“My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent.”- Tommy Douglas

In 150 years, Canada has worked immensely to make it’s mark on the world and continue to be in the forefront of leadership and progression. There’s been so many defining moments within these past 150 years that call for celebration, reflection and thanks.

There’s been times that call for protest, such as Alberta’s own Famous 5 who initiated the Persons Case of 1929, that declared women as persons within Canada’s constitution. To unforgettable, devastating and regretful actions of the Indian Act and Residential Schools that still live with so many communities, families and individuals to this day. There’s been feelings of gratitude, as Canada’s involvement with the Second World War resulted in more than 43,000 Canadian soldiers killed, and roughly a million serving in the armed forces full-time. To monumental strides made when Tommy Douglas introduced universal healthcare. All of the good and the bad of the past 150 years has brought us here today, and to say that we’re perfect is naive. Canada is a huge work in progress, but I am so proud of how far we’ve come.

More than approximately 250,000 people immigrate to Canada per year! How unbelievable is that?! When these new Canadians come to our country, they are met with open arms encouraging their culture. Canada truly is a nation full of nations. You can experience so many different cultures, it feels as if you’ve traveled around the world and back. This is something I am so unbelievably thankful I get to experience. Among the resilient Canadians that brave every kind of weather condition, we are a blessed country with magnificent lakes, rivers, and mountains. And when you’re bored of the hiking and river rafting, you can head on over to our coast for some ocean views.

On July 1st, I had the privilege of being in Airdrie’s Canada Day Parade and kicking off Canada’s birthday at Stephen’s Backpacks barbecue. It was such an honor to speak, dance and donate to a charity I hold so close to my heart. I was able to donate $150.00 to this incredible family through RBC for RBC’s Make 150 Count campaign! This was such an awesome opportunity that meant so much to me. I was so excited to present this to them and can’t wait to make some backpacks for some truly deserving individuals in the future. Speaking of dancing, I tried river-dancing with Tamara, Miss Southern Canada Globe! I gave it my best go, but I gotta say it’s not quite for me. So many cultures were celebrated on this day. I believe that’s the essence of Canada and truly represents the people of our country. Anyone can be a Canadian. No matter your size, color, sexual orientation, how you identify or your faith. Your uniqueness is celebrated.

I am Canadian. I am made of Tim Horton’s iced caps, and spend most of my winters in a hockey arena no matter how hard I try not to. I never realized how many times I say ‘sorry’ until I entered the USA, and I definitely say ‘eh’ even though I deny it. I love maple syrup on everything including spaghetti (yes, I had to try it..just call me Buddy the Elf.) And much like the North Pole, I am wearing a tuque and scarf more times than not. This is Canada, and I couldn’t be any prouder to say this is my home.

 

 

Written by: Mackenzie
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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”

I have seen endless articles on how to find yourself the winning dress, get the perfect swimsuit body, and compose yourself for that nerve wracking final, on-stage question. Although these aspects of a pageant competition demonstrates the grace, confidence, and lifestyle of a contestant, I believe what truly makes a winner is not a crown, but the lessons they learned along the way. These are my winning lessons.

 

 Be Grateful, Thankful and Appreciative

Before everything else, be thankful. When you start your day with an open heart, the opportunities are endless. Remind yourself of the people that helped sculpt you into the wonderful young woman you are presenting on stage that evening. From friends, family, and sponsors, give thanks to them, always. Without those individuals, you surely wouldn’t be the same person. Create those connections and give back that unconditional love when you can.

Be Determined

No queen gives up on their first try. No queen became a queen with failing a few times. That failure doesn’t define who we are, but tests how we combat it. Things won’t always go the way you intended them to, but that by no means defines the outcome for you. Keep your faith alive, and work hard for whatever it is you believe in. That passion will open doors for you, never lose that.

Be Ambitious

I am a huge believer that there is nothing you cannot accomplish. Reach for your big, hairy, out of this world, dreams. The saddest thing one can do is never try. Looking back on my experiences, I gave up a lot to be able to achieve the goals I wanted. Although these sacrifices limited my ability to have the typical “teenage experience,” I had an extraordinary experience on my own. Because I was chasing after my dreams, none of the small stuff I was missing out on mattered and in the end I can look back and feel accomplished. Go big, go hard, and go at 110% at something you want to achieve.

