Sharon Peabody photo/SJHS

SJHS Student wins YMCA Peacemaker Award

by Maureen Desmond - Friday, November 22, 2013

"It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it" - Eleanor Roosevelt

Julia Loparco, one of Saint John High School's grade 12 students, was presented by the YMCA-YWCA with a very special award this morning at the annual Peace Breakfast. She received the Youth Peacemaker Award. This award is given to a young person who has demonstrated a committment to peace through special contributions made within locally, nationally and/or globally.

During her tenure at SJHS, Julia has been very involved in numerous activities, including Club Hope, TADD and Beyond the Hurt. Each of these groups contribute to the betterment of society and the world.

We are very proud of Julia. Congratulations!!!!

Below is Julia's speech.

Good morning and thank you so much for coming. I have to tell you that I am feeling so anxious right now. Just imagine yourself at 17 and having someone call and tell you that you're winning an award that you don't really feel you deserve. Please don't misunderstand me. It is not that I think I am the worst person ever, but neither do I think I am the best. I didn't pull someone out of a burning building or mediate a truce between rival gangs. I have just been busy living my life the way my family taught me. I am the daughter and granddaughter of people who have built their lives around helping others. I know for a fact that I wouldn't be standing here today if it weren't for the example set by my mother Sue, and by my grandfather Walter Ellis.

My mother showed me at a very early age that helping others is a joy, not a burden. For example, when I was 3, and learned how to skate, my mom was already a learn to skate coach. Although I don't specifically remember her coaching me, but I do remember her coaching the other little kids though. And now, 14 years later, she's still doing it, still smiling. I especially like watching her work with the skaters with special needs, because I know she finds joy through that.

For the purpose of this next story, I'm going to call this kid Jeff to protect his privacy. Now Jeff is developmentally delayed and has problems with his speech. His family has very little money, with no access to transportation. A few years ago when Jeff came to Saint John High, my mom wanted him to get involved, so when spring rolled around and he wanted to be part of the rugby team, every Sunday my mom, and often me too would pick up Jeff and take him to the boys rugby practice where he soon became their team manager. After a long season filled with Sunday adventures, Jeff's speech improved a lot and he was the happiest kid around. My mom didn't do this just as means of transportation for Jeff, but simply because it made her happy to see that he was helping others too.

My mother came by her generosity honestly. Her father, my grandfather was a track coach in Saint John for 30 years, all the while battling kidney disease. He would go from dialysis straight to the track. He would coach not only his own athletes, but also anybody wanting to learn. He would coach literally everyone, no matter where they come from, whether it be a different school, or even province, no matter what their financial background be, and he would take them under his wing.

My grandfather was my mom's hero, and my mom is my hero. My accomplishments are not those of a hero, but ones that come from doing what I enjoy. When I am lucky enough to succeed in doing the right thing, I do it because it just feels like the best thing to do. I try to help my friends and people in my community because it feels good to see my efforts make someone else's life a little better.

But to be completely honest with you, sometimes I don't think I belong in our wonderful community. Although there are many people in need, sometimes it feels like most people are preoccupied with making their smart phones sync up with their laptops and making that sync up with their busy lives. In the future I would like to make a difference that I can see. I would like to work in the developing world to help people with problems that I can relate to and that I can help resolve.

Last summer I went to Kenya and met people who need help with real issues and who have their focus on perspectives and points of view that I can relate to completely. Safety, health, food, friends, and family. Then way down the list comes everything else.

I'll never forget Sharon, she's 13, and in grade 8. I met her while I was in Kenya and I got to ask her about her life, and what a day is like for her. She wakes up at 4:30 and walks to school to get there for 6:30. She is in school until 6:30 that evening, hard all day to try and get into high school. After school, she has to walk home alone in the dark and she doesn't get home until 8:30, 9 o'clock. Once she gets home she has to help her mother with all the family chores including helping make food for the family, fetching firewood, and doing the laundry. To top it all off after that she needs to do her homework. She doesn't get much sleep, and she has to do it all over again the next day.

How can I not want to help people like Sharon have a better life when they demonstrate true courage and character everyday that I am in awe of.

So thanks again for this award. I know there are people much more deserving of it than me, but I am glad It gave me the opportunity to thank and appreciate the YMCA, my parents, my grandparents, Sharon, and all the brave souls that get up before everyone else, go to bed after everyone else and live to make the world a better place. For me, I'm just going to keep doing the things I've been doing and hope that one day I will make you proud and earn this wonderful recognition. Thank you all again, and have a wonderful day.

csc_0716.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0656.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0669.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0670.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0679.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0689.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0695.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0699.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013

dsc_0704.jpg - Taken by Sharon Peabody - Nov 22, 2013