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Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner presents the inaugural Mayor's Award for Fostering Civic Responsibility and a $10,000 cheque to L.A. Matheson Secondary teachers Annie Ohana and Gurpreet Bains, with Surrey Board of Education chair Laurie Larsen, Surrey RCMP Supt. Shawn Gill and LAM principal Rex Hayes on hand.
A pair of teachers at L.A. Matheson Secondary have won the inaugural Mayor's Award for Fostering Civic Responsibility for their ongoing efforts to cultivate social justice and empowerment in Surrey youth.
Annie Ohana and Gurpreet Bains were recognized for their guidance of the Mustang Justice program at the school. Mustang Justice is led by students in Grade 8-12, with a purpose of fostering responsibility and a desire to change the community for the better. Some of the program's diverse activities include Pride Week, Indigenous Week celebrations, anti-racism events, soccer camps and mentorships with local elementary schools. The group even put together more than 300 'welcome to Canada' packages for Syrian refugees arriving in Surrey.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said L.A. Matheson was chosen from more than 20 other "worthy" nominees, and praised the program for fostering a connection between students that is positive and focuses on building leadership.
She credited Ohana and Bains for their passion and dedication.
"Their work is grounded in bringing light and understanding to complex social and civic issues that need awareness and clarity," said Hepner. "And they challenge students to vacate the negative narrative and instead, to foster a sense of service and of responsibility."
The award comes with a $10,000 cash prize to maintain and enhance Mustang Justice initiatives.
Ohana said she believes in "raising" students to consider civic responsibility a pleasure, and called Mustang Justice a "tool of empowerment" for all voices.
"I stand before you as an educator that started Mustang Justice six years ago because to be neutral is to be complicit," said Ohana. "I stand before you as an educator that saw what was lacking in this community – a community I live in – and decided that our students were the answer, not the problem."
Bains said as educators, their vision is to educate hearts as well as minds.
"Educating our children to be respectful, responsible, kind, compassionate, and contributing members to their communities is at the heart of everything we do at Matheson," she said.
The award is a key component of Hepner's Action Plan on Gang Violence Prevention, launched last August, and encourages Surrey agencies to go "above and beyond" by inspiring civic responsibility in Surrey children and youth. Check here for more information about the award.
“It’s not at all surprising to me that Annie and Gurpreet would be behind an initiative being recognized for supporting youth, good citizenship and the community,” said Surrey Board of Education chairperson Laurie Larsen. “They have been the driving force behind many social responsibility programs in their school community and Mustang Justice encompasses that."