By Everett Martin
McGill proved to be a real force at this year’s annual Forces AVENIR gala on Oct. 26, with students winning awards in four of the five categories in which they were nominated. Forces AVENIR is an organization designed to “recognize, honour and promote the commitment of young people in projects which enrich knowledge, arouse the desire for success and for surpassing oneself, (and) encourage the development of community thinking.”
At the gala, 12 individuals and 21 projects from universities across Quebec received awards and grant money totaling $114,000. Here are McGill’s winners and finalists:
Undergraduate Personality AVENIR winner
McGill law student Simone Samuels launched Girls in Transition, a mentoring program for black Toronto teens, in addition to volunteering with various programs that promote the involvement of women in politics. Samuels also coordinates a chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society at McGill, while serving as the president of the University’s Black Law Student Association. She is also a Master Guide and mentor for young people in the Pathfinder organization. Samuels says she plans to parlay her law degree into an opportunity to “protect the most vulnerable members of society” while serving as “a role model for women and all those who come from modest backgrounds.”
Mutual Aid, Peace & Justice AVENIR Winner
Three sisters, Maria (BEng’04), Amena and Zareen (currently doing her undergraduate work in management) Ali, took a trip to India and returned home to Canada on a mission. Together, they created an organization called the Abhilasha Project to provide underprivileged children worldwide with educational opportunities. They took a number of measures to attract the university community including the establishment of one of their three chapters here at McGill. Their other efforts include strategic partnerships, fundraising campaigns, and 20- and 30-hour volunteer work programs that are integrated into university curriculum. The Ali sisters have taken their initiative back to India, raising over $40,000 to help disabled students at Abhilasha school, where the project was conceived.
Science and Technology AVENIR winner
Helping patients rehabilitate after a stroke was McGill medical student Justin Tan’s impetus for his virtual stroke recovery device. A project six years in the making, the glove helps patients recover hand mobility through exercises that are performed in the comfort of the home, but monitored by a computer. Not only can patients motivate themselves by following their progress on-screen, their doctors can also assess the results remotely to gauge the effectiveness of the treatments. Fully customizable via its own software, the virtual glove is also cost-effective, and could help lower medical costs by eliminating the need for some clinic or hospital visits. Tan has surrounded himself with other McGillians to create a truly multi-disciplinary team that is working to take the invention to market and getting it into the hands (or more accurately, onto the hands) of stroke victims worldwide.
Health AVENIR Winner
The joint McGill University and Université de Montreal project called Fiers et en forme (F&F) uses a series of innovative workshops to promote healthy body image for teenagers. The project focuses on male and female teens between 12 and 17, with an aim to educate them about the risks of poor body image, such as drug abuse, dangerous sexual practices and excessive dieting or exercising. The F&F program also received a $7,500 grant from the Canadian Paediatric Society, was presented at three conventions, and has been integrated into the project for the Quebec Charter for a Healthy and Diverse Body Image, which has reached 550 young people at three Montreal high schools and three youth centres in the past year.
Health AVENIR Finalist
McGill’s Bright Smiles team of Kristina Dee, Sarah Habib, Amanda Cristinziano and Joanna Lamberts was a finalist in the Health category. The project’s goal was to reduce the rate of tooth decay and other oral health issues in Quebec infants. The team developed the Bright Smiles awareness campaign that includes a pamphlet that is handed out to the mothers of newborns at hospitals affiliated with the McGill University Health Centre.
All Forces AVENIR Award finalists and winners can be found here: www.forcesavenir.qc.ca/universitaire/