Junior citizen described as a leader, role model, ambassador

The Junior Citizen of the Year for the northwest region for 2013 is Jonathan Neigum of Unity.

Each year the News-Optimist, the North Battleford Lions Club and Battlefords and District Co-op ask "Who has made a real difference in your community?" and select both a Citizen of the Year and a Junior Citizen of the Year.

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Jonathan, age 18, was the valedictorian and Governor General Medal winner of the Unity Composite High School 2013 graduating class. His Grade 12 average was 98 per cent. Starting at UCHS in Grade 7, Jonathan won the proficiency award for his grade every year throughout high school.

Despite being a dedicated and proficient student, Jonathan is active in extracurricular and community activities. Seniors attending New Horizons Hall activities, students and parents involved with the Unity autism spectrum disorders program, members of the Unity Curling Club and audiences at UCHS drama productions all know Jonathan well.

The seniors in Unity met Jonathan when his great aunt Sally - now 92 and still active in the community - began taking him with her to the New Horizons Hall where seniors met to socialize and play cards and board games.

Mayor Sylvia Maljan, former president of the seniors' association, remembers first meeting Jonathan when he was about seven years old. She said, "He did not seem to notice that around him were the elderly with mobility issues. He loved being with all ages and especially if he was with Aunt Sally."

As well as continuing to be a regular attendee at the hall, interacting with seniors and serving refreshments, Jonathan has helped many older citizens with their yard work, both summer and winter.

As well as organizing study sessions for peers and younger students at his high school, in 2011 Jonathan volunteered as a tutor for an elementary student with autism spectrum disorder. He continued to mentor ASD students in 2012 and 2013.

An avid member of the Unity Curling Club, Jonathan took on the task of instructing 50 junior curlers during the 2011-12 curling season. The following year, he continued to teach younger curlers at an evening educational curling session. Curling club member Sharon Reiter said, "This remarkable commitment and the hours Jonathan devoted to our junior curling program are irreplaceable."

As skip of the UCHS mixed curling team, in 2012, he won gold medals at both the district and regional high school curling championships. Jonathan and his team then went on to win the bronze medal at the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association's provincial curling championships.

Jonathan's extracurricular activities at high school were not limited to tutoring and curling. He also served as school community council treasurer, student representative on the Farming for the Future committee, chairperson of the UCHS positive school climate committee, Students Against Drinking and Driving treasurer, graduation committee treasurer, food booth co-ordinator and helped organize the time capsule for his school's 50th anniversary.

A favourite of audiences at the annual UCHS drama productions, Jonathan was recognized for his acting prowess with a Saskatchewan High School Association Acting Award of Merit in juried competition. As well as being comfortable in the spotlight, Jonathan helped backstage as well and also won a Saskatchewan High School Association Set Creation Award of Merit.

At Living Sky School Division, Jonathan is a member of the Hall of Fame, in four categories: arts and culture, athletics, leadership and academics, with the academic award being with "great distinction." He is also a recipient of the school division's Anne Marie Merle Award for service to children.

Jonathan volunteers at the Unity Autism Charity Golf Tournament and at the Candace Heitt Memorial Run held in Unity each September.

Maintaining his incredible academic average at 98 per cent in his final year of high school, Jonathan won a number of local and provincial scholarships. He also received an honorable mention for student leadership by the Canadian Association of Principals, as well as winning a Miller Thompson National Scholarship and a Monsanto Opportunity National Scholarship.

Awarded a full scholarship, Jonathan, age 18, is in his first year of attendance at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. Although focused on his studies, Jonathan has also continued to serve, joining the campus Kinsmen and Kinettes.

Asked for a comment, UCHS principal Maureen Robertson and vice-principal Ruth Cey wrote, "This young man's character, service and leadership are all exemplary and Jonathan will continue to pursue his dreams with passion, while enhancing the lives of others around him."

Jonathan said he was "shocked" and "couldn't believe it," when he learned that he had been selected as the Northwest Junior Citizen of the Year. Describing the award as "really prestigious," he noted there are many applicants for the award each year - all of who "do so much for the community. It is a real honour to be among that group."

As the 2013 Junior Citizen of the Year, Jonathan will be recognized at a special banquet to be held Jan. 31 at the Dekker Centre in North Battleford. The banquet is open to the public and tickets are available at the Battlefords and District Co-op administrative office at Territorial Place Mall for $25 each.

The last word goes to Jonathan's family, who have always supported and encouraged him in his many endeavours. Mother Debrah, father John, older brother Dustin and "Aunt Sally" provided the following written comment: "Jonathan is an exceptional son, brother and great-nephew. He is a picture-perfect teenager, role model and ambassador. He has a deep passion for learning and determination to help others. With Jonathan's drive, dedication and desire he will accomplish all of his goals and dreams. We are so incredibly proud of Jonathan!"

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