Colton Van Der Minne is driven to make a difference, but community and humanitarian work wasn’t always on his radar.
Van Der Minne, a French Immersion and Aboriginal student at Nanaimo District Secondary School, volunteers to help people locally and across the globe, but the fire was really lit only three years ago when he attended We Day in Vancouver.
“They show you lots of examples of youths who are making a difference at all sorts of different ages and some of the speakers are … 10 years old,” he said. “It makes you think about the fact that making a difference isn’t just a thing for adults, and really, it can’t be just a thing for adults. A movement like that has to come from all age groups.”
Van Der Minne, 17, was elected to the head of the high school’s global committee a year later, where he’s helped to raise money for global efforts, like supplying rural Chinese communities with clean water and stocking a school infirmary in Uganda. He and his committee have also helped to spread smiles by building care packages for people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo. The focus is a 50-50 mix between working locally and globally, he said.
“There’s needs outside of just our local community,” he said. “At the same time, it’s really important to not get caught up in all those needs outside the community and forget about the community you’re in.”
If he’s not making the grade in school or fundraising to help the global efforts, Van Der Minne can be found on the water or cracking open books at Vancouver Island University.
He rows with Nanaimo Rowing Club, most recently making the semifinals at the Canadian High School National Championships in Ontario, and volunteers in the summer with Learn to Row. Van Der Minne is also a three-time winner of the Nuu-chah-nulth Academic Scholarship, has volunteered as a tutor, and took two calculus courses at VIU while he finished high school.
“I’m always wanting to get involved in more stuff, and so the consequence is I don’t have much free time – but it’s doable if it’s stuff that I’m really passionate about,” he said.
Van Der Minne will attend UBC next year to work toward a career as a doctor.
“I want a challenge,” he said. “It’s also a job that lets me help people.”
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