“She has this determination about her,” says Stella, nodding towards her eldest daughter, Amelia.
Whether it was taking her first steps or learning to read, Stella remembers Amelia with a focus and determination to succeed.
“Whatever she did,” adds Stella, “she did it in her own way.”
“Amelia’s always been unique,” Amelia’s dad chimes in.
He chuckles as he recounts how each of his three kids had a different song that would put them to sleep as babies. The oldest would doze off to Elvis’s Be My Teddy Bear and Amelia’s sister snoozed to the mellow tunes of No Woman No Cry. Baby Amelia, on the other hand, fell asleep to the heavy metal riffs of Rob Zombie’s Never Gonna Stop.
“I had it turned up because it was daytime and I was cleaning,” her dad remembers, “and Stella came upstairs telling me to turn it down. I turned it down and Amelia woke up. I turned it back up a bit and she fell asleep. So that was her song.”
Amelia’s musical tastes have shifted somewhat over time, but she’s still one-of-a-kind. She’s still got that determination.
Today, Amelia is studying pre-veterinary medicine. It’s taken a lot of motivation and hard work to get to this point. Back in grade six, when Amelia first began to dream of working with animals, her veterinary ambitions seemed unattainable.
At the age of two, Amelia was a happy and healthy toddler, but she wasn’t talking yet. So she was diagnosed with a developmental delay.
“Talking was a challenge for her and so of course spelling and reading became a challenge,” says Stella.
“A lot of the teachers kept her behind,” her father remembers.
“But she was very adaptable,” mom continued.
Amelia would think outside the box. And her parents were invested in her success. They would work on reading and writing and math with her, sharing tips and tricks to help her make connections and get her to where she needed to be.
Then, when Amelia was in grade six, she and her family moved from their Oriole Crescent neighbourhood to their current home in the Red Hill area. She changed schools and that’s when one of her new teachers, Ms. Cegnar, told Amelia’s parents that she didn’t understand why Amelia’s former teachers had their daughter doing grade four work and that she believed Amelia could keep up with the grade six curriculum.
It was immediately clear that Amelia was hungry for a challenge.
“It was like opening a shook can of pop,” says dad.
Amelia’s enthusiasm for learning was explosive. She went from B’s and C’s to straight A’s. She devoured a stack of books a week. Her appetite for learning was insatiable.
“There were a lot of times that I could’ve given up: quit and said no more,” says the university student, “But I just kept going with it and I’ve actually gotten to that place I wanted to be.”
In addition to her supportive parents, Amelia credits CityKidz with helping her stay resilient in the pursuit of her dreams.
Amelia was three when she first started attending CityKidz.
Looking back, Amelia fondly remembers the captains coming to her house every week to see how she was and get her excited for the next Saturday program; the big theatres and the games, going up on stage, singing, dancing and having a great time; the constant encouragement from captains and mentors to believe in herself and never give up.
Her parents fondly recall the precious time the program gave them to catch up on errands, chores, responsibilities and the rest they needed to be the best parents they could be to their children.
“It was quiet time for me to study and focus on my schooling because I knew the kids had gone to a place where they could have fun and learn,” Stella reminisced.
Stella had worked as a personal support worker for 20 years when she decided to go back to school to upgrade her training and further her opportunities by studying to be a registered practical nurse.
“I wanted to show my kids that it’s never too late to learn and that college or post-secondary schooling is important to move up in the world,” Stella explained.
Amelia took notice.
Amelia’s school experience accelerated on a positive trajectory throughout high school.
She dove into the sciences – particularly chemistry – and filled her time with extra-curriculars.
By grade 12, Amelia’s literacy struggles had mostly faded to a memory. She joined the school’s Book Club and Spoken Word Art Team (SWAT). She read and analyzed books – most of which she can still recount in vivid detail – and found poetry as an outlet to give expression to her thoughts, experiences and feelings. She’s currently working on collecting her poetry together into a book.
All the while, Amelia never let go of her childhood dream to be a veterinarian. She pursued it with determination and dedication.
She did a co-op placement at an animal hospital and spent a summer working at a local animal shelter. Both experiences helped affirm and fuel her drive and by grade 12, with her high marks matching her high ambitions, Amelia was ready to apply for University.
When it came time to apply for post-secondary schools that would fulfil her veterinary dreams, the University of Guelph was naturally at the top of Amelia’s list. But then a family trip to the east coast changed everything.
“I saw the environment out there and how many more opportunities I would have out east,” explains Amelia.
Her mind was set. She was going to apply for university in Prince Edward Island, over 1,500 km away from home.
Amelia enrolled in the competitive Pre-Veterinary Medicine program at the University of Prince Edward Island. There was lots of interesting research happening at the school and many opportunities to explore everything from wildlife rescue to aquatic animal health sciences.
The Gentle Island had a lot going for it. Amelia’s parents see it too. They hope to move out east to P.E.I. or Nova Scotia in the near future. I ask if they are also concerned with being close to Amelia.
“Not too close,” says Stella, “we want her to have her independence.”
Taking the Lead
Like most soon-to-be university students, Amelia was both nervous and excited about her big move and imminent independence.
“I’m very excited to meet people out there. The community there is much calmer. And I’m excited to hopefully get some more experience out in the field and figure out exactly what I want to do,” says Amelia.
“There is a need for healing in our world,” she continues, and explains how one of the things she wants to do is help fill this need. She dreams one day of working as a vet beyond borders supporting rural communities across the globe who lack access to basic veterinary care for their animals.
Her biggest concerns, at least the ones that she is willing to share, is the island’s winter snows and the mounting piles of paperwork – but that’s nothing a good coat and a little determination can’t solve.