For 15 years now, the Rotary Club of St. Thomas (Canada, District 6330) has been recognising local high schoolers who dedicate themselves to the organisation’s global mantra of Service Above Self.
During a presentation at the Wayside Dining Lounge on May 15, the club once again honoured local students — one from each of the four St Thomas high schools — with the E Frank Sanders Service Above Self Award.
The award is named in memory of Rotary Club of St Thomas charter president Frank Sanders.
This time around the club celebrated Emma Kebbel from from St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Devin Freeman from Arthur Voaden Secondary School, Nicholas Chabot from Parkside Collegiate Institute and Frances Santiago from Central Elgin Collegiate Institute.
Awards chair Paul Blower said the awards are given out twice a year, in the spring and fall, to not only honour Sanders’ memory, but to make sure the contributions of young people are recognised.
“Service Above Self is the motto of Rotary and we want to recognise that in young people so it becomes a model for other students, other people in the community, to follow,” Blower said.
“The stories we hear each time are really remarkable. This is in addition to whatever athletic prowess they might have, whatever academic prowess they might have, this is truly service above self to help others.”
The teachers from each of the high schools nominate students they wish to see recognised.
At the awards presentation, the winners are accompanied by those teachers, who will then indicate what the student has done to deserve the award.
Blower said he knows students today often have a lot on their plates between studying, extra-curricular opportunities and part-time jobs, and so their willingness to contribute to their community is something that deserves recognition.
“I don’t know how many might not be stepping up in their community, but from the examples we see, it is very much a part of these students and we see that in many others as well,” he said.
“We see young people providing service . . . so we’re happy to mark the importance of giving of one’s self over and above everything involved in being a student.”
For Kebbel, the idea of community service is something she credits with her upbringing.
Adding that it’s a great honour to be recognised “for what I feel is good in my community,” she said the Rotary motto is something she embraces whether it is volunteering at her community pool or for the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
“I feel it stems from my family values, the idea that it is always important to help others above yourself,” Kebbel said.
“There are always people who are suffering or have it worse than you do, so it is important to have compassion for what they are going through and do your part where you can.”