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Cambridge student wins Vimy Ridge Pilgrimage Award

Melody Schmidt, a 17-year-old student at Glenview Park Secondary School, is off to Ottawa for a week after winning the prestigious national Vimy Ridge Pilgrimage Award
2021 1105 Melody Schmidt Vimy Ridge Pilgrimage Award BG 1t
Melody Schmidt, from Cambridge, is heading to Ottawa for a week after winning the prestigious national Vimy Ridge Pilgrimage Award.

Melody Schmidt has always had an interest in learning about Canada’s First World War legacy, and this coming week, she is about to learn a whole lot more.

Schmidt, a 17-year-old student at Glenview Park Secondary School, is heading to Ottawa for a week after winning the prestigious national Vimy Ridge Pilgrimage Award.

Out of hundreds of applicants from across Canada, Schmidt was among 20 students selected to take part in the Vimy Foundation’s Pilgrimage Award program.

“I’m incredibly honoured and grateful, and so excited for this opportunity to learn more. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Schmidt says.

The award recognizes the actions of young people who are dedicated to the betterment of society by demonstrating an outstanding commitment to volunteer work through positive contributions, notable deeds, or leadership that benefits their peers, school, community, province, or country.

The Vimy Ridge Pilgrimage Award comes with a one-week educational program. Award recipients learn about the history of the First and Second World Wars and participate in Remembrance ceremonies, while reflecting on the role and legacy of leadership demonstrated by Canada during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

“I can’t wait to meet the other recipients. They are from all across the country. We’ve been meeting virtually all summer and it’s an amazing group of 20,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt says she looks forward to visiting the commemorative sites including the war memorials.

“We will also attend lectures. A big part is being introduced to new ideas, to things we don’t typically hear about in the average classroom. I’m really excited,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt found out about her win in June.

“One of my teachers thought it might be of interest to me and so I applied. I wrote two essays, one on how the pandemic in 1918 impacted WW1. The other was about my leadership and involvement in school and in my community,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is student senator at her school. She has volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society through Relay for Life, Operation Smile, and Me to We. She is the co-chair of the Youth Advisory Committee of Cambridge.

“This is a committee that represents youth in Cambridge. We discuss issues that impact youth in our city and how to be “youth friendly”. I’m so honoured to be a part of it,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt spearheaded a social media project 'What You Need to Know Wednesday' to educate others on social justice issues at her school.

“This is a cool initiative. On Wednesdays, we post things on social media that students should know about, from social justice issues to what TV shows to watch. This has been a great way to stay connected especially during the pandemic,” Schmidt said.

The Grade 12 student plans to study history in university, with a dual degree in history and English, and a minor in classical studies.

In the future she hopes to pursue law or politics.

“History has always been so fascinating to me. The more I read, the more I want to learn. In order to understand the present, we need to understand the past,” Schmidt says.

“WW1 is so important. It is such a monumental event and today, everyone who fought, they are all gone. There is no direct connection, and no living links. It’s up to us, the youth, to tell their stories and keep their memory alive.”

Since 2006, the Vimy Foundation has reached thousands of Canadians through hands-on educational programming, and leading innovative commemorative initiatives including the construction of the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park and the Vimy Visitors Education Centre in France.

Inspired by the heroic victory of the Canadian Forces at Vimy Ridge, the Vimy Foundation believes that the key to a successful future lies in knowing one’s past, and that the remarkable story of Vimy should be shared with young people from across the country.

For Schmidt, connecting with the human stories of WW1 is important.

"Empathy can guide us in remembering and commemorating the sacrifice that so many made during the First World War by allowing us to emotionally connect to their experiences,” Schmidt said.

“This connection that we create builds a stronger understanding of what it truly meant to lay down your life on the front lines which in turn ensures that we never let the history or memory of war fade away."

For more information about the Vimy Foundation, visit here.