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2020 Celebrating Student Success
News Release
2020 Celebrating Student Success

May 12, 2020 – The York Region District School Board is pleased to announce the names and accomplishments of the students who are this year’s Celebrating Student Success recipients.

“Recognizing the many wonderful and varied accomplishments of YRDSB students is important to our Board and to all of us who value student success in our school communities,” said Juanita Nathan, Chair of the Board. “One way we recognize student excellence is through the annual Celebrating Student Success campaign, which highlights the achievements of students who are representative of the 128,000students in our system achieving success every day with the support of YRDSB staff.”

“They demonstrate leadership and qualities that all of us admire. Their accomplishments reflect persistence and hard work,” said Louise Sirisko, Director of Education.  “They have achieved so much and we wish them continued success with the support of our devoted staff and our partnership with our families.”

The 2020 Celebrating Student Success students are:

Jack Blurton 

School: Stouffville DSS

Nominator: Lee-Ann Galati, Walai Abu-Amireh, Linda Harvey and Kim Thompson

Principal: Rose Walker

  • Jack is a Grade 11 student who worked in his Civics class as a TA this semester.
  • Jack has excellent leadership qualities demonstrated through his active involvement in Best Buddies, the school's Morning Announcement Team, and Jazz Club.
  • He was instrumental in re-establishing the school's Best Buddies program, an approach to interacting with the school's Multiple Exceptionality students, and led his peers in engaging with many students during their lunch periods.
  • Jack has acted as a friend to the Multiple Exceptionality students and created a caring, equitable, and inclusive environment for all students, meaningfully engaging them in activities during his lunch period and throughout the school during breaks. 
  • He achieved this by spending his lunch periods playing the saxophone, reading storybooks, and working on craftwork with the Multiple Exceptionality class.
  • Jack has brought unspeakable joy for students from the Multiple Exceptionality class. When these students overhear his voice on the announcement or receive a surprise visit by him, they can't help but laugh and clap from sheer joy.
  • ​ 

Daveigh Crook

School: Keswick PS

Nominator: Kelly Barbarich, teacher

Principal: Tonya Vokey-Young


  • Daveigh is a student who has worked on her self regulation skills throughout Grade 1 and at the beginning of Grade 2.
  • She has worked diligently to change her habits such as elopement, disruptive behaviour in class, and level of engagement with the curriculum and her peers. With support from home, school and York Hills, she has developed resiliency and has overcome many obstacles to improve her mental health and commitment to her learning. 
  • A variety of resources were engaged to support Daveigh and her family. She has exceeded all expectations and is on the right path to achieve success both personally and academically.



Simi Ogunsanya

School: Sutton DHS

Nominator: Caitlin Price, Leah Leuszler and Adrianne Vandermeer

Principal: Daniel Gillis


  • In the school community, Simi has volunteered with the school cafeteria helping to prep food, wrap cutlery for our annual Holiday Dinner and organized the pantry. 
  • Simi has also helped the school’s Athletic Council by counting the money from the sales shop and replenishing first aid kits for classrooms. 
  • As a complex needs student with autism, Simi has developed positive relationships with his integration peers, who embrace him as part of the classroom community.
  • Over the past few years, Simi has built relationships within the Sutton community at Wild Wing, Knox United Church and Giant Tiger where he has accomplished his experiential learning and taken on responsibilities each week. 
  • He can appropriately access public transit to travel to a variety of community outings and his self-advocacy skills have flourished. 



Luxsa Laventhiran

School: King City SS

Nominator: Julie Morris and Joanne Silver, Teacher

Principal: Joseph D'Amico


·  Luxsa was a member of the Me to We club, acting as Co-President in Grade 11. Luxsa was able to promote the well-being of others through events such as the annual “We Scare Hunger” food drive, and battery drives that gather used batteries to recover the zinc in order to support the medical needs of people in Kenya.

·  Luxsa is also an integral member of the Relay for Life Committee. She helped to set up the event which raised over $50 000.

·  Luxsa is now the co-chair for this year’s Relay for Life. Luxsa is marketing the event, registering approximately 400 participants, chairing meetings, and training a team of volunteers.

