Two GNS Students Nominated for Philanthropy Award

Two GNS Students Nominated for Philanthropy Award

Two GNS students are being recognized for their dedication to philanthropy at the 2019 National Philanthropy Day.

Jessica Soule, Grade 12, and Owen Krigolson, Grade 7, have both been named finalists for the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award (11 to 18 years). Both focus students on different areas of philanthropy, but the one thing they have in common is their desire to help others.

Soule's passion has been to raise awareness about mental health and addictions. She has done this not only in the GNS community but has also been active in the Victoria area.

"It shows having those tough conversations are worth it," she says about being nominated. "Working with topics that are traditionally stigmatized is important work, and it's not something that goes unnoticed. It's been amazing to see the conversations around this community and the Victoria community."

Just over two-and-a-half years ago, Soule was working with mental health for her personal project at GNS, where she spent nearly a year raising awareness for mental health resources by creating a short documentary and a toolkit, which ultimately lead her to Foundry BC.

"Through that organization, when I was representing them at Overdose Awareness Day in 2018, I met a woman who shared her story with me—she's in recovery and she works at an overdose prevention site. I realized even though we are in the midst of an opioid crisis we don't hear stories like that, and so that inspired me to create space for stories, education, conversation and learning about naloxone training and the importance of harm reduction. From there my project 'This is Harm Reduction' was born," explains Soule.

Her project "This is Harm Reduction" is a series of workshops where frontline workers, mental health and harm reduction professionals and people with life experience, come together with about 30 youth to start with an honest conversation about what harm reduction means to them.

"Also, getting naloxone training (the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose). That has and will save lives and is slowly making a dent in the opioid crisis. As a lot of people are now aware, four people every day in British Columbia die from an opioid overdose, and yet we don't have conversations about it as often as we should," says Soule.

Last year, Soule held an assembly at GNS where a frontline worker and a woman with lived experience came in to speak. She also gave 50 students naloxone training. This year, Soule is the Senior School Service Prefect and her current initiative is starting a service mentorship program.

"The work I have done has been so impactful on me, and has brought me this amazing community, skills and passion, so I wanted to create a space where younger students could have the same experience as me. So, they can harness whether it be a passion of a personal tragedy or personal experience and put it into meaningful on-going service," she says, adding there are 12 service mentors in different fields that are working with the younger students this year.

Not only has she been an avid ally for mental health and addiction resources, but she has also put in more than 300 hours during her Grade 11 year to support mental health and harm reduction-related initiatives.

"My community inspires me," says Soule. "The way I see folks respond to conversations that are non-judgemental and open, and having that opportunity for education and conversation, it' so inspiring and it drives me to keep going."

As for the future, Soule says she will use her passion to drive her focus and what's next for her.

For 11-year-old Krigolson, his philanthropic passion lies with raising money and awareness for the Island Prostate Centre.

"I'm excited, it means a lot to me," says Krigolson about being nominated. "I'm just really glad to be nominated again, it's a lot for my family and anybody else out there. It's amazing."

When he was six years old Krigolson, started his mission fundraising for the Island Prostate Centre after he found out his grandfather was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer.

"I just made it my goal to fundraise for him and do whatever I could to support him and anybody else out there that has prostate cancer," he says.

Krigolson is no stranger when it comes to the National Philanthropy Day Vancouver Island Awards, as he won the Youth in Philanthropy (5 to 10 years) award back in 2014.

"It was quite the privilege to win it before, and now I'm coming back in a different category, with a little more knowledge and hoping to keep spreading awareness and to make everybody realize people out there are suffering and need your support," he says.

Since he first started, Krigolson has managed to fundraise around $23,000 to go towards prostate cancer. Fundraisers he has been part of include multiple bottle drives, participating in the Father's Day Walk/Run, garage sales and more.

"A lot of people have donated after they realize somebody is [raising funds]. They want to support the cause, so I've had a lot of donations from friends, family and people I don't even know," says Krigolson.

This year along with raising money through various activities, Krigolson has been focused on spreading awareness of prostate cancer.

During Men's Health Day, Krigolson went to Thrifty Foods to hand out flyers and has been actively participating in spreading knowledge of prostate cancer. He plans to continue to work on raising funds and awareness and doesn't see himself stopping anytime soon.

"It's definitely a forever goal—even if I'm not doing activities. But people still see what I did as a kid and donate a dollar or two, it's still going to a great place and always helping someone ... it's something that can help save my grandpa and anybody else out there," he says.

The award winners will be announced on November 13 at the McPherson Playhouse. Good luck to Jessica and Owen!

Instagram by @mygns