I was born in a small town in the state of Gujarat, India. My family immigrated to Canada in 2000 in search for a better education and greater opportunities for me and my sister and we eventually settled in Niagara Falls. I attended Greendale Elementary School and went on to Westlane Secondary School. When I first moved to the falls, it came with mixed emotions. The city is so well equipped to support young families and having the physical space that we did and the programs that we had access to was incredible. However, it also came with challenges. I struggled with bullying significantly in elementary and high school but coming back now – it is remarkable to see the diversity of the community. We truly are a thriving community and are better because of the people that have joined over the last several years.
I left Niagara shortly after high school in 2011 to pursue my passion for using technology to create better health outcomes for Canadians. I completed my Masters in Information Systems and Design from the University of Toronto with a specific focus on healthcare to gain a better understanding of how we can use technology to overcome some of the challenges we experience today.
What is your role in the community?
I am returning to Niagara Falls to advance my organization called Code Niagara; aimed at improving digital literacy across the Niagara region. I am committed to ensuring Niagara youth are fully prepared entering secondary and postsecondary education. This is why I created Code Niagara and provide workshops on basic programming, designing, and project management skills. Hosting events with industry leaders working in various fields related to computing. Matching students with mentors in the industry to help them through high school and moving forward. Our mission is bold, but so is Niagara and we hope that the community will join us in preparing today’s Niagara for tomorrow’s Canada.
I am so fortunate to come from a community that is invested in youth engagement. I was given the opportunity to inspire change from a very young age. By sitting on groups such as the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee and being crowned Miss Niagara Hindu Samaj, I was able to influence the sales ban om plastic bottled beverages in municipal buildings across the city and indulge in the cultural diversity that makes Niagara, and on a larger level, Canada the incredible community it is today.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My proudest moment to date is the opportunity to celebrate the impact that youth have in our country. In 2012, I was invited to join the Top 20 Under 20 community by Youth in Motion. This group of thinkers, innovators and strategists recognize the world can be different and are all under the age of 20! To be invited to join this group in celebration of my work with MyVision, an organization I co-founded in 2011, was one of the greatest accomplishments and honours of my life. .
Where have you travelled to in Canada? What is your favourite place in Niagara Falls?
I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to travel through most of Ontario with my family. In high school, I attended the Shad Valley program where I was placed on the University of New Brunswick campus in Fredericton. I went on to do my undergraduate at McGill University and had the opportunity to visit much of Quebec. In 2011, I was fortunate to visit Nunavut, Eastern Labrador and Northern Quebec through the Students on Ice program which took me on an expedition throughout the Arctic. Despite this all, Canada still seems like one undiscovered treasure but I’m hoping that it’ll feel more discovered once I visit the Rockies!
My favourite place in the city is the Gorge. I’ve had some of my deepest reflections there and learned so much about myself while listening to the swish of the rapids by my feet. Even today, I have brought every friend that has visited me from outside the city down there and they’ve agreed that it is one of Niagara’s best kept secrets.
What do you wish to see in Canada in the years to come?
My vision for Canada is that we continue to serve as a beacon of hope for every individual and family that in search for better opportunity, a better life. I wish that Canada will continue to serve as a symbol for hope, for tolerance and for unconditional acceptance. Today more than ever, we need to open our hearts and our minds and I hope that Canada will continue to lead by example in this manner.