Header: Thrive Youth Leadership Hall of Fame

Akaiya Melting Tallow

Akaiya Melting Tallow
Akaiya and Bill Wu

Akaiya (she/her) received the Thrive Youth Leadership Award in 2013. 

What’s one of your memorable moments from your time with Thrive Youth?

“Sometimes, we downplay the little moments in our lives without realizing that they truly have a profound difference in our lives. How could one year in my childhood change how I viewed the world so much? I grew up near the downtown eastside of Vancouver, without friends or much close family. I had trouble socializing and had no confidence in myself; any issues I had were mine and mine alone. Before Thrive Youth, my school attendance in grade 6 was below 40%. It’s hard to imagine a little girl feeling too anxious to go to school because of bullies, but this was my story. In 2012, I entered grade 7 and thought this year would be the same as the other years, but everything changed in the trajectory of my life once I met the warm, inviting souls from Thrive Youth. I hid behind students, hoping I was invisible and waiting for school to be over. Then, quickly, one of our mentors, Ms. Genevieve invited me into her bubble and told me that this was a safe place where I’m free to be myself. “Negativity is not an option!” She told the class, “Being yourself isn’t a bad thing.” So, as the Thrive Youth mentors’ confidence grew in me, I began believing that I could express myself and exist in the same world as everyone else; a notion that I had previously felt unworthy of. It was incredibly apparent to my teacher how my behaviour and outlook on life shifted during and after Thrive Youth. My school teacher Mr. Borsato later approached me to tell me that I should apply for the leadership award – but I always believed that there were things in life that I was incapable and unworthy of. Mr. Borsato insisted I should go for it, so I went for it and achieved my own ‘impossible.’ I’ll always be grateful to him for setting his own time aside to help me write my Award Speech and for pushing me to apply in the first place.

10 years later and I still think back fondly of my time expressing myself in the workshops, and my time in Toronto staying with my Thrive Youth mentor and her sister (and their cuddly orange cat, Max!) I was surprisingly not nervous to deliver my speech, and after my speech, I was approached by so many of the amazing philanthropists that sponsored the leadership dinner. They came up, one by one, saying that I touched their hearts with my speech. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was special – that there were words and stories I still had left to tell. I’m constantly thinking of great moments in my life where I felt immense happiness, and my time in Toronto with Thrive Youth was one of the greatest times in my life. 

[I’ve shared a photo of me and] my sponsor at the Leadership Awards, Mr. Bill Wu from BMO. Before we took this photo, he gifted me a delicately packaged CROSS pen and told me that his mentor similarly gifted him a pen when he was just starting out. It was the first nice thing I owned. He really inspired me that day, and that pen meant more than just a pen to me. It was a symbolic gift that gave me hope for my future.”

What are you doing now?

“Currently, I am continuing my education at Native Education College in Vancouver. I’m embracing my culture and trying to find what makes me happy. I love film and television, and I enjoy writing stories. I spend a lot of my free time reading scripts and watching movies. I aspire to be an accredited screenplay writer, so please cheer me on and I will go far! Thank you!”