Recent Western alumni Melissa Kargiannakis and Aaron Joshua Pinto have been named among the recipients of the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, announced by the organization today.
Of 2,000 applicants, 60 award recipients across Commonwealth countries were selected. Only three, including Kargiannakis and Pinto, were from Canada.
The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises exceptional young individuals, aged 18-29, who demonstrate leadership in their communities. Its aim is to enable recipients to continue their exemplary work in support others, inspiring change on a variety of different issues including education, climate change, gender equality, mental health and disability equality.
Kargiannakis, 24, originally from Sault Ste. Marie, grew up in a household where she experienced domestic violence. She spent her childhood supporting her mother and siblings. This equipped her with leadership skills which she used to become president of her faculty at university. Kargiannakis now works on a project mentoring schoolchildren and wants to use the Internet to make education more accessible.
She graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Health Information Science at Western
Pinto, from Mississauga, and his family moved to Canada from Bahrain after the 1991 Gulf War. Since then, he has travelled the world working on projects supporting disadvantaged communities. He has also co-founded a scheme to help people in Canada who are living below the breadline. The project delivers food hampers to migrants, the elderly and survivors of abuse.
He graduated last year with an honours specialization in International Relations and a minor in French Language and Translation.
The Queen’s Young Leader Award delivers a package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the United Kingdom in June, during which recipients will receive the award from Queen Elizabeth II.
Winners are part of the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, a new initiative established by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society in recognition of the queen’s lifetime of service to the Commonwealth. Over the next four years, the programme aims to support thousands of young people. In addition to the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, the programme will provide grants to support organisations in selected countries across the Commonwealth that work with young people to transform their lives.