- BC Games
COVER STORY: South Delta's Top 20 Under 20
The young people of South Delta represent the future of this community, and that future would appear to be in very good hands.
This week, the South Delta Leader celebrates the best and brightest local leaders of tomorrow with our 20 Under 20 feature. While the range of interests represented is broad - from virtuoso musicians, to environmental activists, to elite athletes - every one of the young people profiled shares a burning desire to achieve their dreams.
This list is by no means complete, however. Email us at email@example.com if you know of a young person who deserves to have their story told.
By Adrian MacNair
When Tsawwassen’s Nicole and Megan McNamara take the beach volleyball court it’s easy to think you’re seeing double. It’s because you are.
The twins recently won the 2013 Spanish Banks Open all ages Beach Volleyball Nationals on Aug. 25, just three weeks after their 16th birthday. It was the continuation of their dominance on the beach, winning the U-18 nationals last year.
The twins also earned a silver in the U-21 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que. in August and a bronze in the Vancouver Open Pro in July.
What’s more amazing is that the McNamaras didn’t start playing beach volleyball until four years ago during a vacation in Mexico.
“We liked being at the beach in the sun, and it’s a really fun sport,” says Nicole, adding the biggest part of why they enjoy beach volleyball is that they can rely on one another.
Despite their accomplishments you won’t catch the girls boasting and even go great lengths to deflect attention from themselves.
“We owe a lot to our coaches,” says Megan, as Nicole finishes her sentence, “yeah, we have really good coaches.”
The twins combine in conversation as seamlessly as they combine to score points on the beach.
They attribute their success to coaches Mischa Harris from their Sideout Beach Club and Mike Gilray who works with them on Team B.C. Beach Volleyball.
Their recent win at Spanish Banks was extra sweet because it involved defeating fully-grown women with much more experience.
“We wanted to play U-21 but our coach [Harris] convinced us to play open because it was better competition,” says Megan, who smiles before adding, “we weren’t expected to do that well.”
It’s not just the beach the McNamaras are known for, helping South Delta Secondary win the provincial championships in indoor volleyball last year.
“It was one of the most satisfying wins because we were the underdogs,” says Megan.
When they graduate in 2015 they want to go to an NCAA college on a beach volleyball scholarship and have already been made offers by UCLA and the University of Arizona. Both those schools also have good business programs which fit into their long-term scholastic goals.
For now, the two have their eyes on qualifying for Team Canada in the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China in 2014.
Even the adult Olympics is a dream within their grasp.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” says Nicole.
By Clayton Andres
Ever since she was a small child, Katelyn Mager has loved acting. And although she is only now 12 years old, she has already established herself as a professional actor in TV shows, blockbuster movies, cartoons, and short films.
Most recently, Katelyn was in this summer’s Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, the latest edition to the franchise based on the popular book series. Katelyn, who was already a big fan of the series, got to play a younger version of her favourite character, Thalia. Although there were many other girls who auditioned for the role, Katelyn put herself ahead of the competition due to her willingness to cut and dye her considerably lengthy hair in order to play the part. When she heard she had won the role, Katelyn was ecstatic.
“I was screaming at the top of my lungs, I was so happy,” she says.
Katelyn has been acting professionally since she signed up with an agent at the age of four. In that time, she has gained a wealth of confidence and experience, no longer finding acting stressful, even while working with older, more experienced actors.
“Since I’ve been doing acting for quite a long time, I’m really comfortably around grown-ups,” she says.
One of Katelyn’s most challenging roles was in 2009’s The Killing Machine, where she worked alongside action star Dolph Lundgren, playing his daughter dying of heart failure. She then went on to play an Asperger’s patient in the TV movie Normal opposite Matrix-star Carrie-Anne Moss. She has also worked on 2009’s Damage with WWE’s Steve Austin and has appeared in the TV shows Life Unexpected and Supernatural.
Katelyn is still too young to see many of her own movies, but her mother has watched them and assures Katelyn she did a good job.
In addition to live-action, Katelyn has also given her talents to the world of animation, working on PBS’s Martha Speaks and the upcoming web-series Plum Landing.
Katelyn won a Young Artist Award in 2012 for her role in the short film When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Dinosaur, even though she felt overshadowed attending the ceremony in Los Angeles.
“I wasn’t expecting to win the award cause there were twenty kids going against me,” she says. “I was just shocked when they called my name.”
Katelyn has had to make a few sacrifices for her acting career, including missing school and extracurricular activities. However, she believes it’s all worth it.