·  Luxsa has been a member of the mentorship team since her Grade 10 year, working to engage the Grade 9 students through events such as our transition day on the first day of school, and a series of workshops held for Grade 9 classes.

·  She is a camp mentor for the school’s three-day trip with the Grade 9s to YMCA Camp Wanakita in Haliburton and is responsible for overseeing the safety and wellness of the Grade 9 students.

·  Luxsa assisted with the in-school camp program, helping to create an engaging program that included an outdoor experience at a local conservation area, a shared dining experience at a local restaurant, and an escape room type activity.



Harini Rameshkumar 

School: Maple Creek PS

Nominator: Sharron Rosen and Marisa Cerullo, Vice Principal and Principal

Principal: Marisa Cerullo


  • Harini joined the Eco Team as her classroom representative when she realized how important the land is to protect for future generations. 
  • With the support of her teacher, she began a learning journey about indigenous learning, truth and reconciliation and developing a personal land acknowledgement that was meaningful to her understanding of the land and her life. She submitted a personal interpretive Visual Art work voluntarily for a contest in BC highlighting Orange Shirt Day.
  • She would later present her Land Acknowledgement at a Good News Assembly to the entire school and later in the year, Harini was selected to read her Land Acknowledgement to launch her school event celebrating music and the arts to a packed gym with hundreds of parents, family and community partners.
  • Harini is also a champion for the under-served and underperforming students. She is the oldest child of two younger brothers who she supports through their own unique learning journey. She is often seen checking in with her brothers, ensuring they get to where they need to go in the morning when arriving to school and is a supportive sister who talks about her role and responsibility ensuring she is part of their care now and in the future. 
  • She is an exemplary example of student ethical leadership, social justice advocacy, hope and commitment to excellence in her academics, social and personal journey.




Shelly Normatov

School: Anne Frank PS

Nominator: Samantha Basian, teacher

Principal: Aneta Fishman


  • Shelly pioneered the very first Anne Frank Student Government, and assumed the role of Prime Minister. 
  • She regularly organizes and carries out Student Government meetings where she is supported by a team of Student Ministers in the areas of Education, Health, Environment, Equity, Arts and Athletics. 
  • At each meeting, she sets the agenda, offers motivational pep talks to maintain student morale and to recognize each student for their efforts, and confidently delegates various initiatives to other students to enable them to also have the experience of shaping the culture at Anne Frank. 
  • To assist with attentive listening and to build school spirit she implemented a Back to School Bingo program over the announcements, allowing all classes to participate together in a school-wide event. 
  • She introduced a Homework Club in which she and her friends have volunteered to give up their time to assist younger students requiring additional support outside of the classroom. 



Dylan Tan  

School: Milliken Mills H.S.

Nominator: Kathleen Middleton

Principal: Christopher Hilmer


  • Dylan arrived at Milliken Mills H.S .in Grade 10 as a drawer of pencil and digital portraits. 
  • He has gone from a focus on personal work to serving the greater community, through his developed gifts, skills and relationships. He is part of a creative community and a growing ecological and volunteer movements, using his skills to design and support a range of initiatives.  
  • He engages in collaborative relationships with students and staff across all of the Arts and a range of committees and  initiatives. 
  • Ethical leadership is a foundational aspect to his volunteerism and co-ordinated efforts to align his work with community and global  goals.  
  • He has customized illustrative and photographic work that align with the school’s signature  Wellness and Mental Health events and publications and he was a key member of our Artonomy Team at Quest 2019, related to Equity and Indegenous Education and our Acknowledgement through Landscape series.  
  • Other highlights of his work include:
  • video partner team, STEAM related focus-representing all of York Region in the OSSTF Student Achievement Awards
  • sole artwork chosen by OSSTF to represent  all of York Region in the senior category-customized collaborative illustration for Arts Mind magazine
  • Arts Mind for Mental Health Awareness-Green Inc. (in-school eco-group) 
  • Quest-Artonomy -  lead illustrator at Quest within theme of ‘landscape as acknowledgement’ discussions on the role of arts in education, and land stewardship 
  • MMHS Field Guide - created a series of pen illustrations of local plants and wildlife for mindful engagement in our school arboretum 
  • Yearbook cover and theme design related to school’s eco focus. Dylan created the designs to align yearbook to Green initiatives for the first time in MMHS history 


