As the recent Hearts of the Community volunteer awards ceremony illustrated, the Saanich Peninsula has a plethora of passionate volunteers supporting the community, including a strong base of youth volunteers. Everyone was recognized and thanked, but it was the exceptional dedication to his community shown by Michael Ram that won him the annual Outstanding Volunteer Youth Award, which included a $1,000 award.
The Grade 12 honour roll student at Parkland Secondary School kicked off his volunteer career back in Grade 8, with Panorama Recreation’s summer camps. From there, Ram progressed to volunteering his time as coach and referee for after school drop-in basketball games at the North Saanich Middle School, participating in a myriad of charity events for the Victoria chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, and running game booths at the Saanichton Fair to raise money for the Sidney Rotary Club.
One of Ram’s main focuses right now is promoting awareness about mental health and he recently returned from a mental health and wellness conference in Vancouver.
“After attending these conferences and listening to these public speakers, who went through different scenarios but were feeling the same symptoms, they inspired me.
“It’s really important that students and people my age understand that you’re not alone,” he says. “It’s a matter of opening that box and stopping that stigma.”
To that end, Ram and a fellow schoolmate are going to be presenting what they learned at the conference to the school leadership group.
“Everyone struggles with mental health, and the main thing is to get it out there,” he says.
“One of the first steps is just talking to someone.”
Ram has experienced the benefits of volunteerism firsthand, in dedicated coaches and teachers who impacted his developing years, and says he wants to give some of that dedication back.
“Growing up, my parents always taught me that you can’t go through life without giving back,” he says.
“It makes me so thankful that there are people in my life that have given up their time to help me succeed, and I want to have that same impact on my community.”
Though often thought of as the realm of retirees, volunteering is a worthwhile effort for youth as well, for themselves as well as their communities.
“It provides valuable community services,” he says. “And through meeting new people, I’ve expanded my knowledge and I’ve learned professional skills.”
“Volunteering has a bonus impact on the health and wellbeing of communities, not only here, but worldwide,” he adds.
As he graduates this year, Ram, as co-grad class president, will be working hard to make sure that he and his fellow classmates have a memorable last year.
Come September, he’s set his sights on university and a business degree, but says his volunteer time will remain a top priority.
“Giving back is a family belief,” he says, and he plans to keep it up.