Every year, the Kitchener Youth Action Council (KYAC) celebrates the talents and contributions of young people in our community. We want to promote a positive image of young people and generate awareness of the valuable contributions youth make in our community.

On this page:

  1. Nominations
  2. Eligibility
  3. 2024 award winners


By taking a few minutes to nominate a young person for a KYAC Youth Award, your recognition of their contribution and commitments can change a young person's life. A nomination shows them that you care, that the work they do is valued and appreciated, and it just might be the motivation they need to take their community involvement to the next level.  

Nominations for the KYAC Youth Awards are closed. Subscribe to this page to get an email when they open in the future.


Nominees must be between the ages of 14 and 24 and must live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Nominees should have completed some of their volunteer work or community contributions within the Kitchener community. There is also an award category for adults over the age of 24.

The award categories are:

  • arts and culture: awarded to a young person who has built community through one or more of the following areas; vocal, visual arts, music, multimedia, dance and theatre/drama
  • entrepreneurship: awarded to a young person who has demonstrated initiative and creativity through designing and successfully initiating their own business and/or through developing an innovative product or service
  • environmental: awarded to a young person who has contributed to the community's environmental health and/or public environmental awareness
  • intergenerational: awarded to a young person who has demonstrated a commitment to the belief that the generations can and should be united
  • leadership: awarded to a young person who has shown significant and continuing leadership that improves the quality of life of others and encourages their peers
  • personal triumph: awarded to a young person who has surmounted obstacles with optimism and hope and has demonstrated perseverance, determination and a passion for life
  • service and caregiving: awarded to a young person who has volunteered meaningfully in local charities, organizations and community based groups and has demonstrated the meaning of building a caring community
  • social action and justice: awarded to a young person who has taken a stand to bring awareness to an issue or cause through a positive, proactive and solution-focused approach
  • sports and recreation: awarded to a young person who has promoted health and fitness or has excelled in athletics and/or recreational activities and has demonstrated quality teambuilding, cooperation and leadership skills
  • unity in diversity: awarded to a young person who has made a significant contribution to promoting unity and celebrating diversity within our community
  • group: awarded to a group of two or more young people who have made a positive contribution to their community through teamwork and collaboration
  • youth ally: awarded to an adult who is a role model to youth in their community and selflessly volunteers their time to help youth. Their work encourages young people to be confident in themselves and to strive for their fullest potential.

2024 award winners

In May 2024, KYAC recognized nominees for their contributions and commitment to their community. KYAC presented awards to winners in 12 categories.

Open the accordions to learn about each winner.

Arts and Culture Award - Twisha Patel

This young person is an outspoken and passionate student whose art takes root from their cultural background. They strive to create a better community by promoting and inspiring others to express their culture. In the past year, they have helped organize several events that promote culture such as Diya's for Diwali and Culture Day at Grand River Collegiate Institute. Their art reflects their ideals and explores concepts of queer identity, cultural expression, and connection through culture.

Winner: Twisha Patel

Entrepreneurship Award - Elaine Xiao

This driven, passionate, and inspiring young person has created their very own youth-founded nonprofit organization. This youth is known for inspiring future young entrepreneurs with their exceptional problem-solving skills and their initiative. They identified issues in their community and acted immediately by creating their non-profit organization known as Mism.

That’s not all for this entrepreneur! As stated by their nominator, “She has also attended the highly selective entrepreneurship program LaunchX, as observed through her Instagram platform and LinkedIn which diligently documented her bright ideas and critical thinking. Using those skills, she worked with her team to create an AI-scheduling platform, a highly practical and applicable idea for their target audience of high school students that expertly blended novel innovation and close-to-home problems to solve. Currently, they are also working on a startup with her international friends that provides free and personal health checkups on a Web app, with the aim of increasing accessibility to preventative healthcare.”

Winner: Elaine Xiao

Environment Award - Brooke McFee

This young person helps raise community awareness for the environment by being a leader for the Grand River Collegiate Institute Environmental Club. In this club, they’ve worked tirelessly with their peers to organize an incredibly successful school battery drive.  They are also working with this club to make their school an eco-certified school by completing a variety of different tasks and activities, meeting all requirements. In addition, they are also organizing a school book fair to raise money for the endangered species, the monarch butterflies. Their passion and drive for a sustainable future doesn’t stop with just events. This person organizes social media posts, posters, and school announcements to bring attention to the events with their peers. We wish this young person the best of luck as they attend the University of Guelph this September for the Wildlife Biology and Conversation program to further become a Wildlife Biologist.