Kelvin Nguyen

School: Greensborough PS

Nominator: Madeline Di Tullio and Heather Purcell

Principal: Heather Purcell


  • For the last two years, Kelvin has been a member of the Greensborough Public School Student Council. In Grade 7, he was Parliamentary Secretary. This year, in Grade 8, he is Prime Minister. 
  • Last year, he was instrumental in making the school’s Well-Being Week (Greensborough Grows) a huge success. There were numerous workshops, learning opportunities and information during the day and at evening sessions for the parents. 
  • This year, Student Council, led with Kelvin’s enthusiasm, ran Cultural Workshops for the entire student population. 
  • Recently, he led the Thai Pongal and Lunar New Year workshops. Students were invited to make lanterns and Rangoli designs.
  • He always attends Parent Council meetings and eloquently leads discussions about school life with the more than 20 parents who attend. 


Meilun Yu

School: Stonebridge PS

Nominator: Catherine Toszegi

Principal: Kevin Merkley

·       She was instrumental in starting Stonebridge's first GSA. Meilun is passionate about supporting students of all identities in her school.

·       Meilun has been involved in many school initiatives around equity and inclusion, most recently in planning Lunar New Year celebrations for our community. 

·       Meilun is also a strong supporter of improving student mental health at Stonebridge. She works with the Student Government Minister of Mental Health to educate intermediate students about improving their well-being.

  • As a member of the Regional Student Equity Committee, Meilun delivered a keynote speech at the 2019 United Voices Conference. At that conference, she also facilitated discussions with Grade 7-12 students to identify barriers and solutions to equity in schools. 
  • She worked with four other students from that committee to develop a workshop for the 2019/2020 Equity Symposium on Student Voice. 



William Yan Xu

School: Milliken Mills HS

Nominator: Laura Clark

Principal: Christopher Hilmer


  • William is an international student who has been studying in Canada since September 2017. 
  • He has been working all fall on the creation of a student-led Equity and Inclusivity Committee at Milliken, which would review existing policies, programs, and practices in order to identify and address inequities, specifically in school-based events and policies. 
  • In order to ensure that equity and inclusivity is embedded in Student Activity Council practices and policies, William has drafted a new constitution for this organization, that also includes an outline of how Equity and Inclusivity Committee will operate in conjunction with Student Activity Council. 
  • William has started a President’s Council at Milliken. The purpose of the President’s Council is to work together to closely coordinate all events happening at Milliken, particularly when it comes to fundraising events, so our students who may not be financially able to contribute as much as they would like will not be asked for donations from multiple clubs at once. 
  • William is a tireless advocate and source of support for the many new international students that join YRDSB each year. He has participated in the Orientation for New International Visa Students since February 2018. In the winter, he serves as ambassador at the school, and in the summer months, he works at Dr. Bette Stephenson in this program. 


Janice Baek

School: Thornhill SS

Nominator: Debbie Ziegler

Principal: Debbie Ziegler


  • Janice is a highly motivated individual with a will to succeed in all she does. As a grade 12 student in the Advanced Placement (AP) Program at Thornhill Secondary School, Janice has achieved an incredible average in the mid to upper 90s throughout her high school career. As a result, she has been an Honour Roll student since entering high school. 
  • Janice has been the recipient of numerous academic awards and the very coveted Thornhill Citizenship Award, awarded to a very few for displaying exemplary citizenship and leadership success. 
  • Janice is a highly respected member of the Student Council, having been elected by her peers the past three years. Currently serving as the President of Student Council, Janice leads a team of her peers in her efforts to ensure that all TSS students feel welcome and valued at school. 
  • She is also a very accomplished Business student, having placed in the top 10 at the Provincial DECA (Business Club) Competition this past year. 
  • In her spare time, she focuses her energy on her leadership passion - the York Region Presidents’ Council. There, as Minister of Skill Development, she leads her peers from across YRDSB in group activities and discussions and represents all YRDSB students to the school board administration and the community at large. 
  • Janice has taken on many leadership roles throughout her years in high school, including Thornhill Athletic Council Treasurer, United Councils of Thornhill President, Wellness Committee Student Representative, TSS Music Night Stage Crew, to name but a few, and has learned the importance of self-discipline and perseverance. 
  • Janice has volunteered at the Vaughan community Church as a youth bible study group leader, at a retirement home working with the elderly and at a program for new Visa students in her community. 


