Recent immigrants to Canada from Lebanon, the two would discuss politics and the merits of education and marvel at the beautiful natural setting.
Last month the Frank Hurt Secondary Grade 12 student was one of 20 students from across Canada to be awarded a $70,000 TD Scholarship for Community Leadership for her outstanding achievements. The money will go towards her tuition at UBC.
At first she wondered why she had been selected for the prestigious award, but El-Mikati said it was Dr. Jane Thompson, Executive Director, TD Scholarships for Community Leadership, who explained it well.
“We are all here for a reason, for our character and the potential we have to drive Canada forward no matter how big or small our initiatives are,” said El-Mikati. “We are all inspiring other people and that’s all that matters.”
Since Grade 8, El-Mikati has been the driving force behind numerous clubs and initiatives at her school, along with organizing a community clean-up and community garden.
“Frank Hurt has a lot of teachers who mentor kids to take on leadership roles,” said Principal Gloria Sarmento. “In her time here, Joanna has been able to find her passion and her own leadership style. People gravitate to her.”
El-Mikati started a community connections club to bring elementary students together with high school students and other community groups to help foster relationships between like-minded students and mentors.
She is also the wardrobe manager for the school theatre group, a member of the yearbook club and volunteers at a local retirement home.
“When I saw the time and commitment the teachers at my school were putting in, I didn’t want to just do my 30 hours of volunteer work to graduate,” she said. “Once I got a taste of the work, I wanted to do more. It really meant something to me.”
The straight-A pupil and top law student initially wanted to be a doctor, however law, politics and helping others are now her focus.
“It means a lot that people are willing to invest in me and see the potential that I have,” she said.
To learn more about this year’s TD Scholarship for Community Leadership recipients or view details about the program, including eligibility requirements and the selection process, visit www.td.com/scholarship
Applications for 2017 scholarships will be available online starting in September.