1. Michael Champagne
2. Honourable mentions: Devin Bray, Christina Hajjar, Madison Thomas, Mike Green, Ian Bell
Michael Champagne is well known for his role in founding Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO!) and starting Meet Me at the Bell Tower, a weekly gathering that happens on Selkirk Avenue every Friday.
This year, Meet Me at the Bell Tower celebrates its fifth year. “There’s also several other groups that are implementing Bell Tower-like gatherings in their communities. So that’s exciting,” Champagne says.
In other achievements this year, Champagne was part of a Bank of Canada advisory committee that came up with a short list of women who could appear on a bank note. He’ll also be participating in a nation-wide initiative called the Expert Panel on Youth Employment.
“In the future, I would like to have different sectors to address our shared challenges, including non-profits, unions, governments, private sector,” he says.
While Champagne appreciates being selected as a readers’ favourite, he’s also eager to share the credit.
“I’m humbled by the acknowledgement, and I’m relieved because this is the last year that this is possible, ’cause I’m 29,” Champagne says.
He sends shout-outs to Ramona Harper (from the Bell Tower), Atticus McIlraith (a 13-year-old who organizes a yearly baby formula drive) and Shania Pruden (a community organizer who talks about mental health).
“They’re such amazing young people that I get to work with, and I’m excited for them to also start getting these acknowledgements too,” Champagne says.
“The way that Aboriginal Youth Opportunities has always looked at it is ‘visibility is responsibility,’” he says. “And we believe strongly in leading by example. So we want other young people in other communities to see what we’re doing. Our hope is that they’ll be inspired to take action.”