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The kids are all right

Sea to Sky corridor rife with enthusiastic teenage philanthropists

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Kids today get a bum rap as being lazy, videogame dependent, junk food eating, non-empathetic zombies. Or so say countless news and magazine articles written by baby boomers who idealize their own daisy-chain childhoods while lambasting the tech-generation for misunderstood cultural norms.

Contrary to popular belief, healthy, socially conscious teens are flourishing in the communities of Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish and they're doing a lion's share of work for local and international charities.

Sisters Megan and Nicole Pidperyhora of Pemberton recently organized a food drive at Signal Hill Elementary with the goal of stocking the shelves of the new Pemberton Food Bank. Capitalizing on a pound-for-pound matching initiative offered by Shaw Cable and Campbell's Soup Company, the girls met with school officials to get permission to approach primary and intermediate classrooms with a collection challenge, offering ice cream sundaes to the classes that brought in the most food. Within one week they had gathered 1,306 pounds of groceries. Shaw and Campbell's tripled that amount, upping the grand total to 3,918 pounds. Pemberton food bank organizers were thrilled.

Nicole is a well-spoken Grade 7 student at Signal Hill. She learned about the food bank initiative through her father, Sheldon Pidperyhora, a Shaw Cable employee who was championing the company's Fill the Food Bank program to friends and colleagues. After attending this October's We Day festival in Vancouver with a number of other Signal Hill students, the 12-year-old decided to tackle food security issues in her hometown.

Organized by Free the Children, a non-profit dedicated to improving conditions for high risk children globally while encouraging kids to get involved in volunteerism, We Day 2010 featured presentations by Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, actor and activist Martin Sheen, former child soldier Michel Chikwanine, and Free the Children founders Marc and Craig Kielburger.

"It was just an awesome experience because they had such inspirational speakers and they talked about how easy it is to make a change and if you want to see change in your world you have to be the change," said Nicole. "It just sounded like such a simple thing to do and with how much work we put into it and the results, well, there was not very much work and an amazing result."

Signal Hill vice-principal Jeff Maynard says that encouraging students to be socially conscious members of the community is a key ingredient to the creation of exceptional adults later on. He rounded up 28 students for this year's We Day event, each of whom expressed a serious commitment to a variety of local and international issues. Helping each of them pursue their individual philanthropic passions is just part of the educational experience he believes rounds out the academic formula.

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