Taylor McDowall and two friends from Newmarket’s Pickering College beat out hundreds of other Ontario high school students earlier this week to win a whopping $5,000.
The coveted prize, presented during a special ceremony at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, was a well-deserved reward for their hard work researching and advocating for a local charity of their choice.
But the money wasn’t for the three teens to divide amongst themselves.
Instead, it was made out to the charity, one they had been learning all about in the previous months:
Eating Disorders of York Region — a Thornhill-based charity that offers hope and support to people affected by eating disorders.
“The $5,000 is actually 10 per cent of their annual revenue,” said McDowall, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student.
The prize money came from the Toskan Casale Foundation’s Youth & Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) — a program designed to help high school students learn first-hand about social issues affecting their communities and the positive change that philanthropy can make while also benefiting a local charity by offering students the opportunity to win a $5,000 grant on behalf of their chosen charity.
Founded in 2001 by Julie Toskan Casale, Victor Casale and Frank Toskan, the group is committed to supporting and strengthening community-based organizations that reach out to at-risk people.
“We got involved with the YPI program by our careers teacher,” said McDowall. “He basically just gave us the assignment and we didn’t expect to get this passionate about it. But, by the end, we really, really wanted to win. And we did end up winning, which is great.”
After deciding on a charity to research, the teens had to create a presentation, including its ethics, finances and accountability. Five groups were chosen at McDowall’s school to go through to the final round of competition, competing against groups from other schools across Ontario.
“I think there were about 200 different schools there from across Ontario,” she said of the awards ceremony. “Basically, it was just a congrats to all the groups that won throughout the different schools.”
But coming out the big winner with the $5,000 grant provided a sense of satisfaction for McDowall, Colin Davies and Alec Steirman, and even served as inspiration for them to continue their charitable endeavours.
“My whole group and I are going to continue volunteering at Eating Disorders of York Region. It kind of inspired us to volunteer more in our community and get more involved,” she said.
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