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Aboriginal Teen Named Model Global Citizen

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Elicia Withers, 16, is the youngest of eight British Columbians chosen as a model global citizen by the B.C. Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), Global BC reported March 2.

The 11th grader attends Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, British Columbia and shows her pride for her aboriginal heritage by volunteering as a youth leader with the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society (KFS), a nonprofit that works with First Nations. According to BCCIC, Elicia is part Scottish, Peguis First Nation, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and Ukranian.

“Like many of the youth at the Friendship Centre, Elicia has had to overcome many hardships in her very young life, including neglect, abuse, and a break-up and geographical separation of her family,” according to BCCIC. “But her extraordinary resilience, and her commitment to improving the lives of others instead of dwelling on her own challenges, is truly inspiring.”

She recently stepped up to advocate for KFS when the program’s funding was dramatically cut. At first, her voice was cut off with curt responses like: “We are politely sorry for your loss of culture, and we wish you good luck with your mom’s addiction, because you are on your own.”

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But Elicia didn’t give up, according to Global BC when she received a call from Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper she asked him to reconsider the funding cuts. And she continues to advocate for KFS and all youth, because “we know we have the right to have access to culture, to speak our minds, and we feel the need to rise up to the government and help our community.”

According to the BCCIC report, Elicia someday wants to work as a First Nations advocate or social worker.

Elicia told BCCIC she had this advice for other Canadian youth trying to make a difference: “I would encourage youth to stay in school, and to try and achieve their dreams, and to not forget but forgive. And I would encourage them that no matter how hard or easy their past is, to try and communicate themselves as who they are and be able to look past whatever’s happened.”