Be Yourself!

And all of this brings us here, to who you are. When you spend your reign discovering who you are through going to events, meeting new people, and having unique experience, going into a national competition you will feel comfortable with who you are and the person you are proudly showcasing on stage. That confidence exudes out of you and creates a feeling for everyone to enjoy. So be that goofy, loving, bubbly, and beautiful young woman you are. Either way, you leave a winner. Whether that symbol of success be a crown and sash, or friendships and new memories, never discredit who you are and what you achieved.

We all win in the end.

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

 

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“Pain is real, but so is hope.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association is not only a nationwide resource I personally found comfort in when I was in the depths of my mental illness, but an organization that has shaped the mental health community in Canada since 1917.  With 33,759 hours of volunteer work, 710 families and individuals that are provided housing, 100 programs that are in place to meet a communities needs, and 310 staff that work around the clock to provide us with these programs and supports for our community, (source)  the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) has shown remarkable efforts regarding mental health care within Canada.

I had the great pleasure of speaking at one of the amazing conferences that the CMHA puts on annually. I was met with so many different organizations, mental health professionals, others that personally lived with mental health challenges and an abundance of supports at the #NowWeAreStronger Conference this past May. Connecting with the CMHA has been a tremendous goal of mine for several years, and to finally have the opportunity to not only chat with the executive director, but as well as share my journey through bullying and mental illness to a crowd filled with so many undeniably intelligent and supportive individuals was so unreal!

That’s the thing about mental illness— no matter who you are, how much you have or how successful you become, they do not discriminate. Anyone can be living with one.” -Excerpt from my speech at the #NowWeAreStronger Conference

After finishing up my speech and chatting with a few guests, I was able to make my way to one of the workshops going on that afternoon! I attended the Suicide Post-vention workshop. I walked out of that room with a new understanding on both a clinical side and personal side of preventing suicide after a suicide attempt/losing a loved one to suicide. When someone takes their life or attempts to take their life, we often focus so much on the individual themselves and forget to take a look at the people surrounding said person. It is often that the ones that were once part of that individuals safety net are vulnerable to experiencing these challenges themselves. This workshop educated not only myself, but professionals in how to best support the outer layer of people that are hit by the ripple effect of suicide. If you are ever given an opportunity to attend one of these workshops/conferences please take it! You are given so many valuable tools that aren’t often taught on an everyday basis (but definitely should be!)

By having shameless conversations about hard topics such as suicide, bullying and mental illness, we are combating the stigma that jeopardizes so many’s recovery. Many are scared of having these conversations due to the repercussions that may come about. However, I left not feeling triggered or influenced to engage in negative thoughts or actions, but rather educated and better equipped to talk to my peers who may be struggling and point them in the direction of the endless amount of resources that are provided by the CMHA of Alberta. There is so much we can do to combat this stigma and support the people around us. From taking the time to learn about mental illness’s, breaking down those stereotypes the media often encourages, and changing our attitude and behavior. I believe these are all steps to creating positive, educating and important talks surrounding one’s mental well-being.

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

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“One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time.”

This past week, I had the great honour of attending the Airdrie, Volunteer of the Year Awards. This is a night that our community comes together and acknowledges the hard working volunteers all around our city, and celebrate them and their contributions. Airdrie is known for being a community that is run on volunteers. From charity events to helping a family get back on their feet, the compassion that exudes out of the homes of these citizens is extraordinary. I always talk about how blessed I am to live in a place such as Airdrie, and thats because this city embodies what it means to be an Albertan. When the Fort McMurray fires devastated our province, Airdrie stepped up and was ready to provide housing, supplies and funds when needed. When approaching businesses to help sponsor a pancake breakfast I, and a fellow pageant sister Kali were organizing to raise money for the Red Cross, many local Airdrie businesses were out of supplies to donate due to the fact they had already donated it all to Fort McMurray. It is at times like the fires, that a community’s values shine through. Airdrie over and over again has stepped up and been a leader for communities all over Alberta, and it’s success and leadership is all thanks to the wonderful volunteers.

