Few in Cochrane don't recognize the name Kassidy Gerhardi. The 2018 Bow Valley High School valedictorian has devoted much of her young life to making the world around her better.
Her dedication to civic responsibility recently earned her the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Citizenship Medal, which recognizes students for their outstanding citizenship, leadership, community service and volunteerism – contributions Gerhardi has in spades and qualities that define her outlook on life.
"In high school, I was very involved in the leadership program that Bow Valley has. I was part of many of our fundraisers. A big one was the Time for Hope Colours Cochrane in 2018. That was really exciting. I was one of the co-leads on that event and we raised money for the Boys and Girls Club," said Gerhardi, of the initiative that raised $10,000 in its inaugural year.
She's also served on the Cochrane Youth Council, which helps lead youth community engagement, volunteered with groups such as the Cochrane Activettes, Helping Hands Society of Cochrane, Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee, Cochrane Challengers – a bowling league for people with disabilities – and Students for Change.
Gerhardi's experience in volunteerism and service to community belies her age – she is just 18 – but she has always been interested in leadership and citizenship and is committed to social responsibility.
"I was never really into sports or anything like that. In Grade 9 and 10, I realized I needed something else to be involved in. I fell into the leadership program when I was in Grade 10 and there were some amazing teachers – Dorothy Karlson, Scott Thompson and Lauren Curry. They were amazing leadership teachers and they encouraged me to get involved and I found I loved the Cochrane Community and how passionate everyone was about being involved," said Gerhardi.
Her leadership spirit factors well into Gerhardi's future goals as she pursues a degree in business administration at Mount Royal University with a major in marketing. Her minor in social innovation, which is geared toward teaching students how to lead transformative change in their communities, will play heavily into the kind of businessperson she aspires to be.
"A business can be profitable but also have a positive impact on the community plus be philanthropic. I'm doing a fellowship at the Institute for Community Prosperity at Mount Royal ... I don't know exactly what that is going to look like yet, but you get assigned to a community group - like a not-for-profit - and you do research to understand their complex issues and how you can help," she said.
While Gerhardi hasn't quite fleshed out her future career goals, she says she has an entrepreneurial spirit and is interested in doing something that contributes to social sustainability.
"Whatever I do it's going to be ethical and sustainable. It's really important for businesses moving forward. I am learning a lot about shared value businesses and how you can give back in a profitable way," she said, using examples of fair trade and fair wage models of operations. "Economic sustainability is really important, in every country we need that. I think creating equal opportunities for everybody and seeing more equality across the board is something that I would love to see. I don't know exactly how I would get there but that's important to me.
Gerhardi's various activities have earned her multiple other accolades including a Cochrane Leaders of Tomorrow Award, the Premier’s Citizenship Award – the prerequisite for the Queen's Jubilee Medal – a Canada 150 Award and she was Cochrane's 2017's Youth of the Year.
Of all those honours, her selection as valedictorian stands out.
"Bow Valley was where it all started for me and it was an incredible honour to speak to my grad class," she said.
Along with the jubilee medal, Gerhardi received a $5,000 scholarship.