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Young Women of the Year 2017 Nominee Bios

2017 Young Woman of the Year Biographies

Cassandra Reynolds 2Cassandra Reynolds – Orillia Secondary School

Successfully achieving an above 90% average, Cassandra constantly pushes herself to improve, earning her nominations for the Orillia Secondary School Excellence in Education Award and the Rotary Student of the Month.  She actively participates on the student council, announcements team, and soccer team, and is passionate about the dramatic arts.   She says that drama has allowed her to explore emotional depth and see the world through various perspectives, opening her up to opinions and thoughts outside of her own.

To Cassandra, community is very important.  She lives on a horse ranch and had always dreamed of being an accomplished rider.   The expenses that come with this sport are high and for most, unaffordable, so Cassandra and her sister started a business.  They offer a significantly reduced rate to teach children 6 and over, the basics of the sport as well as the maintenance and care of the horses.   Together they also offer therapeutic riding lessons to adults who have experienced difficult life circumstances and health concerns.  They run lessons all year round and summer camps.  Cassandra also volunteers with many other riding programs and events, the soccer club and various community events.

Cassandra’s goals she is currently working towards include Relay for Life, finishing her final semester of high school with a 93-95% average and adding four beginner day camps this summer to her business.  She has been accepted to the University of Guelph for Bio-Medicine, working towards a career as a Pediatric Surgeon.  She says “I believe that the impact I will make on the world will not be measured on a global scale but in the lives of those I touch around me.  If I can change the lives of sick children for the better and be a factor in their healing, I know the I will be leading a happy life.”

Nomination submitted by:  Orillia Secondary School, Kiera Gagnon, Guidance Councillor


MATILDA WILSON of Patrick FogartyMatilda Wilson – Patrick Fogerty Catholic Secondary School

Matilda loves school and as classroom leader, she encourages her peers at Patrick Fogerty to feel the same way.   While maintaining an above 90% average throughout, she is involved in endless community commitments.   Matilda is especially strong in French.  During grade 10, she participated in a three month French exchange program in France.   Matilda says, this cultural experience gave her a global perspective and understanding of others.

Matilda’s volunteer commitments exceed 520 hours.  They include donating her musical talents playing and singing at Victoria House nursing home each month and at numerous charity concerts throughout the year.   She sings at school masses, MC’s the band concert and is one of the founding members of the Patrick Fogerty Music Council.   This Council raises money to help students who need financial assistance to participate in band trips as well as instrument purchases.  Matilda also donates her skill as a professional face painter at the Mariposa Folk Festival each year.  She says this event is special because it brings together the whole community in celebration.  She is involved in Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Clubs in Washago, Brechin and Orillia.  Matilda serves dinner at four local churches and is constantly organizing a charity event.     A bright, devoted community member who is always willing to participate in any event, Matilda is at her happiest when helping others.  She says that the people she has met and helped through her volunteering, have helped make her who she is today.

Matilda plans to attend Wilfrid Laurier University, studying a relatively new profession, Music Therapy.   This program uses music to improve mental and physical health, a job where she says she “can sing and make people happy”.

Nomination submitted by:  Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School, Brad MacNeil, Guidance Councillor


SARAH GAO TWIN LAKES S.S.Hong Xiao (Sarah) Gao – Twin Lakes Secondary School

Sarah is a student of no limits.   She maintains an above 90% average at Twin Lakes, in addition to balancing a number of social, athletic, volunteer and musical pursuits.   Sarah is a young woman who loves challenges, works tirelessly at finding alternate solutions to complicated situations, and excels in Biology, Social Sciences, Chemistry, Physics and Math.  She is an accomplished musician, who has earned her A.R.C.T. diploma after six years of piano with the Royal Conservatory.

In addition to all her academic and musical success, Sarah volunteers extensively within her school as well as in the community.   She participates as a school Link Crew Member, helping other students comfortably adjust to high school.  She is involved and helps organize school green team projects, dances, assemblies and events.   Outside of school, Sarah actively participates and volunteers with volleyball tournaments, retirement homes, gift wrapping, and in many capacities at the Orillia Soldier’s Memorial Hospital.  She is currently working on Relay for Life and ColorMeTwin fundraisers.

For the future, Sarah says that there are a number of goals she is aiming to complete before and after university.  She is planning a career in neuroscience or medicine, as she is interested is understanding how music affects the brain.  Sarah would like to continue to pursue her interest in music and according to her, “will ultimately pursue what interests her and makes her happy”.

Nomination submitted by:  Twin Lakes Secondary School, Kerrie Pellarin, Guidance Councillor