On April 9th, 1917 at 5:30am, the Battle of Vimy Ridge began. This was the first time ever that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought alongside together. In the week leading up to the battle, soldiers spent day in and day out within the trenches of Vimy Ridge protecting not only Canada, but a community of individuals that deserve rights and freedoms just as we do. As the Canadian’s successfully seized Vimy Ridge from the German army, many attribute this victory to the defining moment in which we became Canadians. Our national identity was built that very day. This historical moment however, came with the cost of 3,598 Canadian lives. This is not just a number that will be recorded in history textbooks—it’s a number that reflects someones son, brother, father, uncle or friend.

On April 8th, 2017 I had the honor of attending Airdrie’s own commemoration for the Battle of Vimy Ridge and reflect on the 3,598 lives taken, the 11,285 that were never found, and the total of  100,000 Canadian men who served. Bill Drummond, a special guest and speaker at the commemoration described the importance of remembering our Canadian history.

“I feel we’re not giving our children as much historical evidence as I had as a young man in high school.  If we don’t teach the kids about history, then we’ll make the same mistakes again, and God forbid we should do that.” (source)

Standing alongside Nikaela Barton, candidate for the new Mayor of Airdrie, I noticed thelack of youth in attendance on such a historical day. A heartbreaking moment of reflection for myself, as my generation represents the legacy of these veterans and the future that is now in our hands. Remembering and honoring those who gave us the gift of freedom in our country is much more than just reading a textbook in class. We must continue to make strides in our personal life to recognize these sacrifices made for us. Member of Parliament, Blake Richards stated in his speech the haunting statistics of Canadian youth that didn’t know about the significance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In my own research, I’ve discovered that a shocking 82% of Canadians (ages 18-24) failed a basic Canadian history exam.  Now, I’m no where near a historian of Canada but as I grow, I continue to learn about the importance of acknowledging and educating myself on the moments in Canadian history that have brought my family and myself to this very point.

“I became a Canadian on Vimy Ridge. (…) We became a nation there in the eyes of the world. It cut across French and English, rich and poor, urban and rural. Vimy Ridge confirmed that we were as good as, if not better than, any European power.” -Reginald Roy, WW1 Veteran.

As I soon head back to my school day, I would like to thank all those that served and those that gave the ultimate sacrifice so I could be here in my classroom learning today. I know one day when I have children, that I will never allow them to forget the lives that were given and the soldiers that were impacted in order for them to be Canadian. Today like most days, I am proud to call myself a Canadian.

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

 

Written by: Mackenzie
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Did you know, 1 in 5 Canadians have a mental illness and/or struggle with an addiction? What’s shocking, is that Canadians between the ages of 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance abuse than any other age group. (source) We use statistics to graph the impact mental illness and addiction has on our community. However, these numbers do not even amount to the inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking stories these 1 in 5 have to share. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be included in an event that showcased these stories of struggle and triumph, and even share my own.

Mike Loughman, an Airdrie local who has lived through both mental illness and addiction created ‘Surrender 2 Sobriety.’ This organization is unique in that it reaches out to youth in the community in hopes to spread the message of responsible drinking habits. As I turn 18 in a few months, introducing myself and my peers to the idea that you can have a blast sober is so important to ensure that we all grow up with these healthy habits and mindsets.

Alongside Mike, Ryan Gudwer created and hosted the event ‘Sober Takeover.’ From poetry, to speakers, to DJ’s, this night was an upbeat time with so many influential people. I had the honour of sharing my experience with mental illness to this incredible crowd, and the support and love I received after was unbelievable! These are individuals that on a typical Saturday night, you wouldn’t have the chance to speak with— let alone about the stories that were kind enough to share with me.

