Former Red Deer resident Poshika Dhingra was one of the eight Alberta recipients who received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Citizenship Medal in Edmonton July 25th for her volunteer efforts in the community.
“It was awesome, I was so excited,” said Dhingra about finding out she was one of the recipients.
The ceremony, hosted at Government House by Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, celebrated the citizenship and volunteer service of youth leaders from across Alberta.
“It was really nice being honoured and just meeting all of these famous people,” said the 18-year-old University of Alberta student, adding that the Minister of Culture and Tourism was there among others.
One student from every high school across the province is nominated by the principal, and everyone who’s nominated from their own high school gets a plaque. From those nominees, eight students are chosen to receive the medal.
Students who also received the medal that day were from Calgary, Sherwood Park and St. Albert.
Dhingra, originally from India, attended Lindsay Thurber High School when she moved to Red Deer two years ago with her family.
“Being in Red Deer was amazing and it was probably one of the best times of my life,” she said.
Dhingra’s volunteering efforts date back to Grade 8 when she was still in India.
She said she used to always look up to social activists, wanting to follow in their footsteps. She said she wanted to create that big difference they were making in society.
“I was put in charge of the seniors’ luncheon at my school,” she said. “At the end of it all, the seniors were so happy to just be with us, just because we were there with them, talking to them, and because we spent time with them. They felt so happy and they were so thankful, and I realized that you don’t have to always look at the bigger change, because if you keep taking smaller steps like this you would eventually contribute to the bigger change and that would make all the difference.”
Ever since then, Dhingra said she has tried to put in as many hours as she can to volunteering, and now has around 5,000 hours, which includes not only her school initiatives, but those outside of school too.
When in Red Deer, she was part of Butt Ugly, an anti-tobacco organization.
“There were about 12 students and we all prepared a play, and we performed it all across middle schools in Central Alberta, including Red Deer, and then after that we would have a one-on-one peer mentoring session with the youth and talk to them about the effects of using tobacco and what it can do to your body so that we could somehow prevent usage of tobacco in Alberta,” she said.
Dhingra was also involved with the student leadership body at Lindsay Thurber, and was part of holding a school-wide clothing drive to provide winter clothing for the Syrian refugees when they came to Canada.
And her volunteering efforts have continued, even with her move to Edmonton for university.
While in Edmonton, she organized fundraisers to go on a trip to Guatemala with an organization called Vida.
“There we visited rural communities in Guatemala and we set up mobile clinics, so the patients would come in and we would help diagnose what kind of diseases they had and prescribe free medicine to them, and then get all of our hypotheses validated by a professional doctor to make sure that we were doing the right thing,” she said.
Dhingra will be entering her second year at the University of Alberta come September, and is working towards her Bachelor of Science with honours in physiology.
What she loves most about volunteering, she said, is the feeling of giving back to the community.
“Most people think like, ‘Oh volunteering is giving back to the community,’ but I think it’s even more than that in the sense that it’s also giving back to yourself, because whenever I do something to help other people it honestly brings so much joy to me. I think that’s the reason I just keep going back to it.”