Winner: Brooke McFee

Leadership Award - Anthony Nguyen

Leadership is a skill that this youth has dived into their entire life. In grade 6, they were awarded the school Leadership Award which furthered their passion to strive for leadership roles in their school and community alike. They are known for their friendly nature and willingness to help at the drop of a hat. Their peers agree that they can always rely on them and stay strong to their responsibilities which pushes him to become an individual he believes will have the most positive impact on others. This young person has a large extracurricular involvement and high academic achievement. Where do we begin?

  • Over 550 hours of their time spent as a swim instructor in helping kids and adults of all abilities on how to swim.
  • Reading Buddy for the KPL since 2022, help youth develop English reading and writing skills
  • St. Mary’s Hospital Emergency Department volunteer since April 2023 with over 100 volunteer hours
  • Directed and emceed the biggest musical event at Huron Heights Secondary School MYART with over 400 attendees
  • Lead representative of Indigenous Affairs of Nova Scotia at Fed-Prov 2023
  • Co-Prez candidate for Huron Heights Secondary School; the highest attainable leadership position at Huron Heights
  • Member of the school Husky Pack team
  • Volunteer at multiple community events such as Busker Carnival, Royal Medieval Faire, etc.

Winner: Anthony Nguyen

Personal Triumph Award - Spencer Jasmins

Giving back to the community has always been something embedded in this young person’s character and of course, in their amazing, big heart. "As a youth they were actively involved as a community builder– proving people are not limited by their [dis]abilities – he participated in the enrichment stream in grade school, volunteered to walk in many parades, volunteered for Strong Start over the summer building book packs, was a city of Kitchener BYLD summer camp volunteer, and was actively involved with Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV), a global youth organization that promotes global peace through friendship.”

This young person’s commitment to eliminating barriers and supporting the community are truly what is remarkable. Their courage, determination and resiliency are also demonstrated by their active community involvement in other organizations such as; helping out in the media department at Mission Thrift Store, and volunteering as a social media coordinator at a local non-profit Indigenous group. Participating as a Youth Navigator with Volunteer Waterloo Region helped them to learn more about local organizations as well as looking at things with a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. This led them to stepping up to lead one of VWR's programs, called Boardgames & Mingle, which is an intergenerational program that aims to reduce social isolation among older adults and youth.

This young person inspires all around him. "As his parents, we are so proud of the achievements they have made, both big and small. They continue to inspire us every day. They care deeply about their community and those around them. They have put in a lot of work through self-reflection, goal setting, and demonstrating courage in getting back out into the community to give back". Thank you for being an incredible role model.

Winner: Spencer Jasmins

Service and Caregiving Award - Marisa DeLuca

Volunteering in their community is incredibly important for this young person. With their experience as a coach with Kitchener Soccer Club supporting and motivating young athletes at a pivotal point in their lives to working with the Correctional Service of Canada to support and advocate for vulnerable individuals on parole.

According to the Rally Rapport by Canadian Women & Sport, “1 in 3 girls leave sport by late adolescence.” Through coaching girls soccer, this young person strives to create meaningful opportunities and impact for engagement and building a love for sports to encourage young girls to stay in sports.

With Correctional Service of Canada, they provide relevant supports to individuals experiencing vulnerability and marginalization as they transition into society aiming to create strong community bonds and positive opportunities to prevent recidivism and encourage belonging. This person is a strong advocate for the needs of these individuals ensuring they receive necessary medical and social supports while accompanying these parolees into the community. Believing everyone deserves another chance and opportunity to feel like they belong, this individual aims to support these individuals in overcoming social challenges they face re-entering society.

Winner: Marisa DeLuca

Social Justice and Action Award - Abdullah Rehman

As a former resident panel participant, this young person provided insight and perspective to better the community of Kitchener for the future. Through their proactive and solution-focused approach to addressing societal issues and their involvement in various projects which includes developing video games to educate children on political issues and advocate for policy changes for overall community wellbeing. This person has taken a stand to bring awareness to multiple important on-going causes. Their commitment to social justice, advocacy for marginalized communities, and dedication to activism for his community are all what make him deserving of recognition.

Winner: Abdullah Rehman

Unity in Diversity Award - Marmawit Getachew

This youth is very passionate about inclusion and diversity and is always looking for opportunities to support and empower newcomer and Black populations. As a youth leader in the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre's Let's Talk program, this individual has helped influence and edit the curriculum of the program to better suit the newcomer youth that they serve. They create a safe and inclusive environment while running activities in the program and providing important feedback by taking in the experiences of the youth they support. More recently, they’ve worked with SWRIL to develop and run an educational and empowering event that taught young Black girls in the region, how to take care of their hair. They are currently part of the Region of Waterloo's Youth Decision Making Team where she is helping the region distribute funds to further support BIPOC youth in the region. They are an active participant in various programs across the region that prioritize unity in diversity including the YMCA Moving Black Lives Forward and Newcomer Youth Program, the Region of Waterloo's Youth Advisory Council, as well as youth programs through Kind Minds Family Wellness. As a newcomer themselves, they are not only able to identify and empathetically relate to the experiences of other newcomers in the region, but actively work towards improving services and creating new opportunities to help others gain a sense of belonging with their community.

