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Catching up with Kevin Han, the second recipient of Meridian’s Sean Jackson Scholarship

2017-04-28 1:15:00 PM | Sarah Rea
Kevin Han was named the 2016 recipient of Meridian’s Commitment to Communities Sean Jackson Scholarship for his work volunteering at Chill Zone, an after-school care program for children at risk, and spearheaded fundraising initiatives that raised more than $50,000 to help fight pediatric cancer. Kevin also demonstrated a passion and eye for environmental innovation by designing a blue box lid solution.  Meridian recently caught up with the University of Toronto Engineering undergraduate student to learn how he continues to be a community advocate through innovative problem solving. 

Last year we had a lot of amazing applicants for the Meridian’s Commitment to Communities Sean Jackson scholarship and you were chosen as the 2016 winner – how has winning an award like this had an impact on you and your studies?

It really has relieved my financial stress, and allowed me to focus on my work and my goals. I don't think I would be able to manage a job with my schedule—and in this way it has helped so much. But it has also been a great recognition of my community work, which is important to me. I am so thankful that Meridian noticed my work, and what I was able accomplish, and has motivated me to continue to work hard to achieve my goals and give back to my community. 

You were involved with many initiatives in the Burlington community, like the Chill Zone and Inside Ride, which raises money for the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation. How are these initiatives currently doing? What are you currently focused on?

Chill Zone is still going strong- we were able to get some external funding to ensure this program continues. Many kids in Burlington need this program for a safe, welcoming place to go after school. 

Inside Ride has really grown, and is continuing. My high school was brand new, so there weren't any traditions or signature events established. Inside Ride has become the school's main fundraising activity and I’m so happy that fundraising for such a great cause is still continuing. 

The Blue Box lid solution is being promoted by our city councillor.  I hope it will get implemented by the city of Burlington soon. 

Can you share a bit about your amazing story of using innovation to address social issues and how your commitment to community evolved over time?

A lot of it came from SHAD which is a 30-day long summer program hosted by the University of Waterloo that is focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), and I attended the program at University of Waterloo. The program brings together 50 high school students from across Canada with supervisors from the university.

The program introduced me to an environment where I’m surrounded by inspiring, motivated youth who are interested in building and creating things for the benefit of a social need or public good. 

This really motivated me as well- this helped me kick off the work I did for Inside Ride and the Blue Box lid solution I invented. It sparked my community involvement. 

You have made a demonstrated impact on your community, whether it has been through your commitment to mentoring youth or the invention of a blue box lid solution- where do you think you got your entrepreneurial spirit from?

The SHAD program really helped to evolve my critical thinking and innovative thinking abilities. It encouraged me to look for problems and issues where there is a needed solution and try to address it in my own way.
 
Also, I got involved in lots of different activities and groups and clubs. I think being involved in lots of different experiences exposes you to different people and new ways of thinking and seeing the world. This helped to inspire me to create new ways of helping others and my community. 

What is your goal for the next 5 years? Do you have any longer-term goals you’d like to achieve in your lifetime?

My biggest priority right now is doing well at school and my program which is very challenging. After that I am looking into graduate programs, potentially studying robotics. Engineering advances really quickly, so I may discover another area I am passionate about. Either way, I am definitely going to be using my engineering skills and education to building sustainable solutions or ways to help people. For instance, it would be cool to create a robot that collects garbage in the ocean! I really want to use engineering to improve the world. 

Your story is very inspiring and you have accomplished so much. What are the things or people that have inspired you? What has helped keep you focused and motivated to continue to succeed at school and in community initiatives?

I would have to say my family. They made a huge sacrifice to come to Canada, leaving behind their family and friends and their whole life, for my benefit. One of the best ways to show them my appreciation and that their sacrifice was worth it, is to try my hardest and make and create things that help others and improve my community. 

Living in Canada is such a blessing—it’s a diverse and open country where I am able to use my abilities and creativity to do what I want to do. This is very empowering for me. 

I also tell myself to just do it; to try new things and take a risk because it opens up new paths. 

You are a young person that is involved in your community and committed to building a better world for yourself and future generations. There tends to be a lot of discussion about the apathy of youth, but you are a clear contradiction of that. Why do you think some people have this perception of young people? What do you think prevents youth from getting more involved in their community?

I don't think that perception is true. There are lots of young people who are motivated and involved in their communities. I think the way young people are getting involved in their community is different than they have in the past—it’s less focused on just volunteering but on bringing their beliefs and values to their school and work and all other areas of their life. Community involvement is not just what people are doing through the time the volunteer, but how they live their life, the choices they make and the things they create. I know I will be bringing this passion for helping others into my engineering work. 

In terms of why people don't get involved, I think it's hard doing new things. Whether it's going to a meeting, signing up to volunteer, or getting the ball rolling on your own ideas, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there. But the internet and social media has really helped people to find things that are of interest to them and what they are passionate about. I encourage young people to just do it— try getting involved or do the things that inspire and interest them!

Meridian is now accepting applications for Meridian's Commitment to Communities Sean Jackson Scholarship.  The scholarship is an annual $10,000 award designed to recognize an Ontario high school graduate who has demonstrated both academic excellence and an outstanding commitment to communities of their own, including community initiative, innovation and impact among Ontario youth. To learn more or to apply click here.