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Student of the month takes on new experiences

Kevin Styba-Nelson is the Rotary Student of the Month for May
Princess Margaret’s Kevin Styba-Nelson was chosen as the Rotary Student of the Month for May. (Submitted)

Kevin Styba-Nelson, a grade 12 student at Princess Margaret Secondary School, is the Rotary Student of the Month for May.

Styba-Nelson is motivated by a thirst for knowledge coupled with a willingness to take on new experiences and the perseverance and self-confidence to acquire new skills in the process.

Styba-Nelson excels scholastically, typified by the maximum GPA score of 4.0 this year. He enjoys a diversity of subjects, ranging from chemistry to law. His favourites are First Peoples and biology, the former for evoking a lasting commitment to furthering our nation’s reconciliation process and the latter in revealing the intricate workings of the human body.

Maggie teacher Jeff Fitton said Styba-Nelson’s reflections on the subtleties of classroom material lead to deep cerebral discussions, often becoming a dialogue between him and the teacher with classmates attentively listening in awe.

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“Kevin would make an excellent teacher. As a peer tutor, he became another adult in the room, excelling in providing timely instructional assistance and coaching students to reason through their assignments,” said fellow teacher Erica Fitton.

While Styba-Nelson’s academic record is stellar, it is his passionate involvement in numerous extracurricular activities that sets him apart. Notably, his hidden interest in the performing arts has been nurtured at Maggie, thanks to its training programs in music and drama.

Having neither sung nor danced previously, Styba-Nelson joined the school’s musical theatre in Grade 10 and, much to his surprise landed a prominent role (Link Larkin) in the musical Hairspray (2017). Last year, he has been cast as co-lead (Cat in the Hat) in Seussical (2018) and as Bill Austin in this year’s production of Mamma Mia.

“Although quiet and shy, in Grade 10 Kevin took on the challenge of performing onstage with complete confidence, even though this was far beyond his comfort zone,” said drama teacher Lori Grant. “Three leading roles later, he has matured into a gifted and valued stage performer. Thoughtful, kind and considerate, he has been well-schooled at home in the essential life skills for success.”

Although Styba-Nelson played in bands previously, it was not until he joined the PMSS concert band in Grade 9 that he discovered his love for music. This passion led him this year to join the school’s Sing and Swing vocal jazz combo as a tenor saxophone player. The combo participated in the 42nd annual B.C. Interior Jazz Festival held last month in Kelowna.

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“Kevin is truly a natural leader and great role model; well-organized, calm in stressful situations and fully committed to the music program,” said music teacher Don Grant.

This year, Styba-Nelson jumped at the opportunity to write different articles of his choice on high school life and events for the Western News. These bimonthly articles have been both informative and thought-provoking. Again, he faced a new challenge, guest newspaper columnist, and found that he enjoyed freelance writing.

“Life’s biggest challenge is being conscious of one’s self, what has shaped me, why I hold the beliefs I do and how my actions are perceived by others,” said Styba-Nelson.

Maggie Principal Roger Wiebe said Styba-Nelson is an exemplary young man, mature beyond his years, with an outstanding academic record.

“Moreover, he is passionately committed to making our school a better place through his participation in musical productions and band concerts, yeoman service as emcee at various school functions and leadership role in organizing large-scale fundraising events such as this year’s Milk Run for the Canadian Cancer Society and the upcoming MD Bus Pull for the Canadian Muscular Dystrophy Society,” said Wiebe.

During quiet moments, Styba-Nelson enjoys spending time with close friends, listening to Broadway musical soundtracks and discreetly working on a crime suspense novel, tentatively entitled Till 2 a.m., involving two lovers hopelessly entangled in a criminal investigation.

Upon graduation, Styba-Nelson plans to attend MacEwan University to obtain a BA in psychology before pursuing a career in creative writing. This career path will facilitate his passion to explore and share with others his innermost captivating thoughts on complex societal subjects, perhaps taking a page out of celebrated Leonard Cohen’s playbook. Regardless of where his intellect and thirst for new mind-expanding experiences may take him, he is poised to leave a mark along the way.

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

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