Melina Ghasem-Asad

School: Thornhill SS

Nominator: Debbie Ziegler

Principal: Debbie Ziegler


  • Throughout her years at Thornhill SS (TSS), Melina has served the school in many capacities including, Student Council Publicity Director, Student Council Student Issues Director, TSS Athletic Council - Leader of Student Wellness Action Team, President of TSS Canadian Cancer Awareness, TSS Mentor Program Executive (a group which helps grade 9 students ease the transition to high school), member of the TSS DECA Club, Team Captain of the TSS Varsity Volleyball Team, and most recently, the Founder and President of the Thornhill SS Chapter of Best Buddies Canada (The Best Buddies high school program brings together high school students with and without an intellectual and/or developmental delay in the hope that they will develop a lasting friendship). 
  • She finds time in her busy schedule to volunteer. Her volunteer work has included time at a Welcome to Canada Visa Student and International Families Orientation Program and at a local Community Passport Clinic.


Keira Yip

School: Richmond Rose PS

Nominator: Kate Green, Teacher

Principal: Paul Oabel


  • As a House Leader, she helped to build school community and spirit through activities including intramurals, board game events, birthday cards, and snuggle up and read. 
  • As an active member of the GSA, Keira helped to plan meaningful activities and events for Pride Day and Day of Pink. 
  • Keira takes on leadership roles in many extra-curricular activities, including the talent show, Black History Month play, yearbook committee, colour-cycling group, and she takes the initiative to head-up our lighting crew for all assemblies. 
  • Collaborates with staff to organize school-wide events, such as Respect Day, Tamil Heritage Month, and Orange Shirt Day.


Mahina-Mei Nalini Paul

School: H.G. Bernard PS

Nominator: Elizabeth Conner and Natalie Ryan

Principal: Jennifer Branch

  • Mahina begins each day in the Multiple Exceptionalities (M.E) class, a half hour before school begins. Here she assists the staff and the students by welcoming them, assisting the students with removing their outdoor clothing, preparing materials, helping students stand for “O Canada”, serving breakfast to students who attend Breakfast Club and assisting with anything that she sees needs to be done or is requested to do. 
  • For the past 4 years Mahina spends several recesses a week volunteering in the class. In this role, she plays with the students, takes them for walks, and uses an Augmented Communication system to converse with a non-verbal student. 
  • She has been involved for several years in the Skipping team, Terry Fox Run, and Me to We where she initiated the implementation of the battery drive. 
  • Mahina has been a leader for our Holiday Heroes food drive as well as Jump Rope for Heart. 
  • She not only extends her support to the M.E. room but to the French teachers, helping with material preparation, to the office, as an Office Helper at recess and lunch breaks and is also a part of the Announcement Team.

Jonathan Dong

School: Richmond Green SS

Nominator: Louis Lim, Vice-Principal

Principal: Richard Cherry


  • He demonstrates inclusivity by assisting with the YRDSB Vision Services so other visually impaired students feel a sense of belonging in their events and at school. 
  • He is innovative by creating a Mandarin club at the school to learn about the language and Chinese culture. 
  • He helped with planning and implementing the school’s Model United Nations club training sessions and club fundraising and finances.
  • Jonathan helped lead activities on the Grade 9 orientation day, day camp, visited Grade 8 feeder schools, and supported Grade 9 classes with exam preparation. Grade 9 students view him as a role model. 
  • Jonathan demonstrates collaborative leadership as a member of the school’s Broadcasting team and as a member of the school’s drama and music performances. He builds community, inclusion, and optimism via his leadership contributions and impact.

·       Jonathan joined the York region Police Youth Orchestra band when he entered high school and performed in a nursing home once a month, on Canada Day and in a Christmas parade. He also participates in the Toronto Youth Symphony Orchestra band.

·       Every summer, he helps take care of the summer camp children at his church.


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