A youth creates impact in New Denver

Cassandra Qiu was awarded a 2023 Youth Community Service Award from Columbia Basin Trust for her outstanding volunteerism.

2 minute read

Award celebrates high school graduates who enhance community well-being—like Cassandra Qiu

From a young age, Cassandra Qiu felt a connection with her close-knit community of New Denver and was inspired to help others and create positive change.

Qiu, 19, was awarded a 2023 Youth Community Service Award from the Trust for her outstanding volunteerism. The Lucerne Elementary Secondary School graduate, now pursuing a Bachelor of Design at the University of British Columbia, is humbled by the recognition.

“I’ve always struggled with anxiety and imposter syndrome,” she says. “I was always a go-getter, but I never imagined I could win something so big. Being a recipient is definitely validating.”

Each year, the award supports students at secondary schools around the Basin with $2,000. Rather than recognizing academic achievement, it celebrates young people who have made significant volunteer contributions that foster community well-being.

Qiu is one of those people. In 2016, at just 11 years old, Qiu felt compelled to help those impacted by the wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

“These people had nothing to do with me, but I wanted to raise money to help with relief,” she says. “I was a very empathetic kid and that’s always stayed with me; that wildfire event made me realize I can make an impact.”

In 2017, she began supporting her local nursing home in various ways, including visiting with her cat to offer pet therapy. Her emotional maturity and can-do attitude led to coordinating initiatives that engaged her peers, such as spearheading a fundraising initiative in 2019 to secure a memorial picnic table in honour of her friend Gretchen Perks.

Facilitating a greeting card program involving schoolchildren and elderly residents during the pandemic in 2020 deepened her connection to her community, as did supporting the annual Hike for Hospice fundraiser in 2021, for which she coordinated youth musical performances along the route.

While her studies dominate her schedule today, she hopes that other youth will follow her lead and volunteer their time. “We are so capable as young people and we should use our big voices,” she says. “Growing up, we are dependent on our schools, our teachers and community members, and there comes a time when we need to give back.”

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