“I’m really happy to act. Sometimes you have to miss stuff, but it’s definitely worth it.”
Her parents are also willing to make sacrifices to support her. When Katelyn auditioned for the lead role in the upcoming Disney film Gamesmaker, her mother was already committed to move to Argentina with her daughter for three months for the filming.
She didn’t get the part, but Katelyn’s mother is still prepared to join her on a moment’s notice if another opportunity comes up.
Katelyn doesn’t know what opportunities she will have next, but she is committed to continue acting, hoping to get a chance to work for the Disney Channel in the future.
Although there are a lot of famous actors Katelyn admires, she has no idols.
“I don’t want to be like anyone, I want to be like myself ‘cause there’s no one like me.”
By Clayton Andres
When eight-year-old Joshua Tromans plays the violin, he seems almost disconnected from the world around him.
Yet, his control over his instrument and his pitch-perfect performance suggest he is more in-tune with the world, not in spite of his music, but because of it.
Joshua only started playing two years ago, and the violin is already the second instrument he has mastered.
He first began playing piano at age four when his mother signed him up for lessons with Bernie Duerkson in Delta. Although he was not the youngest student Duerkson has taught, he is certainly the most proficient for his age.
“I’ll give him three scales to learn and he’ll come back with 10, all memorized,” says Duerkson.
The South Delta Leader featured Joshua two years ago when he was learning piano in Delta and had entered Grade 7 of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Joshua is now attending the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music and took the Grade 10 test this past August.
He has won the Emily Longworth Piano Bursary for 2012 and 2013, which is given to one piano student at the VSO per year. Duerkson now teaches Joshua at the VSO and says Joshua is always excited to take on new challenges. And picking up violin wasn’t any harder for him than learning to play piano.
“When I give him a new piece or a new technique to learn, Joshua will rubs his hands together with glee,” says Duerkson.
Duerkson says that the distinct quality of Joshua’s sound comes from the way in which he plays, which is difficult to verbalize.
“It’s how he shapes things, how he intones things, how he moves things. When he plays,” says Duerkson, “I breathe differently.”
While he loves playing and improvising on the piano, Joshua decided that he also wanted to learn violin the same year that he began at the VSO. Joshua has also recently performed at the Roedde House Museum in the West End of Vancouver, where he played in front of paying patrons, including many well-respected music teachers.
“It was kind of like his debut,” said Mark, his father.
He has since played in a number of festivals and public events, including the Gala Showcase at the Vancouver Orpheum, where he was one of the youngest performers to play there.
This year, Joshua has upped the ante on his playing, practicing three hours a day on piano and nearly an hour a day on violin, motivated by nothing more than his love of music. He will often beg his mom to stay at the VSO after practice so he can continue to play.
According to both his mother and his teacher, Joshua doesn’t like to show off or brag about his talents. He is motivated solely by his love of the music.
“This is his thing,” says Duerkson. “He’s just born to do it.”
By Robert Mangelsdorf
The future is green and Tsawwassen’s Olivia Reshetylo wants to be on the forefront of the environmental and economic revolution.
The South Delta Senior Secondary grad is currently enrolled in the business management program at Mount Royal University in Calgary where she hopes to apply her business savvy to help develop sustainable energy movement.
“I really like the social aspect of business,” the 18-year-old says. “Sustainable energy, the environment, renewable resources, that’s my focus.”
Olivia says she was inspired to follow that path by her father, who is an environmental scientist, and by the Rob Stewart documentary Revolution.
The film details the planet’s many threatened ecosystems, and lays out how humanity can work together to save them, and itself in the process.
“It totally caught my attention about what’s happening and what can be done,” she says.
Growing up, Olivia’s first love was soccer. But after tearing a hamstring in Grade 10, she started to look for other ways to keep herself occupied.
She soon became involved with the Delta Youth Advisory Council, where she partnered with Delta Police and a number of community groups to work on anti-bullying initiatives. She also volunteered her time at KinVillage Seniors’ Care Home in Tsawwassen where she helped run bingo games and worked in intensive care.
“I got involved in leadership and volunteering because I was looking for things other than sports to keep busy,” Olivia says.
Olivia was a standout student at South Delta Secondary School, where she earned a plethora of scholarships for her academic performance and volunteerism.
She was the recipient of Coast Capital Citizenship Award, Delta School District’s service award, the Minerva Foundation scholarship, and earned an academic scholarship from Mount Royal.
“I got about $5,500 in total,” she says. “I’m paying for all my schooling, so that definitely helps out.”
