A Kings County Academy student who recognizes the importance of giving back to her school and community has been recognized with a prestigious award.
Grace Hennebery-McNeil, a 13-year-old Grade 8 student from Centreville, was one of only eight from across Atlantic Canada to receive the Governor General Sovereign Volunteer Medal. She received the honour at a ceremony at Pier 21 in Halifax on Nov. 29. Craig Kielberger, founder of Free the Children, presented her with the award.
Hennebery-McNeil said she found out about the nomination in early November. She kept nervously checking her email for news. About two weeks later, one morning in the school cafeteria, her teacher told her she would be among the medal recipients.“I kind of freaked out a bit, it was kind of exciting,” Hennebery-McNeil said.
She said it’s a special honour, one she is very grateful for. She doesn’t volunteer to win awards but it’s nice to be recognized for her work in the community.
Hennebery-McNeil said she loves children and goes to Little Pumpkins daycare to work with some of the kids there after school. She regularly volunteers for the school’s breakfast program and volunteers at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church nursery on Sundays.
Hennebery-McNeil said she finds it fun and rewarding to do something just for the love of it and because you want to, not expecting payment in return. She plans to make volunteering a life-long commitment.
“You get the chance to give back to your community,” Hennebery-McNeil said. “You can do a service and you’re not expecting anything back. It’s such a thrilling experience to have.”
She said she considers Kielberger an idol, someone she looks up to, and it meant a lot to her to receive the award from him.
“It was just amazing to receive this award from him personally. It was quite an experience,” Hennebery-McNeil said.
She’s interested in science and is considering something in this realm for post-secondary studies and a possible career. Particularly, she would like to become a surgeon.
“That’s what I’m striving for at this point,” Hennebery-McNeil said.
An “extraordinary” student
Teacher Danielle LeBlanc, who serves as advisor for the school’s action team – a social justice and community involvement group for students – nominated Hennebery-McNeil for the award.
“It’s awesome to have kids who do extraordinary things recognized for what they do because Grace is going to become a huge, impactful member of whatever community she lives in,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said Hennebery-McNeil is outstanding as a young person. She “does everything exceptionally”, whether it’s sports, schoolwork or volunteer work.
“She loves to do really well and she’s very socially minded. She’s always the student who’s going to help somebody who needs help,” LeBlanc said. “There’s not a lot of kids who wake up early in the morning to come volunteer for breakfast club every single day, day after day.”
LeBlanc said KCA is the kind of environment where students have the support of staff and administration and are given opportunities to get involved in the community.
“I really believe in ‘for and by the youth’,” LeBlanc said. “If the kids have an idea and all they need is a teacher to facilitate it, I’m all for that.”
This is the second year LeBlanc has nominated an outstanding student from KCA who went on to receive the medal. Last year Anna Stevenson took home the honour.