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GNS Students Awarded Medal of Citizenship

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Two GNS students have been recognized provincially for their outstanding service contributions to the community. Anastasia Castro and Charlotte Brady recently received the Medal of Citizenship, which is awarded by the Government of BC. The duo had no idea they were nominated for the award. “It was an absolute shock,” said Brady. “I don’t know if I’ve really processed it, but I’m just amazed and honoured—definitely honoured—and just blown away.” “It was very surreal,” said Castro. “I didn’t one hundred percent process what it was and what it meant until a little later. I just got a phone call one day. So it was a bit emotionally intense.” Brady and Castro are being recognized for their achievements and commitment to service and environmental issues. They got their start in Fin Free Victoria, a group of activists focused on educating the public about dangerously low shark populations and the need to regulate the sale of shark fin in Canada. From there, the duo shifted to raising awareness of plastics in oceans. They have campaigned to ban the use of plastic bags in Victoria and municipalities in the area, and continue to work on developing a program to make all schools in B.C. free of single-use plastics. The road hasn’t always been easy, but the girls had some advice for other students who want to make an impact as well. “Start as soon as you can,” said Brady. “People say find something that makes you happy that you want to fight for. No—find something that makes you irrationally angry and then poke that button as much as you possibly can because when you fight for the environment you are fighting for everyone. When you find something that just tugs at your heartstrings and you want to solve it, use that energy because then you won’t carry that as a weight on your back—you will have done something. That’s key.” Castro added that if you want to make a difference, you can’t do it alone. “When you want to start, you feel like there are no resources for you to go to and make that difference,” she said. “We were fortunate we had our teacher to guide us, and without that we would have not gotten anywhere close to where we are today. But I know a lot of youth don’t have that opportunity, and I’d just encourage them to reach out to any NGO, anyone they might know or who might know people that are connected to this. Even if you have no idea what to do, reaching out to just about anyone is the first step you can take.” Being nominated together was special for Brady and Castro. “I wouldn’t be here without Anastasia,” said Brady. “If there was anyone else in the world that I want to be in front of B.C. representing the environment with… She is my partner through all this.” “It’s been incredible to work and learn from Charlotte a lot,” Castro agreed. “Just seeing your confidence helped me grow as a person, and it supported me a lot. It makes it easier when Charlotte is there and it makes me better, because Charlotte brings a perspective I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” Brady and Castro were among 16 others who received this award this year, all nominated by members of their respective communities. Brady and Castro are the youngest to be selected since the launch of the award in 2015. “I always assumed these awards were for people [older than us],” said Castro. “It was weird to think we were eligible for something that grand.” Congratulations to Anastasia Castro and Charlotte Brady—it seems like there is nothing these two hard-driven teenagers can’t accomplish!