By Clayton Andres
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same.”
So says 14-year-old Natalie Burt-Carrol, who experienced the sudden loss of her aunt this past year on the first day of school, after having already lost her father at the age of 11. Even though the loss of her father and her aunt weighed heavy on her, Natalie decided to continue working toward making both of them proud through her accomplishments and her volunteer efforts.
“My dad was always right there telling me to reach for the stars, and my aunt was even more encouraging,” she says.
While many teens her age spend their free time hanging out at the mall, Natalie spends her time at the hospital where she reads inspiration biblical passages to the patients, most of whom she has never met before.
“I started around the summer because I thought what better way to spend your time?” says Natalie.
Natalie has also volunteered for ICORD, a spinal cord research centre in Vancouver dedicated to assisting those with spinal injuries.
This year, Natalie was able to complete the Bronze Level of the Duke of Edinburgh award, which is awarded to youth in more than 140 countries worldwide who work to improve their community and demonstrate an active lifestyle.
“Both my dad and my aunt always inspired me to be the best that I can be,” shares Natalie. “I think of them every day. They will always remain in my heart and I will always use the life lessons they gave me.”
Although she had already completed the necessary volunteer hours for the Duke of Edinburgh award, Natalie has continued her hospital visits, simply because, as she states, “I was raised to give more than I receive.”
In addition to winning the award, Natalie has also been involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, including equestrian riding, rowing, and piano, for which she achieved her First Class Honours.
Natalie plans to continue working to make her family proud and encourage anyone who is suffering with hardship to “be that person you want to be. Never doubt yourself, you are braver than you believe, you’re stronger than you seem, you are a lot smarter than you think you are.”
Natalie’s mother, Della Rae Carrol, can’t say enough about Natalie’s achievements. “She has exceeded my expectations. I am so, so proud.”
By Adrian MacNair
If you’re looking for the next world champion in swimming you need look no further than Tsawwassen’s own Tai Long Singh. The 13-year-old is on pace to threaten records both international and Olympic based on his performances over the past year in the pool.
The highlight of his young career so far was six gold models for his age group, 13 and under, at the Canadian Age Group Swimming Championships in Montreal in July, an accomplishment that puts him among the elite prospects of Canadian swimmers.
Tai Long says the younger generation of Canadian swimmers are very fast and fare well at international competitions, which bodes well for the future.
“My dream is to be the next Michael Phelps and get eight gold medals at the Olympics,” he says, while running laps at the Winskill Aquatic Centre in Tsawwassen where he is a member of the Dolphins Club.
The eyes of the swimming world began to take note of Tai Long last November when he set a national age-group record for the fastest 100 meter backstroke. He then broke another provincial record in the same event while representing Team Canada at the North American Challenge Cup.
Not that swimming is something that Tai Long does “off the couch.” He gets up every day at 5:30 a.m. and practices swimming two hours a day and uses medicine balls to hone his formidable muscle tone and core strength. It helps that he enjoys every second of it.
“I love being wet. I love the water. I’m not very good at being a land person.”
Tai Long’s training partner is 14-year-old Paul Zou, also of Tsawwassen, and the current national champion in his age bracket. The two have combined for several gold medals in pairs and team medleys and they motivate and encourage one another.
“He’s one of the main reasons I’m where I’m at because he’s my rival but he’s also my best friend,” says Tai Long.
A student at Southpointe Academy, his favourite subjects are P.E. and math.
“Math, because there’s only one right answer, which I like, and P.E. because I can handle anything they throw at me.”
By Clayton Andres
For some, dancing is a hobby. For Callie Frassange, age nine, it’s a family tradition. Both Callie’s mother, Michelle McPeek, and grandmother were Scottish Highland Dancers.
Her mother hadn’t danced for years, but when Callie was about two years old, they were drawn to the local Highland Dance competition by the sound of bagpipes. As it turns out, one of the organizers was Michelle’s former Highland Dance teacher, Elizabeth Johnston, who suggested enrolling Callie when she was old enough.
A little over two years later, Callie entered her first official competition in Whistler, winning second place overall. Callie, who was only five at the time, only remembers a few things from the competition.
“I remember being nervous, but not too nervous,” she says. “And I was really exhausted afterward.”
Callie recalls her initial dances being “sort of hard,” but she progressed from the beginner level to the top level of Premier in only five years time.
Callie placed first in her age category at the B.C. Provincial Championship this year. In the past year alone, she has competed in Victoria, Cowichan Valley, Trail, Castlegar, Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Edmonton, and at the national championship in Montreal, where she placed in the top six for the whole country.