Last year, I was awarded the Leader of Tomorrow award for my volunteer work over the past 4 1/2 years. As a volunteer, you often don’t expect anyone to acknowledge this work. Volunteering is a selfless act that doesn’t require recognition. When my name was called as the winner, it was astonishing and a moment I will cherish forever. It is an unbelievable feeling to have your city stand behind you and the work you do. This year, a very deserving man named Ryland Kruk was given this special award. He started from shovelling driveways at a young age, to now being a member of the Airdrie Air Cadets and volunteering at the Hanger Flight Museum, selling poppies at the Legion, and helping out at the Airdrie Food Bank. Ryland has demonstrated the volunteer ethic that Airdrie thrives on. I am so incredibly happy for him and can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next!

Although this was a day filled with happiness and recognition to so many deserving people, it was also a day we lost a spearhead for volunteering in our city. Jim McPhee was an unbelievable community member. Before ending his battle with cancer, Jim along with his beautiful family accomplished so much in so many different ways, it would be impossible to list everything they’ve done. I admire the McPhee family and am honoured to continue my volunteering with Stephen’s Backpacks this summer. The legacy Jim left with us will always keep our community flourishing, and reminding us to always go beyond ourselves.

Just when I believe that this city can’t impress me anymore, it does. The power that can come about when several people stick their heads together and create change is so inspiring. I am so excited for my next volunteer adventure after such an incredible night!

Thank you to all those that continue to give and give to Airdrie. You are all so cherished in our city and your hard work does not go unnoticed. Lets continue to show Alberta, and Canada just how remarkable our city is!

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

 

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“But in telling the truth, you choose among many true stories which true story to tell.” -John Green in ‘Framing’

After taking a little break from social media after the holidays, I found myself starting my Monday morning, for a lack of better words—unmotivated and uninspired. Dragging myself out of bed and into the shower that day was such a chore. These feeling continued from that morning until this very moment when I watched this video. In this discussion, John Green opens the conversation on the person we portray on our Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram, etc, versus the person we are in real life, and ties this all in with our mental health.

I could’ve started this blog out by saying I had the most beautiful Easter break! Described my hiking adventures, the new classes I tried with Oranj Fitness in preparation for Miss Teenage Canada, or the delicious meals I ate and cooked over Easter with family. I very well could’ve told you those stories, and even though its all true, it’s not the pretty story I’m deciding to share tonight. Those stories are my highlight reel. In actuality, I spent this week and a half taking care of myself with some self love. I redecorated my room, applied for a job, did laundry, homework, and binge-watched some Netflix. Although these things may not be ‘like’ worthy, they were what I needed for my mental health at this time.

It’s interesting to me how we can look an individual’s social media feed and automatically dissect who they are. If you looked at my Instagram, you wouldn’t know that in grade 7 I dyed my hair blue. Take a peek at my Facebook, there’s no tell tale signs that I ever played guitar. Wanna stalk my Twitter? You’d have no idea that I live with a mental illness everyday. We look and peer onto others social media like it’s their world, like we know them personally. When really, there’s so many qualities about another person that you cannot pick up on social media unless they allow you to.

Having the ability to peer into someone’s online world, judge it and completely dehumanize an individual thus leads to the cyber-bullying phenomenon that so many are struggling with currently. From comparing ourselves to our fellow Instagrammers (guilty,) to now spewing insults without the fear of repercussions, the online world can be a scary and harmful place.

Among all the negativity on the internet, there’s so much love and support when you really dig deep. With Instagram accounts like my personal favs @selfcaresunday, and @omgkenzieee you can combat those urges to compare your beautiful self next to another and be reminded on an app you look at everyday that you are so worthy, even at your messy bun, sweat pants and no makeup moments.

Take a breath, keep hydrated, do the not so snapchat worthy chores like laundry on your Easter break, and remember that you can admire someone else’s beauty without ever questioning your own.

From your perfectly—imperfect, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

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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

 

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