“We” generation honoured with Governor-General’s Caring Canadian Awards

Laurier-MacDonald students (L to R): Alessia Collaci, Francesca Varrone, animator Vince Lacroce, Kayla Panacui.

We’ve all heard about the Me Generation – that’s the Boomers, and in the 1970s, Tom Wolfe coined the phrase to describe the attitude among many that what counts in life is self-realization, not social responsibility.

Fast-forward to today, and the image we have is of adolescents absorbed in the virtual world of the iPhone and XBOX, seemingly oblivious to what’s going on around them.

Both are clichés, and last month we caught up with more than a dozen local students, who, through personal initiative and hard work, strive to make the world a better place as part of the We Generation.

In recognition of the burgeoning volunteer sector among youth, 12 young Quebecers, 8 to 17, received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award March 23, given since 1985 to exceptional effort in volunteering to help others and building “a smarter and more caring nation.”

Among them was Kayla Panacui, 16, a grade 10 student in the International Baccalaureate program at Laurier-Macdonald High of the English Montreal School Board in St. Léonard.

Kayla sparked a campaign at her school to raise $10,000 to help build a school in rural India, and fellow students Alessia Collacci, 16, and Francesca Varrone, 16, joined her as assistant captains. A total of $5,000 was raised at a spaghetti dinner, and another $5,000 is expected at a second event May 8, with the support of teachers and spiritual and community animator Vince Lacroce. The proceeds of the event, called Building a Cure, are to be given to fight cancer and build the school in India. Students at John Paul I High School in St. Léonard are involved and expect to raise $50,000!

The school-in-India campaign is coordinated with Free the Children, the organization co-founded by Craig Kielburger and his brother Marc who also promote WE Day to encourage similar philanthropic efforts. Craig Kielburger was there as some 2,000 students gathered at Théâtre St. Denis to cheer such initiatives and enjoy entertainment in their honour.

Kayla, who received her Caring Canadian Awards at an Evening of Champions, says she’s looking forward to travelling to India next year with other students and being involved hands-on in building the school, part of her Grade 11 personal project.

Everyone should have the right to education, and a lot of kids around the world don’t. Raising the money to build this school really touched me,” she said.

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