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Forces of the future
It was an night of glamour and fabulousness -- evening gowns and three-piece suits were the order of the day, while Quebec TV personality Gregory Charles was the master of ceremonies. And though the distinguished guests, light show and smoke machines sometimes made it hard to see them, it was the students and their accomplishments that were the true stars of the evening.
On October 10, hundreds of CEOs, politicians and other luminaries came together for the fourth annual Forces Avenir awards gala. At the end of the evening, the jury gave the nod to two of McGill's four nominees. Psychology graduate Naomi Lear and theatre collective The Puppet Project both walked off with the weighty bronze trophies -- and $4,000.
Sarah Neufeld, a Concordia graduate in electro-acoustic music, has worked with McGill students -- including Clea Minaker, Emily De Cola, and Angela Orrego -- to create a socially progressive theatre experience with puppets.
"Puppetry is a useful tool to convey themes of social justice -- it's a visual tool, and it challenges audiences at a different level than theatre," said Neufeld.
Neufeld said that she was delighted that the Forces Avenir Foundation recognized their project. The Foundation honours students who contribute to society beyond the campus. That businesses, schools and government all sit on the juries that decide the winners is a good indication of community recognition of the importance of alternative culture initiatives like the Puppet Project.
For Naomi Lear, the excitement of winning the award was almost matched by being able to meet so many other university students who, like she does, devote their time and energy to their communities.
"What was particularly exciting for me was not so much winning as it was meeting all these other people who were interested in the same things I am," she said.
Lear, who won in the undergraduate personality category, has yet to decide where the trophy that comes with the award will go, but she does know exactly what will happen to the award money.
"It will go straight into my medical school tuition," she said with a laugh.
At least one of McGill's nominees who didn't win is not the least bit discouraged. When asked if his group plans to apply for the awards again next year, Horizons co-founder Samuel Vaillancourt didn't hesitate.
"Sure -- of course. When we applied this year, we didn't think much of our application, since it was a fairly new project," he said of the program that matches high school students to serve as tutors to elementary school students. He explained that next year Horizons will have expanded and settled into their new offices, and is confident of their chances.
Also shut out of an award was the Scala Project, a group of engineering students who brought computers and computer literacy training to a rural area in the Philippines.
Other winners from the gala included GRIP, a drug-awareness group from Université de Montréal that targets rave goers, and Université Laval student Dessislav Sabev, who works with Russian reindeer herders to sustain their traditional livelihoods.