“You don’t need to create a multi-million dollar business or an international organization to have an impact on someone’s life.”
Since 1997, Youth Ottawa has partnered with RBC to celebrate the accomplishments of dynamic young leaders throughout the city.
Celebrating 25 years, the Spirit Awards “acknowledge and feature the diverse ways young people are shaping their communities,” with seven categories relating to academic excellence, arts and culture, entrepreneurship, overcoming adversity, and more.
Seven of the 14 award recipients at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Oct. 26 were University of Ottawa students — including Maleeka Ellaithy, a second-year student in biomedical science with a minor in statistics.
“It means a lot to know that my work is touching the lives of others and is being seen by the community. I think it’s important for youth to see that you don’t need to be a superhero to make change,” wrote Ellaithy in an email to the Fulcrum. “You don’t need to create a multi-million dollar business or an international organization to have an impact on someone’s life. This award is a welcome reminder that anyone [can] create change, and that I’m making a difference, no matter how small.”
Ellaithy won the “Take a Stand” award for her years of community service and fundraising — she is the founder of YouthBeHeard Ottawa, an initiative that provides orientation and resources for students wanting to be more active in their community, and co-founder of the Ottawa chapter of Women in STEM (WiSTEM).
“Women in STEM Ottawa was an incredibly formative experience for me. It was a chance to work with some of my closest friends to build the only Canadian chapter of a much-needed organization right here in Ottawa, and provide girls from all walks of life with the tools and confidence they need to become the next generation of empowered female change-makers.”
“It wasn’t without [its] challenges, including COVID-19 logistics, marketing, and outreach, but I’m so glad we persevered. It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch the chapter grow from afar and to see the leadership torch being passed down from one graduating class to the next,” she wrote.
While Ellaithy is no longer an active member of WiSTEM, she said she continues to provide oversight and direction as needed.
“These days, I no longer have a formal role in the chapter — I give them space to do their own thing, and instead provide mentorship and support whenever the team needs it or reaches out.”
With more time on her hands, Ellaithy plans to broaden the impact of YouthBeHeard Ottawa and advocate for social justice through her writing.
“I’m hoping to continue working on my current grassroots organization, YouthBeHeard Ottawa, by expanding our reach and ambassador program. I’m also currently growing my writing platform, where I advocate for social justice issues through written pieces. Finally, I’m volunteering around the community, whether by tutoring for charity, providing first-aid support at events or packing lunches for shelters, so feel free to stop and say hi if you ever see me around!”
Click here to consult the full list of award recipients at the 25th RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Awards.