Callie also was able to compete in Scotland this year. While her family was traveling with her brother for a soccer tournament in England, Callie and her mother took a detour through Edinburgh where they – by fluke, according to her mother – ended up competing in an authentic Highland Dance competition.
Callie ended up placing second over all.
While she practices her moves three time a week, Callie says the most important aspect to dancing is mental.
“How you dance depends on where you mind is set,” she says. “It needs to be unfocused to get the steps right.”
Callie’s biggest supports have been her mother and Johnston, who have both worked tirelessly to help Callie along. She’s achieved so much in her short dance career and Callie is showing no signs of slowing down. She plans to start dancing again in September after taking a well-deserved break this summer.
This past year has been a pivotal one in 18-year-old Tristan Jarry’s budding hockey career. The Tsawwassen goaltender registered an 18-7 record in 27 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League in 2013/13, posting league-high totals with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. His six shutouts were tied for second-most in the WHL.
“I think I’m more of a hybrid,” Jarry says of his goaltending style. “I’m not always one to go down, but when I do go down, I like to control my rebounds. I’ve been called Marty Brodeur in practice a couple times when I stand up and make a glove save, so I think that’s pretty funny.”
Jarry turned heads at the CHL Top Prospects game where he was named Team Cherry’s Player of the Game after stopping all 16 shots he faced.
The Pittsburgh Penguins took notice and made Jarry their top draft pick at the 2013 NHL draft in June, selecting him in the second round, 44th overall, after the club traded up to acquire him. Earlier this month, the Penguins signed Jarry to a three-year entry level contract.
Jarry grew up in Tsawwassen and attended South Delta Secondary, where he was a part of the school’s hockey academy, which he says help prepare him for life in the WHL.
Playing in a big market town like Edmonton has its distractions, but he says his coaches at the hockey academy and in major midget taught him to keep his focus, on and off the ice.
After a stellar rookie campaign, Jarry saw his ice time increase during the 2012/13 campaign, where he made the most of his opportunities behind starter Laurent Brossoit.
“I knew I wasn’t going that many starts, that’s why it’s important I make the most of them,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot from [Brossoit], he always stays poised in the net.”
In two seasons with the Oil Kings, Jarry has appeared in 42 career regular-season games, going 26-10-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
Jarry is attending the Penguins’ rookie tournament in London, Ontario this week and says he is focussed on one goal: being the best goaltender he can be, night in and night out.
“I’m going to make the most of my opportunity,’
By Clayton Andres
In the struggle against abuse in our schools, Andrea Strusievici has worked tirelessly to change the way we combat bullying.
Andrea has had experience being bullied in school. She was born in Chile and when she was four, her family moved to Canada where she had a hard time fitting in.
“My experience was never as extreme as others people, but it made me more empathetic to what others have gone through,” she says.
Andrea wanted to help those who were bullied, but she felt that too many anti-bullying projects accomplish nothing. Dedicated to making a real difference, she, along with a close friend, founded StandUP, a South Delta Secondary School-based group dedicated to promoting the anti-bullying message from an entirely new angle.
Instead of just punishing bullies in the school, StandUP was created to promote self-esteem and social acceptance in the school.
“We wanted to get away from saying ‘No no no’ and instead promote kindness and compliments. We emphasized the positive over the negative,” Andrea explains.
StandUP’s first initiative was selling Thank-You-grams for students to send compliments and encouragement notes to others in the school. The event was a success, with around 400 notes sold and sent out. In her ongoing efforts to combat bullying, Andrea also attended the province-wide Student Voice Conference, where this year’s them was anti-bullying, She, along with fellow SDSS student Kevin Irving, discussed issues of bully-prevention with youth from all across B.C.
At the conference, Andrea and her follow Delta students got to hear stories and testimonials from bullied students in BC.
“It was very emotional and I was super impressed that these Grade 7 kids were able to share so much with us,” she says. “You don’t get to see these kids be so open and honest about this. It was very humbling.”
One of the insights Andrea gained from the conference is that when acts of bullying are reported, too many kids have no control over how their concerns are addressed.
Since many students are often too afraid of judgment or repercussions to ask for help within their school, the students at the conference suggested using the online anti-abuse resource erasebullying.ca, which allows allows B.C. students to anonymously report abuse and seek help from government officials rather than teachers and parents.
Andrea continued her work to promote her cause by heading her school’s anti-bullying week, allowing various school clubs and organizations to put on daily events to emphasize different aspects of bullying awareness and prevention.
