Katie Kanters (right) is one of only 20 students selected for the 2020 Vimy Pilgrimage Award—an opportunity to spend a week in Belgium and France to study Canada’s First World War contribution.

Touring museums in Belgium and France. Visiting the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Weaving through tunnels and trenches from the First World War.

This April, Katie Kanters will experience all of this, and more, on a history trip like no other —one that only 20 students experience each year. And one that she was inspired to take after attending Shad.

“A lot of us Shads came back and we were fired up to do some more community service, to find more opportunities, to be better leaders…” says Katie, who’s from Orangeville, ON. “I actually started researching opportunities to travel to Europe because Shad did inspire me to seek out more learning opportunities that are outside of the classroom.”

Katie and her fellow Shads at Shad Dalhousie

As a recipient of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award, Katie will attend a fully funded week-long educational program that hundreds of high school students apply to each year. The Vimy Foundation created the award to recognize students with a passion for history and a strong commitment to their community.

At Orangeville District Secondary School, you’ll find Katie in student council, helping in the library, and leading as the President and founding member of her school’s Best Buddies chapter.

She loves all things history—soaking in Shad lectures about the history of Nova Scotia, reading up on the First and Second World War, and attending Queen’s University for a Bachelor of History and Education degree next fall.

But right now, she’s just waiting for April to arrive.   

“I’m most excited to be a part of the Vimy Day ceremony. It will be amazing to be there for the ceremony at the monument.”

Before they depart, Katie and her fellow award recipients answered prompts to learn more about the First World War and its toll on their own local communities.

“We had many men from Dufferin County serve and die overseas in the war and I didn’t realize how many until I started to read all the names.”

Knowing this, she hopes to share what she learned on the trip with her community.

“I feel very honoured. They mentioned how all the students who are going on this trip, it’s like we’re being passed the torch of remembrance because there are no more living links to the First World War.”

She already fixed a Shad pin to her backpack, to bring a piece of her past along with her for the journey.

Katie and her fellow Shads at the last day of Shad dinner

“Going into Shad I was much more reserved than when I left,” says Katie. “I think it’s just when you’re in that situation where you are meeting dozens of new people and everyone’s just so happy to be there, it really does make you confident in every situation post-Shad.”

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