St. Thomas More student "shows compassion and maturity beyond his years"
By Gord Bowes
Hamilton Mountain News (Jan 27, 2017)
When he was 10 or 11 years old, Blaise Barber did something that many kids his age would be afraid to do: he took a stand against two bullies who were picking on his disabled friend.
“It upset me because he was a funny kid and I really enjoyed talking to him, so I stepped in and told the bullies off," he recalls.
Since then, the 18-year-old St. Thomas More student has continued helping children with disabilities.
“In Grade 9, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life,” says Barber. “I wasn’t doing well in school but once I started getting into volunteering, especially with special needs kids, I figured out who I wanted to be and it really put me in a better mindset.”
“It led me to who I wanted to be and who I am today.”
His volunteer work and past experience has shaped his desire to become a special-education teacher.
It also earned him recognition as one of 12 young people to be given a 2016 Ontario Junior Citizen Award.
It’s the second year in a row a Mountain youth has been honoured. Last year, Alexandria Montague, also a St. Thomas More student, was an award winner.
The Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year awards are a program organized by the Ontario Community Newspapers Association to recognize youth between the ages of six and 17 for their community service or heroic acts. Barber turned 18 after his nomination.
“His dedication and desire to ‘make the world a better place’ is something rarely seen in someone so young,” wrote teacher Jessica Dyment, who nominated Barber.
Barber has volunteered with Special Olympics for two years and is hoping to get involved in the Best Buddies program at St. Thomas More. He’s been part of the school’s Halloween for Hunger food drive and the Utopia Club, raising money for social justice issues.
He volunteered at Camp Marydale last summer.
The west Mountain resident was head coach of the junior basketball team at St. Vincent de Paul elementary school for two years, and continues as an assistant coach. He also coached volleyball at the school.
He played for More’s junior basketball team in Grade 9 and 10 before focusing on football.
Barber, a six-foot-two, 215-pound long snapper for the senior team, recently earned a football scholarship to McMaster University.
He also plays ultimate Frisbee.
“It’s one of my favourite sports outside of football,” he says.
And he’s been doing all that while maintaining 90-per-cent grade average this year.
“Blaise is a remarkable young man who shows compassion and maturity beyond his years,” Karen Narnett, director of Camp Marydale, wrote in her supporting nomination.
The 12 Ontario Junior Citizen finalists for 2016 will attend a ceremony next month with their families hosted by Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell at Queen’s Park.
Gord Bowes is Editor of Mountain News. He can be reached at email@example.com