When Jaden Lawen first appeared on NEWS 95.7’s Rick Howe Show in August, his fundraiser Halifax to Beirut with Love (set up in the wake of the deadly explosion last summer) had been growing quickly: $20,000, then $40,000, then $60,000. The money wasn’t done rolling in, and when all was said and done, the fundraiser pulled in over $106,000.
The 18-year-old wasn’t done either apparently. As he closes out his last year of high school at Sacred Heart here in Halifax, he’s earned a significant distinction as a recipient of one of this year’s 20 TD Community Leadership Scholarships — an annual national scholarship competition that supports student community leaders with up to $70,000 for their post-secondary schooling.
The award recognizes broad community involvement, but it was Lawen’s ‘Guy Time’ club that, in addition to the Beirut fundraiser, helped him earn the honour.
“Because I go to an all-boys school, I have actually started a club called Guy Time for students in Grade 5,” he explains. “Once a week, I spend about an hour with the students, and I just like, hang out with them, and then talk about things like tackling toxic masculinity, all those things.”
It’s an interesting age for boys — somewhere between childhood and their teenage years, a tough age especially in a year when a lot of school and social life has been unstructured and difficult.
In an informal setting, Lawen says, the big topics — the outside world, dating, high school — are also joined by more quotidian ones — tying a tie, or handshakes, for instance.
“When I was the same age, when I was in Grade 5 and 6, there was a similar thing where I had an older mentor, and I looked at him like an older brother. It had such a powerful impact on me,” Lawen says.
“I wanted to set this up for these guys because the impact it had on me was insane — a really positive impact, and I still remember that to this day. So I said, you know what, I’m gonna start the same thing.”
He got the principal of the elementary school (Sacred Heart) on board, and the group was up and running.
“The benefit is teaching them from a young age the values that led me to do all the things I had done in the community — like, telling them why it’s important to give back to the community,” Lawen says.
“Their class at the time [that he started the group] was also having struggles with a lot of new kids that didn’t have any friends, so it was good even just to bring them all together, for them all to spend time together.”
With the scholarship, Lawen has plans to attend Dalhousie University next year — sticking close to home. A decision that came down, at least in part, to the community he’d been investing himself in.
“I still have so much left to do in the community,” Lawen says. “I could do that from anywhere, but I think this year it’s special. I still have a lot of things I want to contribute to this community.”