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Yukon youth recognized for their efforts

Outstanding Youth Achievement Awards announced
Vanessa Oliverio is one of four local youth being recognized for their contributions to the territory. (Submitted)

Four local youth are being recognized for their contributions to the territory.

On Aug. 19, the Yukon government announced the 2020 recipients for the Outstanding Youth Achievement Award are Vanessa Oliverio, Judy Russell, Taylor Shorty and Max Zimmerman.

The annual award goes to youth between the ages of 15 and 20 in the territory “who enrich their communities, themselves and others through constructive contributions. Recipients have demonstrated a passion for volunteering, fundraising, helping seniors and Elders, and acting as positive role models and ambassadors for their communities.”

Each recipient receives $250 cash from the territory’s Youth Directorate along with a certificate and medallion of recognition from the Commissioner of the Yukon. Winners are also featured on posters in their community.

“I am so honoured to be a part of this great program that recognizes the achievements and successes of so many wonderful youth from across Yukon. I look forward to seeing what these youth will do in the future,” Commissioner of Yukon Angélique Bernard said.

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee also stated her congratulations to the four recipients.

“Yukon youth are truly amazing. Their hard work and dedication impacts Yukon communities in such positive ways and they inspire us all to give back to our communities,” she said.

The 2020 recipients are recognized for efforts that have contributed to the sporting community, environmental initiatives, helping out others in their hometown and schools and taking the lead on social justice issues.

Oliverio, 18, is recognized for “her devotion to the youth and community of Dawson.”

A junior volunteer firefighter, Oliverio is well-known in the community for promoting fire safety to youth and adults as well as being an advocate for action on climate change, Indigenous rights and youth engagement.

Among recent efforts, Oliverio organized a youth trip to Old Crow she’s documented with a photo book and also volunteers with the Students Commission of Canada in promoting issues such as mental health and climate change in addition to her firefighting work.

She’s also won a number of photo competitions.

Russell, 17, who graduated from Vanier Catholic Secondary School in June, is recognized as a leader and role model at her former school and in the sports community.

At Vanier, Russell was a peer tutor in a number of subjects, learned to play five instruments and mentored younger students to become more confident in their own musical abilities.

As a wrestler, Russell has also competed for Team Yukon and brought home medals from the Arctic Winter Games, Western Canada Summer Games and the Inuit Games. When she couldn’t compete for a season due to an injury, Russell spent time earning her Coaching Level 1 and has encouraged younger wrestlers in the sport.

Shorty, 16, is also being recognized for his contributions to the sporting community and his hometown of Faro.

Shorty represented the territory at the Western Canada Summer Games as a golfer and has volunteered teaching the sport at the Faro Golf Course.

His volunteer work has also extended to helping out at community events and made him a mentor and role model for others.

Among his community efforts, when COVID-19 began impacting the territory, Shorty taught snowmobile safety to youth who could help in running errands and helping out in other ways.

“Taylor’s contributions to sport, community engagement and youth programming help make Faro a better place for its youth and other community members,” it was noted in a statement.

Zimmerman, 16, has volunteered as a basketball coach and is a member of the F.H. Collins Secondary School social justice club.

Among his efforts, Zimmerman has been involved in a project installing receptacles at Yukon lakes for discarded fishing lines.

Through the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office, Zimmerman also hosts a youth video series focused on the voices of local youth.

“Max is an outstanding role model for his peers and youth in Whitehorse, encouraging them to participate in an active lifestyle and teaching them the importance of giving to others,” it’s noted.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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