This year, she was awarded the William Kushnir scholarship for all her work in her school and local community.
“I’m overwhelmed a little bit. I never thought I could do all of this,” she says.“I really adore being involved with people and making a difference. It made me so happy to accomplish so much this year.”
Through her experiences this year, Andrea has learned that being involved in her school changes you.
“It makes you happy to see other people you’ve impacted,” she says. “Everyone can read a textbook, but it takes a little extra to be involved.”
By Clayton Andres
Every year, the Robert T. Reynolds Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a student who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to his or her school and community. This year, the Delta Hospital Foundation presented the award to South Delta Secondary School student Kevin Irving for demonstrating dedication to his community on a local and provincial level.
The 18-year-old says he was shocked to learn he had won the scholarship, especially since he almost failed to hand it his submission forms before the deadline.
But if he was preoccupied at the time, he can be forgiven: Kevin has been busy the last year involved in the Delta Youth Advisory Council, the SDSS Student Council, the Delta Police Youth Advisory Committee, SDSS’s Link Leadership Program, and he’s been volunteering at both the Kinsmen Assisted Living Centre and the Delta Community Animal Shelter, all while maintaining an above-average grade-point average.
Out of the 20 students nominated from the Delta area, Kevin was chosen because of his involvement in various Delta councils, clubs and his work as a student representative for B.C. ERASE Bullying.
Kevin also acted as a student representative at the B.C. ERASE Bullying forum, hosted last fall by Premier Christy Clark. The forum was held to promote effective anti-bullying strategies across BC and there Kevin and a friend created their project: a three-part workshop designed to teach elementary school children online responsibility and how to discourage cyber bullying.
“I wanted to help stop bullying and stop it early,” says Kevin. “[Cyber-bullying] is harder to see and it’s always indirect. We want students to be more aware of the effects they can have on each other online.”
Kevin presented his first workshop during the Delta Police Advisory’s Anti-Bullying Day events held at his school.
He also was able to make time to showcase the workshop at this year’s Student Voice Conference, where he was a representative for the Delta School District. The province-wide conference gave students from all across the province a chance to discuss problems and solutions in the B.C. education system. The workshop has already been implemented into schools across Delta. For Kevin, the most important part of the workshop is promoting understanding.
“We need to get kids to think before they write stuff on social media,” he says. “Empathy is very powerful.”
Although he’s been rewarded for his efforts, Kevin’s only real goal behind all his work this school year was to help people in whatever way he could. Kevin’s first time giving back to his school was in Grade 10 when he and his friends created a project on the Maxxine Wright House, a non-profit women’s shelter in Surrey.
Their project won the school-wide competition and Kevin and his friends were able to donate $5,000 for the shelter. Kevin was so excited to be a part of helping a worthy cause so close to home that he thought to himself, “I should do more of this.”
Now, Kevin is preparing to head out east to attend the University of Western Ontario where he hopes to pursue a degree in medical sciences. Kevin hopes to continue using his talents to help others and continue his community involvement while at school.
“Hopefully I will get involved in school clubs and leadership based groups at Western,” he says.
By Clayton Andres
Most students don’t know anything about the history of their own school. But thanks to Antony Tsui, the history of Delta Secondary School is now readily available online.
Antony decided to get involved in his high school’s 100th anniversary and make something celebrating the history and legacy of his school.
The school had already begun assembling historical pictures, records, and documents for the centennial anniversary but, according to Antony, all the historical information was disorganized and there wasn’t a central outlet or forum to see it all together.
He decided to utilize his passion and talent for web design to put together his online project.
“I’ve always been interested in technology and graphics and I like making websites,” Antony says. “The info was already out there, I just had to compile it together.”
For the website, called The Deltan Century – Delta Secondary School Celebrating 100 Years, Antony was able to assemble all the historical information and make it available in the same place online, bringing it to life with technology. For his efforts to make the school’s history accessible, Antony was awarded the 2013 Delta Heritage Commission scholarship.
“I made DSS my home, so this website was an outlet for me to give back,” he says. “This can work as a document for the grads of 2013 but also for previous students and grads in the future.”
Antony also set about documenting all the centennial celebrations and special events put on by DSS, assembling pictures and details from milestone events to preserve for those who weren’t able to attend. He included letters and messages from the mayor, the lieutenant governor, articles from local newspapers, and the school’s own historical documentary onto the site.
He started work on the site shortly after the school celebration at the beginning of April and finished the site halfway through May.
