Shivanya Albas, a Grade 12 student at Penticton Secondary School, is the Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise student of the month. (Submitted photo)

South Okanagan student continues to defy the odds

Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise student of the month

Shivanya Albas is a passionate, high-octane and empathetic role model.

Albas, a Grade 12 student at Penticton Secondary School, is being recognized for outstanding leadership, artistic and academic achievement and laudatory involvement in numerous school and community activities. This stellar performance is especially notable given that at age three, Albas was diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder — a neurodevelopmental condition causing difficulty with communicative and social interactions and restrictive/repetitive patterns of behaviour.

She was chosen as the Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise Student of the Month for April.

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“Autistic students often struggle, both socially and academically, and find it difficult to keep trying when faced with such obstacles daily. However, not Shivanya. She optimistically dives in and pushes through to the finish,” said Pen High learning support teacher Lorna Foster.

Albas has thrived within Pen High’s highly interactive student body, proactively participating in virtually all clubs and activities related to social justice and school spirit. She is described as a pillar of strength in the Global Awareness club, which tackles such global issues as access to education, women’s and children’s rights, and sustainable living.

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“Shivanya is a very vocal and energetic participant in our club’s discussions, articulately sharing her perspectives and ideas, and working very hard in her leadership capacity. Ultimately, her strength of character makes her stand out,” said vice-principal Shaune Gowe.

The school noted that Albas exudes infectious passion for worthy school projects like the Diversity group and the 10,000 Tonight food drive. She routinely devotes substantive volunteer hours to support humanitarian causes and joins in fundraisers for such local organizations as the South Okanagan Women in Need Society.

“Shivanya has matured into a person who spearheads multiple school events. In Leadership class, her novel insights, which she eagerly shares, are greatly respected and appreciated by all. She is always positive and realizes the importance of giving back to build others up,” said vice-principal Bo Boxall.

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For several years Albas has served with distinction as a youth advisor to the Youth Engagement Strategy Project, deeply committed to advancing its overarching goal to create a healthy and supportive environment for Penticton youth. In the classroom, Albas works diligently to maintain her grades in good standing (93 per cent average in Grade 12), exemplifying Pen High’s motto, “excellence through action.” She is an avid student of music, theatre and the arts. Last spring, she gave a strong portrayal of Mrs. Sowerberry, a mean, judgmental woman, in Pen High’s highly acclaimed musical production Oliver. Next month she will play the headstrong, impulsive and emotional Miss Adelaide in the school’s Guys and Dolls production. During the Arts Rising Festival last fall, Albas assisted local artist Laura Morrow in painting the Environment … Is in our Hands mural. The painting, which graces the side of The Care Closet in downtown Penticton, serves as a stark reminder of the need to preserve our environment.

One area where Albas truly excels involves her passionate commitment to contribute something of lasting value to others as demonstrated by her advocacy for societal inclusion of individuals with autism. She often employs different school forums to share openly not only her challenges but also her unique strengths as a person with autism, to create greater understanding and acceptance of fellow autistic students.

Billed as one of 12 youths with powerful ideas, Albas will deliver a TEDxYouth@Doyle Ave talk in Kelowna next month. The thrust of her talk, Bursting the Safety Bubbles of Stereotypes, aims to inspire others to be themselves, uninhibited by any stereotype label and to live by her provocative philosophy, “If you’re destined to be a little odd, you might as well defy the odds.”

Pen High staff and students alike say Albas is polite, optimistic, fun-loving and empathic. Her selfless contributions have garnered her several citizenship honours, including the Sheila Bruneau award, given annually to a Pen High student who is a “doer” simply for the joy of giving.

Upon graduation, Albas plans to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree possibility from her mom’s alma mater, Mount Allison University, where she has recently been accepted, with the goal of working in creative production as an art director. Regardless of her career direction, she is surely destined to enjoy a productive and fulfilling life as a highly respected role model for “service above self” — coincidentally, Rotary’s universal motto.

Student of the Month is a Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise project. The award aims to recognize outstanding students for unique achievement in scholastics, extracurricular activities, community involvement, leadership and service to others. The Club is pleased to partner with Penticton Secondary School and Princess Margaret Secondary School, aided by a generous financial contribution from Gateway Casinos as part of their extensive involvement in community service projects.

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