Calgary teenager Jolie Gan has received an international humanitarian award for her work connecting youth with opportunities in legal careers.
Gan was one of 300 youth who received this year's Diana Award, which is named in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales.
"It's completely life changing … it's really touching to receive this award," the 18-year-old told CBC News.
Gan, alongside high school friends, started the non-profit organization Youth Leaders in Law in 2017.
"My focus is really on advancing educational opportunities for young people," she said.
"Over the past three years, we've just tried to reach different minorities, whether it be through cultural, ethnic or religious minorities in Canada, and to encourage these young people to pursue careers in law."
The organization has reached thousands of people in 11 countries, she said.
Passionate about policy work
Gan has also served on the RCMP national youth advisory committee and a federal political advisory group.
"I'm also really passionate about policy work, because after noticing a lot of current events with racism and just a lot of social injustice, I realize that, you know, structural framework is probably the best way to make substantial change," she said.
Gan said she was driven by an experience when she was 13 years old, when her mom was rushed to hospital for a ruptured artery in her brain. Her mom's OK now — but she said the experience taught her that life is short.
"I immediately realized that … the sooner I start making that impact, the more people I can help," she said.
Her parents' immigrant backgrounds have also been a motivating factor in her desire to help youth access education. Her father came to Canada from Malaysia, and her mother from Hong Kong.
"I always hear stories like back when they were in their home countries about how they had to work long hours and their parents had to work day and night just to support them, you know, going abroad and also pursuing their studies. So that's really close to my heart," she said.
Nominees are judged on their demonstration of vision, social impact, inspiring others, youth leadership and service.