Becoming a Confident Award Leader, Sarah’s Award Story

Sarah is a Silver Award participant and Virtual Award Center Leader from Ontario who has an incredible Award story from starting as a participant later in her youth to being a volunteer with the Award. The skills Sarah has learned have translated to her mentorship as a Virtual Award Leader, we are so proud to have Sarah involved with our youth.  


Sarah started the Award at the Silver level as a virtual participant in April 2021—a year and a half before her 25th birthday. She first heard about the Award from friends based in the United Kingdom who completed their Awards in high school with their peer groups. At the time, she didn’t think she would ever have the opportunity to be involved with the Award. In the spring of 2021, Sarah’s boyfriend realized he only had another year to finish the Silver Award which he started in high school, and Sarah decided to sign up and work towards her own Award alongside him. 


Award Highlights 

“Hearing my friends’ stories from completing their Awards, it was the Adventurous Journey that piqued my interest the most. So, it’s of little surprise to me that my favourite part of the Award was the Adventurous Journey! In the last several years, my boyfriend and I have gained considerable experience backcountry camping on various hiking trips—outside of the Award—so we wanted to do something new for the Adventurous Journey. We each recruited a friend to make our group of 4 and planned and completed 2 canoe trips in Algonquin Provincial Park. Before this, none of us had ever been on a canoe trip! However, they were some of the most fulfilling backcountry trips I’ve been on, and I especially loved sharing the challenge with friends. 


Leadership Building 

I’ve always been a “quiet leader” who has struggled to fit into classic leadership spaces. I was the quiet camp counsellor, the passionate but subdued swim instructor, and the serious teaching assistant. While I’ve always considered myself a role model to youth, I’ve never described myself as a “leader”—especially among my peers.  


“Being involved with the Award as an Award Leader has transformed my identity and confidence as a leader.”  

 The Adventurous Journey gave me the opportunity to teach my lesser experienced friends everything I’ve learned about backcountry camping—from simple camp tasks like filtering water and washing dishes according to Leave No Trace principles to essential skills like portaging a canoe. Even when I was anxious on our trips, like paddling through windy and rough waters, I never let myself panic or be fearful, because I knew the group was relying on me to have a calm and positive attitude throughout it all. All in all, without the Award, I’m not sure I would have found myself in a similar situation, leading my peers to complete a challenge that was equally new to me. 


Unexpected Benefits  

I started as a Virtual Award Centre Leader to fulfill the voluntary service section of my Silver Award. Between not knowing where to look for volunteer opportunities with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and having limited free time while completing my Masters degree and working part-time, this was the section of the Award that most intimidated me. Sometimes, the most intimidating things end up being the most rewarding—and this has been the case during my time as an Award Leader. I have long since finished my voluntary service goal, but I have stayed on as an Award Leader, mentoring, motivating, and assisting participants as they complete their own Awards. I often wish I had the opportunity to be involved with the Award at an earlier age, so volunteering with the Award to mentor youth is my way of making up for that. Even as the volunteer Award Leader role comes to a close, I hope to continue volunteering with the Award, helping participants plan Adventurous Journeys.”  


  • Sarah Tsounis, Silver Award Participant and VAC Leader  


We are so proud of Sarah for her determination to complete the Award, and for her leadership to mentor participants. We hope it inspires you to Join the Award, Volunteer with the Award, or Become an Award Centre.   


Shelan Emre  

Shelan is an active philanthropic member of her community who is committed to making a positive impact. Her Award accomplishments include being a Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award Achiever, Award Leader, Passion to Purpose participant, Grant recipient, and Speaker, as well as working with the Award in Canada as an Award Specialist and in Marketing Communications.