Voted by her peers to be this year’s Princess Margaret Secondary School valedictorian, Kyla Finlayson is the Rotary Student of the Month for May.
In school, Finlayson loves sciences, with biology being her favourite course. However, since she finished her Grade 12 science courses a year early, she is sad not to take any of these courses this year. Given that her overall average is currently at 99, she seems to enjoy the other courses in the curriculum as well.
Outside school, Finlayson loves music. She has been playing classical piano since she was five, and added the violin because she loved the sound. She learned to play saxophone in grades 6 and 7, and switched to art and drama for the remaining of her high school. However, when the jazz band came to her this year because they needed a piano player, she couldn’t say no.
“Finding the time for the two jazz band practices/week with all my other activities, including being a peer-mentor to Grade 9 students was challenging, but I still could do it. I enjoy doing a lot of things so I have to plan and manage my time to still have time to hang out with friends.”
Last summer, Finlayson participated in an award-winning enrichment and entrepreneurship program called SHAD. The program empowers exceptional high school students to make the world a better place.
Every July, about 900 of Canada’s best and brightest come together to experience the program’s unique experiential-learning rooted in the STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics).
The program is looking for students who are well-rounded, emerging leaders who demonstrate initiative, creativity and entrepreneurial flair. They are leaders in their schools, volunteers in their communities, and are often gifted musicians, artists and athletes.
Finlayson found the application process strenuous and is proud of having been selected.
She was inspired by this program and gained self-confidence in her own capabilities, coming back to lead even more activities in her school and community.
Finlayson is the co-leader of the Global Awareness Group at the school. One of the projects sponsored by the school is financial support for an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. The program is called Raise the Roof, and Finlayson organized a very successful event last January to support the cause: a show at the Cannery Brewing Company that featured the band Sing’N Swing. Finlayson had started a pottery club at the school this year. Under her guidance, the group made over 70 handcrafted soup bowls. Finlayson put the band and the soup bowls concept together. People could purchase a bowl of African soup, keep the soup bowl and hear a great swing band.
“The event was a big hit. People really enjoyed the music, food and company. Not only did we raise significant money for the cause, but people had a really nice night out,” said Don Grant, music/planning teacher.
Finlayson also spearheaded the 10,000 Tonight community food drive that took place in December. In total, the two high schools collected over 13,000 food items in one night. Finlayson was responsible for all aspects of the undertaking including working with leadership students at Pen High, co-ordinating with Skaha Lake Middle School and recruiting volunteers from Maggie.
“The most satisfying part of my involvement was to see the outcome. Bringing all the food items to the food bank, and seeing how it would help others, filled me with joy,” she said.
“Kyla is a tremendously hard working student who has made a difference in her school community this year,” said Sandra Richardson, vice-principal and leadership teacher.
Finlayson wants to pursue a career in the medical field. She has already been accepted at three Canadian universities. This interest lead Finlayson to volunteer in the community as a candy striper at the hospital and at Trinity Seniors Centre. She enjoys interacting with the seniors playing bingo and shuffleboard and just being there for them.
Notwithstanding all her accomplishments, Finlayson is humble and will say that she is not naturally good at most things.
“It doesn’t come easy for me. I work really hard to achieve my goals,” Finlayson said.
Student of the Month is a Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise initiative. The award aims to recognize outstanding students for unique achievement in scholastics, extracurricular activities, community involvement, leadership and service to others. The Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise is partnering with Penticton Secondary School and Princess Margaret Secondary School, aided by a generous financial contribution from Gateway Casinos as part of their proactive involvement in wide-ranging community service projects.