“I’m not too sure how long it took,” mused Antony. “It’s my interest, so I didn’t really seem like work.”
Despite how quickly he was able to put the site together, Antony did not have any formal training or lessons.
“I’m pretty tech savvy, but I’m not an expert,” he says.
Antony started working on web design three years ago when he made a site for his school’s student government.
“It was easy to start because there was already a purpose to it, and from there I went website crazy.”
Since then, Antony has been making websites for school projects, class elections, and his own personal site to showcase his portfolio.
“I like taking theory and knowledge and applying them to practical applications of life,” he says. “I like helping people.”
By Adrian MacNair
When it comes to art 17-year-old ML Schneider has been taking ink to paper since she was a toddler.
“I’ve drawn for literally as long as I can remember,” says the Tsawwassen graduate of South Delta Secondary. “My earliest memory is my dad’s business paid for us to go on this trip to Greece when I was three years old and I was drawing on the airplane on our way there.”
That dedication to a lifetime of art paid off recently with her acceptance into Emily Carr University in Vancouver, an art school that receives between 1,200 and 1,800 applications from across the country each year and takes in about 400 first year students.
ML submitted her portfolio of drawings, which features a range of portraits to still life and fantasy. Having gone to an art camp hosted by the North Vancouver School District every year from the age of eight to 16, she has learned a variety of different techniques from famous living artists.
“I’ve done monotyping, monoprinting, sculpting, regular printing, cyanotyping…” says ML before trailing off and laughing. “You don’t know what that is, right?”
To the layman it’s just easier for ML to just tell people she draws. ML says she enjoys receiving art assignments in school because it gives her a foundation from which to explore an idea or concept. The hardest part of being an artist is either waiting for inspiration to come to you and sometimes you have to go after it, she explains.
“I get it from people around me usually, or seeing something and thinking I could that, or I could do it better.”
Although she says it’s unlikely she will make a living from commissioned portraitures, she thinks she could make comic books or graphic novels, a suggestion made by her interviewer while applying for Emily Carr.
“I’m really down with comic books because I also really like English and I feel like there’s nothing that makes a graphic novel any less than an actual novel.”
ML isn’t just an artist. She was a top student while in high school, mentoring primary school children in horticulture, and won the 2013 Delta Rotary Youth Award in the Inner Strength category. Also an avid athlete in rugby and soccer, her Ladner U-17 team won the 2012 Coastal Cup last year.
By Clayton Andres
Despite being just 11 years old, Tsawwassen’s Connor Nelson is already on the fast track to becoming a singing star.
This year alone, Connor has participated in the B.C. Junior Talent Search, May Days Idol, the Richmond Night Market’s Summer Night Idol, and Abbotsford’s Valley Voices Vocal Competition. In every competition he has entered, he has dazzled audiences and shattered expectations for someone in his age category.
Connor first started taking voice lessons at the age of six, when his mother, Brenda Nelson, noticed how skilled he was.
“Connor has always had a good ear for music,” she says.
While it looked like he was losing interest over the years, Connor surprised his mother last year when he revealed he was given a solo part in his school’s Remembrance Day Ceremony.
He had kept his audition and practicing a secret until the performance.
Knowing how much singing still meant to him, his mother signed Connor up to work with a certified vocal coach.
For Connor, performing for large audiences at such a young age is “nerve-wracking,” but his passion for singing helps him conquer his fears.
“Once you start you kind of get lost in the song,” he says.
The hardest part, according to Connor, is the high notes. But his favourite song is “Stars” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, even though it is littered with difficult-to-hit notes.
Connor says he loves the song because “the lyrics are really beautiful and the meaning is really nice.”
Despite the difficulty of the song, Connor loves to challenge himself.
At his audition for Summer Night Idol, he sang a capella, despite most of the other contestants using musical accompaniment. The very next day, Connor auditioned for the B.C. Junior Talent Search. He managed to juggle participating in both competitions at the same time and ended up placing in the top seven for all of B.C. at the Junior Talent Search.
Connor recently competed in the Valley Voices Vocal Competition at the Abottsford Agrifair, where he made it to the semifinals. He also sang the Canadian and American National Anthems at the Delta Invitational this past May for three days in a row. Summer Night Idol will also continue into September, and according to Connor, the competition remains fierce, but he is undaunted.
As an 11 year-old boy, Connor has to compete against older kids, often girls, who can hit notes he has more difficulty with. But he is not deterred and feels confident is his own voice.
Connor’s practice is self-motivated, as he often accompanies himself on the piano when there is no one else to sing with him.
