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B.C. youth ambassadors crowned in Merritt

By Emily Wessel - Merritt Herald
Published: August 19, 2013 5:00 PM
Updated: August 19, 2013 5:05 PM

Three women were chosen to represent the youth of British Columbia for a year at the Merritt Civic Centre on Saturday night.

Kamloops’ Casey Helgason, Penticton’s Camelia Vokey and Osoyoos’ Lauren Sherwood took the crowns at the 2013 British Columbia Ambassadors Program coronation. Each crown came with a $2,000 bursary.

The Ambassadors Program offers British Columbians aged 17 to 23 bursaries and fosters leadership skills in a community-oriented competition.

The 11 candidates competed in three events at the Civic Centre on Friday and Saturday, and were evaluated on criteria such as speeches about their communities, impromptu answers to questions and talent performances. On Saturday evening, emcee and former B.C. Ambassador Anna Dell handed out bursaries to the candidates.

Although she wasn’t crowned, Lower Nicola’s Mary-Jo Michell took a $500 tuition bursary, a $1,000 sponsorship award from a t-shirt campaign, the $1,000 promotion award, and half of the $1,000 people’s choice award. Ladysmith’s Kelly Wallace took the other half of the people’s choice award, which went to the friendly rivals for earning the highest number of votes on the program’s website.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology awarded a one-year scholarship to Lytton candidate Brant Webster.

The candidates spent a week in Merritt preparing for the annual event. Included in that week’s activities were the three-hour knowledge exam, testing candidates’ knowledge of provincial history, politics, economics and tourism, and a chance to meet with the outgoing ambassador team. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience at the Civic Centre during the 2012 B.C. Ambassador team’s farewells.

“We’re like the big sisters, which is nice,” Trail’s Carley Henniger, one of the three outgoing B.C. Ambassadors, said the day before the competition formally kicked off.

The political science and international studies double-major said her year of touring the province to attend pageants and community events was very busy.

“An ambassadorship is so much more than just the title you wear,” Henniger said. “It’s your life.”

Kamloops’ Acacia Schmietenknop attended 17 community pageants and 120 community events in Kamloops during her reign as a B.C. Ambassador. She said it was tough to balance community events with her commitment to Thompson Rivers University’s business administration program, but it was all worth it.

“You only get one opportunity to do this, so you might as well make the most of it while you have the chance,” Schmietenknop said.

Castlegar’s Mariah Morris said her year as one-third of the 2012 B.C. Ambassador team opened her eyes to the potential her community has as well as her own potential.

“We got to travel all around the province, meet new people, and got so many opportunities we just wouldn’t have without this program,” Morris said. “There are so many scholarship opportunities that we’ve all been fortunate to have. It’s been so much fun to mentor and be role models for the other youth ambassadors from other communities.”

However, the UBC Okanagan kinesiology student said with the great glitter of the B.C. Ambassador Program crown comes great responsibility.

“They are role models to the youth, and their crowns should never overshadow their responsibility,” she said. “Ambassadorship is a lifestyle.”