2014 Winners

Essay Scholarship

Kiara Gannon

Kiara Gannon

At 17, Kiara Gannon has already run a marathon.

The Grade 12 student at Atikokan High School, located in the northwestern Ontario town of the same name, participates in more than a half-dozen extra-curricular activities and has amassed a collection of awards that would fill most display cases.

The ambitious student can now add the title of Influential Women essay scholarship winner to her list of accomplishments. Gannon was recognized for an essay she wrote on the importance of women's leadership in today's society.

In the essay, she argues social media can be a valuable tool to promote strong female role models to young women and girls in the North.

"I feel like women's leadership is not often marketed well in the North," she said. "I feel there are so many leaders in our communities that we don't necessarily realize are there, as young women."

Gannon said teenage girls her age are bombarded with unrealistic representations of women in media, and said there needs to be a balance with positive role models that do not demean young women.

She said even in Atikokan, a town of nearly 3,000 people, 200 kilometres west of Thunder Bay, social media services such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest constantly barrage her peers with negative images that need to be balanced with positive messages.

Her winning essay comes with a $2,000 scholarship she will use when she begins her post-secondary studies at the University of Victoria next year.

Gannon has enrolled in the university's bachelor of science program, and said she plans to focus on biology, but that is subject to change.

If there are job opportunities in her field, she said she would like to return to her hometown after her studies. But Gannon admitted she might have to settle elsewhere after university.

"Most people who are inspired and motivated to do great things are often people who end up leaving the small communities in the North," she said.

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