“The story I want to tell you today isn’t about my success, it’s rather about my failures. (..) To anyone sitting here that feels like they are less than who they are because they relapsed or because they didn’t achieve their goals the first time, I want to let you know that you are worthy. You’re still here, you’re still trying and that’s all that matters.” -Excerpt from my speech at Sober Takeover

We often attached these prejudgments and stereotypes to individuals who have lived with and through mental illness or addictions. I’ve experienced this firsthand from my peers, teachers, and employers after sharing my mental illness publically for the first time. Words like ‘crazy,’ ‘dysfunctional,’ and ‘unpredictable’ often came up. But, these words, illnesses or past addictions do not define someone as a whole. For me, I looked at my illness and decided—after lots of therapy and seeking professional help, that it was not going to limit my abilities. It is because of Borderline Personality Disorder that my passion as an activist is unwavering. When I’m happy, I am genuinely happy. I never feel anything half-way. But, do not be mistaken, living with a mental illness is hard and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. However, I spent years wishing that I could become someone else. I hoped that one day I would have a ‘normal’ mind—whatever that was. But hating myself and an illness I couldn’t change didn’t solve anything. Once I was at a healthy point in my recovery, I found the strengths that this illness could possibly give me and learned to love and cherish those qualities.

I may not be able to relate or truly understand what it’s like to live with an addiction, but I know what it feels like to feel trapped. It’s scary and sometimes seems lonely. But the wonderful part about living in a community is that you have supports and resources all around you. Some days, we’re so blinded by pessimistic thoughts that we cannot truly grasp the kind of love that surrounds us from every direction. But, it’s always there. It’s demonstrated in your family, your friends, your councillors, therapists, school, work, and even in individuals like Mike and Ryan that take the time to create initiatives to open your eyes to these avenues of support.

I applaud these two, and everyone who was involved in this event. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me the opportunity to be involved in such a wonderful night.

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter simply by clicking the cute little icons in my description box to the right! Make sure to comment or email me if you have any questions or comments.

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

Written by: Mackenzie
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“Never underestimate the power of a woman.”  -Nellie McClung

These words have never been more true since I, alongside so many intelligent and passionate young women who were crowned at Miss Teenage Alberta 2017. I am incredibly honoured to have been selected to represent Western Alberta, and beyond excited to get started with this job! Representing my province really is a privilege that I do not take for granted. I’m quite shocked to say the least! I intend to share with all of you the beauty within Alberta that I have the pleasure of experiencing everyday. However, before I get into what life is like in Canada’s wild west, how about I share a little bit about myself?

My name is Mackenzie! Aside from being your new Miss Teenage Western Alberta, I am a highschool student, passionate advocate, motivational speaker, and a goofy and adventurous 17 year old from Airdrie, Alberta. I absolutely love learning! Although waking up for school in the morning is typically a battle within itself, once I am in the classroom learning—especially if I am in Social Studies class, I am all ears. I credit my excellence in Social class to spending the past 4 years being closely involved in local politics after I began advocating for anti-bullying, and working to provide accessible mental health resources in Alberta. Being an advocate and motivational speaker is not just a hobby of mine, it’s my life.

Photo credit: Joseph Leung

After struggling with bullying for several years in elementary and middle school, I hit a breaking point. In December of 2012, I attempted to take my life. Although this was a dark moment in my life, it gave me the motivation and drive to look beyond myself and take my cause into my community. I approached Airdrie’s City Council about an anti-bullying bylaw, and after 8 long and hard months of working with the community to ensure this bylaw would benefit a variety of people in our city, it was passed! Ever since, I have been a vocal advocate, sharing my story of failure and triumph on an international scale. I’ve spoken at Pink Shirt Day events for several years across Alberta, schools, and even Alberta’s own WeDay! Which funny enough, is the same organization (Free The Children) I will be raising money for in the months to come in preparation for Miss Teenage Canada 2017 this August.

