LOCAL HERO: Penticton teen speaks her way into community’s heart

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LOCAL HERO: Penticton teen speaks her way into community’s heart – Sep 28, 2016

A Penticton teenager who has won many speech competitions is using her voice to help with many causes, including one in particular which she said she’s most passionate about.

Victoria Ritchie, 17, is in her Grade 12 year at Penticton Secondary, but the busy teen doesn’t just go to school to study.

She’s also very involved outside of the classroom.

Within her school, she’s helped create a safe place for students with anxiety to go. It’s a quiet room with resources like colouring books and toys to help students de-stress.

On Wednesday, Ritchie spent her lunch break leading a global awareness exercise.

“She has incredible empathy for other students and she is fierce when she takes on a project,” vice principal Andrea DeVito said.

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DeVito added that Ritchie has mastered the work hard, play hard attitude.

“She loves to laugh and have fun and have good times too, so she’s got a great balance in her life.”

Outside of school, Ritchie wears many hats as well.

She’s a member of the steering committee for the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) Project, which in part, aims to build an emergency shelter for young people in the community.

Ritchie also volunteers with the Salvation Army and at the Penticton Regional Hospital as a candy striper.

“I also work with special Olympics swimming, so every Saturday morning I wake up bright and early and go to the swimming pool,” she said.

Ritchie is a member of a local climate action committee and has helped with many local charity events.

The 17-year-old also has connections with the United Nations; this after winning an international speech competition in New York this past summer.

Her speech focused on the cause most important to her.

“I advocate for a lot of issues: mental health, cystic fibrosis and I fundraise a lot but I found that it would be really hard to fight for world peace and it would be really hard to advocate for these issues if there was no planet,” Ritchie said.

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She said since she was a child, she’s felt a deep-rooted connection with nature and a need to protect our planet.

Her recent humanitarian trip to Ecuador to help construct a school only further fueled her passion.

“Going down to the Amazon rainforest and seeing the destruction and people living amongst that destruction, I felt the environment really needed a voice, especially a young voice for future generations,” she said.

The already accomplished and soon-to-be high school graduate has her eye on even bigger dreams.

She hopes to become an environmental lawyer.

For now though, she’s focused on sending out an important message.

“We often feel like we are just one in 7.4 billion but really one person can make a difference. Your actions do matter and you can achieve great things.”

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