He and his family are hoping to find a development contract as Connor participates in more competitions in the future.
By Clayton Andres
Music has always been a driving force for Ryan Esau, but it wasn’t until recently that he decided to pursue it as a career.
Ryan grew up in a musical family and currently plays in the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra where he can express his love of music with some of the best musicians in the province.
Ryan is one of only four flute players in the senior division of the VYSO, B.C.’s premier orchestral program. According to Ryan, the VYSO demands absolute professionalism from its students.
“We are expected to know our music and we rehearse professional-level pieces at full tempo,” he says.
The auditions for the orchestra are very competitive, requiring aspiring musicians to demonstrate advanced musicianship, instrumental ability, and theoretical knowledge. However, according to Ryan, “it’s not really about the audition.” Potential musicians are also judged on their orchestral experience.
Thankfully, Ryan developed his musical prowess playing with the Delta Youth Orchestra and studying privately with Vancouver Opera Orchestra member Betty McBurney.
On average, Ryan attends three-hour rehearsals anywhere from three to five times per week, in addition to the three hours a day he spends practicing and the additional time he spends studying music history and reviewing music theory, even though he never intended to play music professionally.
“Becoming a professional musician wasn’t something I was considering,” he says. “My intention always was to become a teacher.”
However, through his experience playing in band and pit orchestra in high school, Ryan discovered how deep his passion for music really is.
“Music is very important to me,” he says. “It is a vehicle for expression, and a way to communicate. Playing becomes a way to release a variety of emotions . . . I often think of music as something I breathe.
“It goes deep inside, and then it is released and shared with others.”
Ryan was recently accepted into the University of BBC School of Music and will be auditioning to enter the UBC Orchestra in the fall to continue working towards his new dream of becoming a professional flutist.
By Adrian MacNair
When 17-year-old National Junior Lawn Bowling Champion Pricilla Westlake of Tsawwassen first tried the sport four years ago it was almost by accident. She was a softball pitcher at the time and her team didn’t make it to the provincials. A competitive person, Pricilla was disappointed until her grandmother Margaret made her a deal.
“My grandmother said OK, you didn’t get to the softball provincials but I can help you get to the lawn bowling provincials,” she says.
Those were bold words to tell somebody who had never bowled before. And the provincials were two weeks away. Her grandmother gave her a crash course in bowling and Pricilla soon demonstrated she was a quick study. She won bronze in the provincials in Tsawwassen, much more than her grandmother had ever dreamed possible. Pricilla racked up bronze medals in the next two years as well, earning her a reputation as one of the province’s up-and-coming lawn bowlers.
Then this July she won gold in the provincial championships in Kelowna for the U-18 category, qualifying her for the Nationals in Fredericton, NB in August. She won gold there as well, becoming National Junior Champion.
She is now hoping to get on Team Canada, which sponsors trips to the hot spots of lawn bowling in places like England, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong, and the United States. When she recently met West Vancouver lawn bowler Steve Santana, a professional who cleaned out the trophy cage at last year’s North American Challenge in Victoria, he told her he represented Team Canada in a tournament in Greece.
“I was really shocked you could represent Canada in lawn bowling, so I thought to myself, I’m in.”
Pricilla is now attending Kwantlen University for journalism and enjoys writing. She maintains a lawn bowling Facebook page and is considering starting a blog to bring more attention to her sport.
Meanwhile, she’s a popular figure at the Tsawwassen bowling green and always welcoming of new members to the sport.
“They’re super keen, they really like it,” she says, with a wide grin.
By Adrian MacNair
Living in Boston on the other side of the continent, Mackenzie (Kenzie) Peters is far from her home of Tsawwassen. But there’s no place this 19-year-old would rather be than the Berklee College of Music, a prestigious school that has turned out some of the most legendary musicians the world has ever known.
And even though she’s in a different part of the world, she explains that music follows her everywhere.
“Currently, I’m sitting at a window looking out onto the rush of Boston traffic,” says Kenzie. “I can hear the music of the cars, the bustle of their wheels, the rev of their engines. Music is all around us and it has the capabilities to be so many things.”
A graduate of South Delta Secondary in 2012, Kenzie was accepted to Berklee after auditioning in Vancouver with the Billy Joel classic New York State of Mind. The judges enjoyed it so much they told her they liked her version better than Joel’s.
Growing up and living in South Delta gave Kenzie “countless opportunities” to explore her musical talents.
“Having a fostering community, such as South Delta, creates an environment for young people to flourish,” she says. “I have heard of other communities and individuality is stifled. I could not be the musician I am today without South Delta.”
