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Whitby student wins EDge Directory Scholarship using ScholarshipsCanada.com

EDge Interactive announced today that Vladimira Ivanov, a recent graduate of Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby, Ontario, has won the 2006 EDge Directory Scholarship. In her winning essay, Vladi describes her many contributions to her school and community through volunteer work and activism.

EDge started the scholarship in the fall of 2002 to reward students who are making Canada a better place to live. For every ScholarshipsCanada.com Directory 2006 sold to high schools and libraries across the country, a percentage of the sale was donated to the scholarship fund. Students entering their first year of study at an accredited post-secondary institution in Canada were eligible to apply. Over 120 applicants from all over the country sent in essays and applications for the scholarship.

In addition to being an extremely bright and articulate young woman, Vladi has already had a great effect on her community and school. She worked on projects such as the Model United Nations, Amnesty International youth group, 30-Hour Famine, and fundraising for the Stephen Lewis foundation that generated approximately $35,000.00 for that charity.

Beyond these activities, Vladi was instrumental in creating new and progressive opportunities for fighting homophobia in secondary schools. She fought tirelessly to establish the first Gay/Straight Alliance group in her school, which was also used as a model for creating similar groups across the Durham District School Board.

According to her high school English teacher Juliet Gladman, "Vladi not only has incredible gifts of perception and reasoning, but she puts these gifts to continual positive use. She has given Sinclair a legacy not only of growth in the areas of intellectual development and social activism, but also of ground-breaking support for human rights within the school walls."

In her letter of acceptance, Vladi thanked EDge "for the work you do to encourage community involvement and concern for social justice."

In recognition of her excellent work toward making Canada a better place by promoting social justice and equality, Vladi will receive a cheque for $550 from the EDge Directory Scholarship to help pay for her post-secondary education.

She is attending McGill University in Montreal, majoring in International Development Studies, with an eye to eventually pursuing further studies in Law.

In addition to the EDge Scholarship, Vladi also won the Grade 12 University-Level Literature Award at Sinclair and was on the Honour Roll for each of her four years there. As an active member of the Model United Nations Club, she represented the team in competition and won two awards - Best Delegate Award at the International Model United Nations Conference in Fort Erie, ON and Best Policy Paper Award at the Chaminade Model United Nations Conference in Toronto. She was awarded the OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation) Award by the union's local chapter, for academic achievement and community involvement. She also won the Whitby Optimist Club Youth Award for academic achievement and community involvement. Upon entrance to McGill Vladi was awarded the J.W. McConnell Scholarship for academic achievement and will receive $3,000.00 per year for all four years of her university studies.

EDge Interactive: EDge Interactive is a leader in creating and developing focused solutions for the educational community. Based in Toronto, Canada since 1995, EDge has enjoyed strong growth as a provider of information services and software solutions to clients across North America. EDge's products and services include e-Tours™, Interactive ViewBooks™, ezRecruit™, Web site design, consulting, e-mail marketing and recruitment services. EDge manages its own sites including: http://www.SchoolFinder.com, http://www.ScholarshipsCanada.com, and http://www.StudyinCanada.com.

EDge Directory Scholarship Essay

Applicant: Vladimira Ivanov

In the post-World War II era, Canada has developed a legacy of standing up for those who are marginalized, underprivileged and subjected to injustice. Canada has established itself as a respected global player by choosing mediation over conflict, human rights over violence, and humanitarianism over exploitation. It is by reaffirming this legacy, in the things I do in my community and the regard I show for the issues that face our larger (yet rapidly shrinking) global community that I have helped to make Canada an even better place - a place where people of all walks of life can feel accepted and respected, and a nation whose people can look beyond their borders to see that though we may be Canadian, living in a privileged country does not exempt us from our responsibilities as citizens of an often troubled world.

I have attended high school at Sinclair Secondary School in the suburban town of Whitby, Ontario since September of 2002. I found high school to be a place where my peers and I were gaining an increasing awareness of who we were as people and where we were to fit in a diverse and dynamic society. This process is often liberating, empowering and exciting, but can also be accompanied by anguish and confusion. It seemed to me that a predominance of the latter was a common fate of those of my peers who discovered in the course of their high school career that they were gay, lesbian or bisexual - and had the courage to identify as such. In a time when many of them were pained by the confusing discovery that they did not fit into the status quo with which most of them and their peers had been raised, they had the added misfortune of being ridiculed and rejected.

In the past couple of decades, Canadian society has gradually become more tolerant of the concept of homosexuality, and has made much progress in protecting the rights of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Pierre Trudeau's famous declaration that the state had no place in the bedrooms of the nation was a pivotal point in this progress. By the time I was in high school, Parliament was deliberating on granting same-sex couples their right to marry and have the same privileges as heterosexual spouses in the eyes of the law. It seemed to me incongruous that at a time when Canadian society as a whole was awakening to its responsibility to be inclusive and just, most high schools should continue to be the breeding grounds of a knee-jerkingly homophobic mentality.

For this reason, I decided to write a formal proposal to my school's administration. In this proposal, I suggested that in light of the hardship faced by gay, lesbian and bisexual students and the prevailing atmosphere of hostility towards them, a student group should be established in the school which would be open to all students and would focus on discussion and awareness, and would be the first action taken by administration to show support for GLBT students. To start a group, students need a teacher advisor and approval from administration. I approached my English literature teacher, Julie Gladman, with the proposal, and with her support I arranged a meeting with my principal.

The multiple personal meetings I had with the principal in the following months were less than encouraging. Whitby is a conservative community, he told me, and the backlash from parents would put him in an impossible position. The increased visibility of gay students that would arise from the creation of the group would make them even more vulnerable to verbal or even physical harassment, and he did not want this responsibility on his hands. To me, it seemed that the intolerance of our community as a whole and the threat of homophobic acts by the student body made such a group even more needed. Also, the principal believed that many parents might say that high school students are too young for such a group to be established in their midst. Strange, I thought - they've proved themselves not too young to harass or intimidate gay students, and not too young to become aware that they themselves may be homosexual. The principal and I could not seem to see eye-to-eye.

When my negotiations with the Sinclair's principal had reached a stalemate, Ms. Gladman took my proposal to her union. It was thanks to their steadfast support and courage that this story ends in success. They took the proposal directly to the Durham District School Board, the jurisdiction within which Sinclair S.S. falls, and presented the case for the creation of a group focussing on the issues surrounding homosexuality in high schools. The Board approved the proposal.

In September 2005, Sinclair Secondary School established its first Gay/Straight Alliance, along with multiple other high schools in the Durham District School Board. I am proud to count myself among its members - and among the Canadians striving to make our country a better, more inclusive and accepting place.

The 2005-2006 school year has been a very fulfilling and memorable one for other reasons as well. Various groups within our school have allied to raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which works to help those affected by AIDS in Africa. Through various fundraising drives, including a walk on our school grounds, Sinclair raised $35,000.00 for the Foundation, more than three times our original goal of $10,000.00. In early May, in conjunction with Sinclair's Model United Nations conference (SiMUN), Stephen Lewis, UN Envoy to AIDS in Africa, came to give a talk at our school, where we presented him with the money we had raised throughout the year. To me, he exemplifies what it means to make Canada a better country - using our privilege and political sway to help those who are most vulnerable, those not always seen or considered. To Stephen Lewis, they include the millions of AIDS orphans in Africa, the young women and children infected with HIV through no fault of their own, and grandmothers struggling to raise the children left behind their dead sons and daughters. I am proud to say that I took part in his work by participating in, organizing and raising awareness for our fundraiser, and making Canada a better, more globally aware nation.

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