Today's date: Friday November 24, 2017 Vol 50 Issue 47
   
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Sarah Hennekens selected as youth citizen for Centre Wellington

by Mike Robinson

FERGUS

Sarah Hennekens wants to take a walk on the spiritual side.

After nearly a decade of working to improve the environment, Hennekens wants to explore her personal life.

She was named this year’s youth citizen of the year in Centre Wellington last week.

The Centre Wellington’s parks and recreation department sponsors the Alvin Shortt award, recognizing outstanding youth (20 and under) in Centre Wellington.

It recognizes those who maintain a high academic standing while volunteering and giving back to the community. It recognizes excellence in youth, with leadership, sportsmanship, education, and work ethic all factors.

From Hennekens’ reaction at the Chamber of Commerce office in Fergus last week, the news of her win came  a surprise. She said she had received a letter about the nomination and thought, “Well then, I don’t have it.”

She was nominated by Paul Dekking, head of the guidance department at Centre Wellington District High School.

“I have been her guidance councillor for four years and have been affiliated with a number of the clubs and activities that she has participated in. While her academics are near the top, she is heavily involved in all other aspects of student life. This would include: Student council prime minister.

He added, “Sarah is a born leader. She has a passion for the environment and truly wants to help this world be a better place. She is a person most deserving of this award and I highly recommend her.”

In addition, Hennekens received recognition by the Centre Wellington Community Foundation.

That letter stated “Congratulations on being selected as the 2011 Centre Wellington Youth Citizen of the year. You are a dedicated leader in our community, we know you already share a passion for the charitable sector that provides much of our community greatness.

“This year, the Centre Wellington Foundation is honouring your award with a ‘social gift.’ On behalf of the board of directors, I am pleased to inform you that we have set aside $500 for you to make a grant to one of the many charities serving Centre Wellington.

The foundation is a public charitable foundation that helps donors achieve giving goals, and aids local non-profits to find resources to support their work.

Hennekens said, “The environment has always been my passion.”

As she grew up, the issue of climate change was becoming more mainstream.

“Being an advocate was now not enough. At some point during high school, I found a voice; a voice through which I could tell a story, through which I could be heard, through which I could make a difference.”

In grade 8, she attended the first Greenlands Centre Wellington community workshop, participating in the planning of the community’s future development. She was still in public school when she wrote an article in the newspaper about her memorable experiences on the Elora-Cataract trailway.

But it was in grade 10, that her action truly started. She joined an environmental group  and initiated action by circulation two petitions - one on the banning of plastic bags, the other urging Centre Wellington to be included in the Ontario Greenbelt.

Hennekens had seen the process involved with the previous two youth citizens of the year. She later explained that was because in previous years, those not chosen had received letters, while those selected “received the surprise. I was looking in the newspaper for whoever did win. I told my parents, and they obviously knew how to trick me.”

The award means a lot to her.

She described it “as a reminder of my ties to the community and the roots that I have here.”

Hennekens described growing up in, and being supported by the community in everything that she has done.

“It’s kind of grounds me a bit, and reminds me that whatever I do, I always have this here.”

Much of her award was based on activism in the community, and Hennekens sees herself continuing that kind of thing, “but in a different way than this community has seen so far.”

She’s working on herself first to reflect the potential she sees in everyone.

“I see that working through my art and speaking, but more on the spiritual side of change than anything else. I guess where I’m at now is very different than the activism which led up to this.”

She said, “My activism before, probably back to grade 9 was really based on environmental and human rights - like trying to ban plastic bags in the community, organizing human rights and environmental co-events which combined the interconnectedness, such as drum circles, different showcases really trying to connect people with that essence we have with the environment.”

Having completed high school, Hennekens plans to move into different areas.

“I’m exploring a lot, in my personal life. Right now, I’m really working to find that change from within and seeing how that works - and the spiritual side of change.

“It’s been an incredible journey for me personally, and I know it will unfold as it does.”

Her award, along with others, will be officially presented at the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce awards night on April 28 at the Fergus sportsplex.

 

Vol 44 Issue 16

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