Those explorations in music include writing her own original song during the “Voice your Vision” challenge that won her a Delta School District arts scholarship, playing the role of Maria in SDSS’s production of The Sound of Music, and performing the lead in the musical “Zana, don’t” at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
Kenzie will be at Berklee for four years but has not yet declared a major. She’s still settling in and deciding where to take her music. Or perhaps where it will take her.
“[Music] can be a comforter in times of mourning, an accuser in times of tension, and an enabler in times of inactivity,” she says thoughtfully. “My goal for after I graduate is to have a job in music, whatever facet that might be.”
By Adrian MacNair
When 18-year-old David Mann led his high school senior varsity team to a 31-17 provincial championship victory over the Mission Roadrunners last December at BC Place Stadium it completed a 12-year stint in South Delta football.
“I couldn’t have wrote it any better, it was the best way to go out for me,” he says.
The receiver for the South Delta Secondary Sun Devils was among the top high school players for rushing and receiving statistics in the province, and it won him a scholarship with the University of British Columbia.
David started playing football when he was six years old and played for 10 years with the South Delta Rams as a quarterback. He joined the senior varsity Sun Devils in Grade 11 and switched to slot receiver/running back, becoming the heart of the team along with quarterback Kyle Menzies.
During their trophy winning season David would offer inspirational speeches to lead the team prior to going out on the field.
Now that he’s at UBC he will only practice with the team to keep in shape during the first year so he won’t lose a year of eligibility.
“I talked to the coach and he said he thinks I’m there physically, he just wants me to get my head around university for a year.”
Although Mann is six-foot-four and 210 pounds he’s not the stereotypical ‘80s movie jock who glides by on his athletic credentials. He was a straight-A student through high school, averaging between 80-95 per cent in his courses.
“[My parents] didn’t really force me to study and do my homework, they put it in my own hands and it helped me a lot with my work ethic.”
Mann plans on studying business in university and pursuing his football career as far it will take him, whether that be in university, the Canadian Football League, or the dream job in the National Football League. But regardless of what happens, he knows he’ll have a good education as a “backup plan.”
By Robert Mangelsdorf
For any rookie pitcher in B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League, compiling a 10-1 record in your first season would be impressive enough. Tsawwassen’s Max Williams, a six-foot-two 11th-grader at South Delta Secondary School, did it with a batting average of .276 while hitting third in the batting order.
A member of the North Shore Junior Twins, Williams pitched a complete game in a must-win qualifying game at provincials last month. Williams only allowed five hits, one walk, and struck out four batters as North Shore won 8-1 and went on to win their first provincial championship. Over the course of the tournament, Williams also notched a pair of singles and a double, proving to be a threat on both sides of the ball.
While it might be a bit early for Carlos Zambrano comparisons, one thing’s for certain: Williams is a competitor.
“There’s one player I really try to be like,” he says. “If I see something working for a pitcher, I’ll try it out and see if it works for me.”
With the baseball season over, Williams is focussing his efforts on the Twins’ fall ball program as he prepares to make the jump up to the PBL ranks.
This spring Williams will be taking part in NCAA and MLB scouting tournaments where he hopes to attract some attention.
“It will be interesting to meet different people and play ball at such a high level,” he says.
By Adrian MacNair
When 17-year-old Morgan Leung looks to the future she sees a job that involves helping others. That’s unsurprising given her extensive charitable work and philanthropic efforts. The Grade 12 Southpointe Academy student in Tsawwassen was recently named one of three national finalists for Free the Children’s Me to We Award for youth work and volunteering.
That list of work includes volunteering to teach at Free Flight Dance Studio in Ladner, a fundraising campaign entitled Bracelets for Baby Food that donated over 1,200 jars of baby food to the South Delta Food Bank, and fundraising for both the B.C. and Yukon Chapters of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, to name but a few.
“I think helping others is kind of ingrained into me,” says Morgan. “My parents both volunteered a lot so watching them do it when I was younger it’s kind of like I took after them.”
When she graduates from Southpointe she intends to study international development and global studies at university with an eye toward working for the United Nations or the Canadian International Development Agency. In October, Morgan will be a VIP Youth Ambassador at We Day’s Free the Children event in Arizona, a charity devoted to assisting both the environment and local children. She says she enjoys hands-on work where she can see the results of her efforts materialize before her eyes.
“I want to just get down and get to know everyone and help them and learn from them,” she says. “It just makes you feel better, too.”