Inspiration. Passion. Education.

This may be the beginning of my writing about achievements, be it big or small, of students and people that we, somehow, forgot to celebrate or put more attention to. Sometimes, celebrations of achievements are short-lived. We moved on too soon because there are other things we are compelled to do. When it’s written, we can always go back. In a click, we can always share.

In 2003, I met her family and became friends. She’s an elementary student at that time. Our families went camping and picnicking together with other friends. One thing that I noticed about her was how she would ask her dad to drop her off at the library during weekends and even in the summer.

When I heard about her latest achievement, being selected as one of the 36 young entrepreneur in the Next 36 Program, I told her that we need to share these kind of accomplishments to inspire more youths, more people. This is a great example of empowering our students with a great tool: Education.

Her name is Margarita Andrea Quijano. We call her Marga.

Academic Achievements:

St. Catherine of Siena Separate School (Elementary) – Received the Science and French Awards

St. Francis Xavier Secondary School (High School) – International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme with a focus on Higher Level Biology, Economics, English, Standard Level Chemistry, French and Math; Honour Roll for all four years; received the IB Chemistry Award in Grade 11; received Second Place and the Viewer’s Choice Award for an international economics video contest held by the Fraser Institute; received the Ontario Scholar Award upon graduation and a valedictorian of class 2012.

In high school, Marga served as the Youth Task Force Leader on the Mississauga Youth Advisory Committee, representing 145,000 youth to voice their opinions on how to better engage them in the community. She facilitated many camps for Youth for Christ, played in the school’s Junior and Senior Girls Basketball Team, performed at talent shows doing spoken word or played the guitar in a band. After school, she would head to the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga as a volunteer as well.

Western University – Received the Western Scholarship of Excellence (requires a minimum of 94% average in high school) to study Medical Sciences; Dean’s Honour List throughout undergraduate studies.

Outside academic during her years at Western, most of her extra curricular activities were focused on premedical.

  • Volunteered at a hospital
  • Research Assistant at Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry to work on genetics project
  • Research Assistant at Western Psychology Lab
  • Medical Lab Assistant – sponsored to do a hospital student placement at a neuropsychiatry lab

During her summers as an undergraduate student, she watched doctors performing cardiothoracic surgeries and also, led an infection and equity research group of professors, Masters and PhD students.

Even in university, Marga found time to play basketball as captain for Western’s Competitive Basketball Intramural Team (Women’s and Co-ed).

Of all the achievements mentioned above, I asked her to list down the top 3. None of the above made it.

  • Change for X (CFX) – Founder; On her first year in university, her love to create value to better people’s lives led her to start Change for X that support a different local charity every year to impact the world one charity at a time. She read everything and watched videos about starting a non-profit organization, encouraged friends to join, sought sponsors, learned Photoshop, web development and website creation. Over the years, CFX reached Harvard University, McMaster University, New York University, Queens University, Sheridan College, University of Toronto, Western University, Wilfred Laurier University, and still expanding if anyone is interested in starting a chapter. She led the Western chapter as President for four years, growing the chapter from 10 members to 50 active members and over 200 general members by taking a few computer science courses to generate high-quality multimedia for marketing tactics.
  • Active Learners – Marga started a tutoring company called Active Learners which tutors different subjects in elementary, middle school, high school and university that aims to help learners discover the best way they can learn. When she was struggling in Organic Chemistry during the first few weeks in second year, she sought help of professors, TAs, and external online resources. It was then that she discovered she’s a visual and audio learner. With perseverance, in the end, she fell in love with the subject and received A’s.
  • Creating Safe Spaces – To support and promote a safer space for everyone, Marga joined Get REAL, a non-profit organization whose aim is to tackle homophobia by offering inclusivity workshops to students. She served as VP Corporate Expansion, spoke to thousands of elementary, middle, high school, university and medical students across Ontario towards removing discriminatory language and instead, foster unity. She spoke to students at Western University’s Early Outreach Conference, Durham Regional Police Youth’s 9th Annual Provincial Youth Forum, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Richard Ivey School of Business. An opportunity was also given to her to publish an informational brochure about bisexual youth health through Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the University of Toronto. As an executive and volunteer for Pride Western’s current events, she liased between Pride Western and the London community to organize events to create a safe space on campus. Last summer, she received the Out on Bay Street scholarship.

Her entrepreneurial journey started last summer when she took a Computer Science course, a business course, an online entrepreneurship courses and read books on entrepreneurship. Since then, Marga already had been to four hackathons where she learned more how to code, gave product ideas, and led teams. She gave an entrepreneurial workshop to Grade 11 students at the Richard Ivey School of Business, delivered the best pitch at Western Engineering’s and Richard Ivey School of Business’ Pitch Competition, and won First Place at Startup Weekend Peel Powered by Google Entrepreneurs.

Recently, Marga was shortlisted and got accepted into the Next 36 Program as one of Canada’s top 36 young high-impact entrepreneurs from a pool of over 1,100 applicants through a rigorous national selection process. These 36 young entrepreneurs will receive unparalleled mentorship from Canada’s top business leaders, up to $50,000 from top venture capitalists, and academic instruction from some of the world’s top faculty beginning May 6 to August 19, 2017.

Her parents, Ramil and Pinky Quijano instilled in her and Marga’s three other siblings the importance and value of education. Medical school (and/or business school in a dual degree program) is still in her mind and will push it through when the time feels right. In her own words, “perhaps after I positively impact at least one million people – a number I haphazardly chose.”

I gave her 5 questions. The last one was about her philosophy, motto… “Life is short, so do what you love. Take care of yourself, exercise, surround yourself with great people who support you, spend time with people you love, give back, take the risk, get out of your comfort zone to grow as a person, and be happy.” – Margarita Andrea Quijano, 23 years old

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