 

Having the opportunity to compete for the chance to represent Canada internationally is a dream come true. I am extremely patriotic when it comes to my country and will always stand behind it and for the individuals that have served to make Canada the wonderful place it is today. Kim Campbell said it best when she explained that Canada is the homeland of equality, justice and tolerance. I believe a responsibility that comes with the honour of being crowned Miss Teenage Canada, is representing something larger than yourself. Miss Teenage Canada represents the powerful young women that reside here. Being apart of this pageant is much more than being given a crown. You are given an unbelievable opportunity to fundraise for an incredible cause, meet girls that have made impressive strides to better their communities, and showcase to the world what it means to be a Canadian from all walks of life. And may I add what a perfect year to be crowned Miss Teenage Canada as it’s Canada’s 150th birthday!

I have already gotten started with my preparation for the big send off to Toronto on August 7th! I’ve been taking advantage of Alberta’s beautiful rocky mountains by participating in hikes all around Banff to clear my mind and maintain a healthy lifestyle among all the chaos of balancing school, pageant duties and this crazy ol’ teenage life. As overwhelming as it seems when I look at everything at once, after you break it down and take it one step at a time it’s quite easy to manage! I’m extremely excited to get out into my community this April as I attend my first of many appearances this year. On April 1st, you’ll be seeing me at Airdrie’s Just For Her! trade show supporting local women in our community. Aside from appearances, I’ll be spending my days planning my fundraisers for Free the Children! I absolutely love fundraising and feel that fundraising is an example of one’s determination and dedication to their community. In May of 2016, 72 hours after the tragic forest fires in Fort McMurray began, I alongside a friend of mine and fellow pageant sister hosted a pancake breakfast in support of the Alberta Red Cross. We ended up raising $10,000.00 for the Red Cross in just 3 hours!! My first ever fundraiser was a huge success and supported an incredibly deserving community that has been the heart of Alberta for many years. Being apart of the Free the Children family for just over 4 years now, attending WeDay every year since 2013 and even having the opportunity to appear on stage in Toronto and Alberta, I’ve learned so much about the work they do and aspire to head off on a Free the Children trip in the upcoming years to take my support to the next level. For now, I’ll be devoting my time to this organization and raise funds to support their mission.

I am extremely honoured and excited to be your Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017. This year will be nothing short of amazing. Thank you to all those who helped make this possible. From my family, friends, supporters and my sponsors Davis Chevrolet GMC Buick LTD, AirdrieHassett & Reid LLPFiander Marr Chartered Professional Accountants, Bronze Baxx Tanning, and Photography by Courtney Borgford, you all are the reason I am able to partake in such unbelievable experiences like this one. I hope to make you all proud as I begin my journey to become Miss Teenage Canada.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter simply by clicking the links in my bio to get updates on all my latest activities and newest blog posts!

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

Written by: Mackenzie
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Hello.

With my recent travels I’ve had plenty of time on planes and long car rides to think.

It got me thinking about how much I have changed and what has molded me into who I am today. Due to the fact that I have personally been bullied a lot in my life and have watched others going through the same struggles, I have decided that this must come to an end.

I love motivating people and doing anything I can to help others.If everyone took a minute every day to think about what they are doing and what kind of out come it may create…. just think about how much our world would change.

We are constantly told we live in a society with a fake and unrealistic expectation of beauty or more open-ended we live in a hateful society, how we can’t help how much it has changed, when we ARE society! We can change the perspective of “today’s society”.

Most importantly at the age I find myself, a teenager, we revolve around social media looking for the attention we crave to feel like we have meaning when we could be out talking to different people and trying new things to fill the emptiness inside us. When personally I believe we should be living life to the fullest finding our OWN ways to fill our “empty holes”

 

Written by: Stacey
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Hello everyone, sorry it had been a while, i have been quite busy but non the less I’m back.

Last week I had done a 30 hour fast at my school, therefor i didn’t eat for 30 hours to show my support for free the children with a bunch off others from my school. It was a blast although the experience of not eating was hard i had made it threw and learned how some children around the world have to live.

It has inspired me and one day i hope for hunger to no longer exist in our world, everyone deserves the necessity and food is one of them.

 

Written by: Stacey
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