Ladysmith’s Hilary Jahelka has passion for helping other people.
And that passion was recently recognized when she was one of 48 students from across B.C. to be honored with a Coast Capital Savings Education Award this year.
Jahelka, 18, was awarded the credit union’s Citizenship Award valued at $2,000 for her achievements in juggling school, personal activities and community involvement.
Jahelka, who is in her first year studying social work at the University of Victoria, says she was shocked when she found out she’d won the award.
“I instantly called my mom, and I was so happy,” she said. “I was honoured to get it — that’s the best word to describe it because it’s so limited, and they have such strict criteria.”
After she graduates university, Jahelka wants to specialize in social work and become a lawyer.
Jahelka has been involved with her school since she entered Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) in Grade 8, and she started getting heavily involved in Grade 9.
At LSS, Jahelka was involved in student government, STAAR (Students Taking Action Against Racism) and the Grade 8 mentoring program to help Grade 8 students transition into high school, and she co-founded a social justice group called the Roots Club.
Outside of school, Jahelka was involved in Girl Guides, and she volunteered with the Sparks, who are five and six years old. With her Ranger unit, she did a year-long service unit with Haven House. She helped raise close to $400 for their Christmas Drive and bought gifts for their teenaged clients, and she volunteered at their fundraising events.
When Jahelka was in Grade 10, she went down to Mexico and did a 10-day missions trip with her youth group.
In Grade 11, Jahelka’s STAAR group decided they wanted to do anti-bullying presentations in their school and in LSS’s feeder schools. She planned the presentations — which they did every day for a variety of age groups — and was the emcee.
“It was interesting, and I definitely learned a lot from it because we were changing it up every day,” said Jahelka. “It was a great experience, and I think it really benefited the younger students to see older students come back and talk to them, not just adults.”
The slogan for the presentations, which included visual art, skits, singing and dancing, was “respect the right to be different.”
Jahelka has been focused on helping others since a young age.
“I was brought up in a family that is very much oriented to helping others rather than focusing on yourself,” she said. “Once I got to high school, I saw the injustices that happened to other people. I could not stand people making fun of other people because of how they looked.”
Jahelka was involved in all kinds of different activities and groups in school, but she saw how people in one group would insult another group.
“Hearing people talk about other groups really upset me, and I really wanted to make a difference in my school community and eventually in my community and the world,” she said. “That’s definitely my goal … to help others who can’t help themselves.”
All her volunteer work in high school helped Jahelka become interested in studying social work at university.
“I don’t think anyone is greater than anyone else,” she said. “I think everyone has their own potential, and, personally, I want to help them meet their potential.”
Jahelka says she is enjoying university so far, and she has already started getting involved in Youth Protecting Youth, a group at the University of Victoria that focuses on protecting all human life, from point of conception to natural death. She is also applying to be part of an anti-violence program that helps women who have suffered from violence.