A local high school student has been honoured for her outstanding commitment to a range of volunteering opportunities.
Poshika Dhingra, a Grade 12 student at Lindsay Thurber High School, has been described as a highly motivated and committed volunteer. She has recently landed two awards to her credit, including the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Citizenship Award and Scholarship which is administered by Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation of Markham, Ontario. At the regional level, she also received the Violet Richardson Award.
As a recipient of the Herbert Future Aces Citizenship Award, she was chosen from 60 young people from across Canada in recognition for her community service, humanitarianism and volunteerism.
And on Women’s International Day, she won the Violet Richardson Award from Soroptimist International of Central Alberta at a ceremony last month in Red Deer.
The Soroptimist Violet Richardson Award is a recognition program for young women ages 14 to 17 engaged in volunteer action within their communities or schools.
Dhingra, 17, is originally from India, settling into the Red Deer community early last year after living in Ontario for a time.
“It was mainly because my parents wanted me to have a better education here,” she explains of the move to Canada. It wasn’t without challenge, as her folks had to work very hard at several jobs as their degrees weren’t initially recognized in their new home.
But Dhingra describes her parents’ strong work ethic as a key motivating factor for her as well.
“They are role models for me – they were working so hard and I was inspired by that, and I wanted to do the same.”
The move to Red Deer came following a job opportunity for her mom, and as mentioned, it wasn’t long before Dhingra was well on her way in exploring how to connect with and help others in her new community. She knew she wanted to be involved at Lindsay Thurber in both leadership and volunteer capacities.
“I knew that I wanted to play a part and help the community and give back.”
But her love for helping others was sparked in her home country. Starting in Grade 8, at her school in India, she was put in charge of an anti rape rally where she led a group of 30 students at the local women’s shelter.
They talked with victims of sexual assault. “I think what changed me from that point was that they were so happy when they found out that they had our support,” she said, adding that many of the women had felt very alone in their plights, often estranged from their own families. “When they found out that they had us, they were so happy.”
It showed her that even taking relatively small steps towards helping others – offering a listening ear, for example – can wield a profound impact.
“I was assigned to this one woman, and she told me her whole story. She was so happy after that – and we are still in contact,” she said. “I made a difference in her life, and that small change was so meaningful to me.”
Today, she is an active member of Lindsay Thurber yearbook committee and the Leadership Program.
“I think leadership builds up your confidence, and it helps you make friends,” she explained. “I never felt like an outsider ever. And this school is amazing – it’s very diverse and it’s very accepting.”
Other examples of her work include the introduction and implementation of a school-wide clothing drive.
She landed the lead role in BUTT Ugly, the award-winning, anti-tobacco program, performing the drama in 15 middle schools across the province along with one-on-one peer mentoring to tackle the issue of female tobacco use as well.
She also gives of her time at the Red Deer Hospital as an emergency department assistant, visits dementia patients at a local long-term care facility, plus she spends full days coaching newly-immigrated families.
“I want to be a science journalist – I lean to the sciences, so I’ve tried to focus a lot of my volunteering on health care because that is my passion. So I volunteer at the hospital, at Canadian Blood Services, and the long-term care centre in Clearview.”
Spending time with those with dementia has been a particularly moving experience. “It’s an overwhelming experience every time,” she said. “It moves me from within – and sometimes they tell you that their families don’t visit them anymore.
“It makes me want to volunteer more there, because if some of their families aren’t visiting them I am able to visit and be their ‘family’. It helps bring a change to their lives and helps to make them so happy.
“Sometimes they don’t want you to leave – they will hold your hand and not want to let you go.”
Dhingra has also founded the organization ‘For Seniors, by Juniors’ where she conducted three health awareness campaigns on diabetes, arthritis and hypertension for the elderly.
All the while, she has earned honours with distinction from Grades 9 to 11.
Meanwhile, Dhingra is heading to the University of Alberta this fall to begin studies towards a bachelor of science with a specialization in physiology. Looking down the road, her goal is to help prevent drug abuse and to promote women’s empowerment in the international community.
“I like to be a leader – but not in the sense of bossing people around and telling them what to do,” she said with a laugh. “I like to work with people and help make things happen. I love to problem-solve and I love to face challenges and overcome them.”