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Local high school student recognized for unique spark

Front: Malia Johnston; back: Ann Quarterman

Malia Johnston, a local Grade 11 high school student who attends Seven Summits Centre for Learning (7S) in Rossland, has received a Jeff Stewart Memorial Award medal for showing a unique spark, creativity, and a pioneering spirit; demonstrating innovation and an ability to think independently and ‘outside the box,’ and being a trailblazer -- the qualities this award is designed to recognize.

“Thanks!  It was unexpected but I’m flattered!” said Malia in response to the news of her ‘surprise’ nomination and subsequent award win.  Described by 7S staff as “quick witted, funny, thoughtful and animated, a young woman with a penchant for local history, positive action and debating,” Malia is active in the local community and leads by example. 

A volunteer for the Gold Fever Follies, she also works for the Rossland Youth Action Network, and is a digital archive assistant at Rossland Museum.  She champions environmental issues and is a local LGBTQ pioneer.  “It’s good to know that standing out pays off!  ‘Being me’ is not going to stop any time soon!” she adds.

To mark the accomplishment, Ann Quarterman, who orchestrated the nomination before she left her role as 7S Operations Manager, returned to Seven Summits Centre for Learning to officially announce Malia’s accolade in front of family, friends and peers.  “When we heard about this new award in the Spring, Malia stood out as the obvious choice.  She truly embodies everything it stands for, from thinking outside the box to forging her own path and she has made us all better educators.  It has been amazing having you in my life, a true joy!”  On a parting note to the entire student body Ann added: “Never be afraid to be yourself!  Way to rock you guys!”

“Malia is a strong, independent soul who dances to her own beat. Her individuality has always been encouraged at 7S and it’s great that she is being officially recognised for who she is.  It’s well-deserved and we’re very proud of her!” stated Sheri Larsen, Malia’s mom.

“We were so impressed with all the nominations we received.  Kids across the province are doing really neat and incredible things!” said  Anna King, former chairperson of Navigate NIDES PAC.  Anna sat on the Awards Selection Committee and commissioned a hand-crafted pewter medal to be engraved and presented to Malia as a keepsake.  “The medal is going to be awesome, a real treasure!” she added. 

Designed to recognize trailblazing Navigate NIDES students who are really ‘going for it’ and have spirit, innovation as well as creativity, the new award is non academic in nature and embodies all the qualities which Jeff Stewart exemplified before he passed away last year. He worked in School District 71 for 15 years, was passionate about educational innovation, community, and collaboration, and as principal of NIDES (2011 – 2018) brought his visionary ideas and forward-thinking leadership to life.  Demonstrating what is possible when schools dare to challenge traditional conventions in public education, he successfully created the unique learning opportunities which enable students to find and follow their sparks in NIDES communities across British Columbia.

Sue McBride, president of the 7S Board, says: “Jeff Stewart was a true ‘Innovator of Education’. He looked at the diverse ways students learn and created programs and opportunities that built inclusiveness. Seven Summits Centre for Learnings success is a direct result of his vision for education through his leadership connecting youth, families, educators, and their communities.”

Contributed by Vivienne Hurley