Kristal Underwood has taken a role in expanding local knowledge of her community among her peers on the Saanich Peninsula.
She grew up on the Tsawout First Nation and during her time at Bayside Middle School, earned a SENCOTEN language award for the hard work she demonstrated while learning the language of her traditional community.
“I have witnessed her growth and efforts given to her education,” said Philip Tom, Stelly’s Secondary education assistant. “[Her] peer leadership skills are beyond her age,” Tom said in his nomination letter. “She has experienced challenges and worked through them with dignity and respect.”
Underwood didn’t stop at middle school. When moving up to Stelly’s Secondary, she petitioned her peers to ask the school to teach the Saanich First Nation language (SENCOTEN) to students in Grades 9 to 12. She was successful and would later be asked to give a speech in the SENCOTEN language at the Strength of Woman conference at the University of Victoria.
A volunteer tutor of Grade 6 students, Underwood — who was only in Grade 8 at the time — offered her support twice a week. She has been involved in students leadership groups at Bayside and participated in anti-bullying programs that reported on how the student body from Bayside, Stelly’s, Parkland Secondary and North Saanich Middle School interacted with each other.
This year, Underwood is organizing her first two-day workshop on bullying prevention with Grade 6 to 8 students at Bayside.
“I feel Kristal should win a Hearts award because she has so much to offer to her community,” said Tabita Mark, one of her nominators. “She is a great inspiration to her peers and respected by our First Nation elders.”
Underwood said she believes in volunteering because of what she gets back in return.