Winner: Marmawit Getachew

Sports and Recreation Award - Anthony Kostin

This award winner is a high-school graduate who takes their basketball talents to the University Level. They have played for the Grand River Collegiate senior team and Kitchener Vipers club for 3 years, one of which he has won the Mr. Viper Award (MVP). Not only is this young person a basketball superstar but they are also very active in the basketball community. They are the Head coach of the U-11 Impact Academy team and have done a lot of volunteering & training with the Waterloo Wolverines and Impact Academy teams. They have demonstrated great initiative and leadership by creating his own Non-profit organization called Renegades Finest. The goal of the organization is to provide youth with a free opportunity to play basketball and to pursue/discover their passion for the sport.

Winner: Anthony Kostin

Group Award - Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery Youth Council

This group is a youth led and youth driven art program for young people aged 14 to 21. The Council's goal is prioritizing opportunities for local youth to meet new people, work with professional artists, do community outreach, develop new skills in art making and leadership and discover their world through contemporary art. Youth Council 2024 developed their workplan with KWAG's staff guidance, focusing on critical thinking, leadership competencies, skill development and community engagement. Topics they discuss in art are aligned with the exhibitions that are on view. 2023/2024 exhibitions explored contemporary issues related to sustainability, climate crisis, Indigenous issues, racism and diversity. The program provides guidance and preparation for young people to participate in the field of arts or creative industries and helps them determine decision making about future career opportunities. KWAG's Youth Council organized a Cafe event that celebrated their creative talents in spoken word, music, and art and they raised funds towards a cause of their choice - Palestine. 

In this group, youth learn to set personal goals for skills development and are given the tools they need to reach these goals. Youth worked with their peers and other community members on workshops, tours, field trips and art projects throughout the year. They engaged with artists (such as a visit to Globe Studios in Kitchener); they developed strong communication skills through their conversations and brainstorming sessions. They developed and/or improved their ability to work with others and gain valuable knowledge and experience in a professional arts and culture institution, which gives them insight into the many options for future career choices in the arts.

Winner: Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery Youth Council

Youth Ally Award - Maria Akhtarr

This Youth Ally’s passion for education, and youth engagement is constantly demonstrated in the way they care for the youth they support through the KW Multicultural Centre, and their ongoing efforts for amplifying their voices and needs.

They are a kind, charismatic, and inclusive Youth Ally. They go out of her way to make sure the youth attending programs get only the best out of them. They empower the youth to get involved in the community through youth-led initiatives.

This youth ally deserves this award because they are a clear example of a Youth Ally. They inspire youth to use their voice, eliminates barriers to community engagement, and is ready to work with others to mobilize resources for the benefit of the youth in our community. Thank you for your continued support of young people in the community of Kitchener.

Winner: Maria Akhtarr

Community Contribution Award - Kaden Pitcher

As of November of 2022, this young person has been a part of the Youth Leadership team at OK2BME, which is an organization geared towards helping LGBTQ2S+ youth. Every year, they work with a team of other student leaders to plan and execute two wildly successful events annually that are made for youth that are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community; the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) conference as well as a pride prom for youth around the region.

This young person serves as a youth researcher helping with SHORE Centre’s sex education bootcamp. They’ve helped to promote and advertise the event and encouraged and facilitated conversations within groups about the provided material. On one of the projects, the Future of Sex Ed, they are lead recruitment, data collection, and analysis. In this role, they are a mentor to other young people who are passionate about social justice and health education, especially for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.

At school, they and their 4 friends noticed that their school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) wasn’t what they had hoped it would be. They took the GSA Club and made it to what it is today. This young person continues to lead this group to ensure their school has an inclusive and safe space to host events and lead educational and fun meetings!

To further their passion for social justice and health education, they have gotten the chance to speak about the reality of being a 2SLGBTQIA+ teen in Canada today in an article written by Dave McGinn for The Globe and Mail. In addition to this, Kaden was featured along with one other youth in an article written by James Chaarani along with a 10-minute radio interview hosted by Craig Norris on the negative impacts of “coming out in high school amid comments by [Ontario’s] education minister”.

Last year, they were awarded the France-Anne Sweeny Award at their school. To win this award, students must show a strong commitment to their community through service, empathy, and learning.

And this year, this young person wins the KYAC Community Contribution Award. Kaden, on behalf of the Kitchener Youth Action Council, we thank you for your endless community contributions to create a safe and belonging space for all.

Winner: Kaden Pitcher