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Katie Levis ’19 – Volunteering to Make a Difference

Katie Levis ’19 has a clear vision of what she would like to do after she graduates. Starting with attending UBC in the fall with a view to eventually completing her Masters in Audiology and Speech Sciences, her vision for her future was shaped in large part by her extensive volunteer work.

As part of CHS graduation requirements, Katie started volunteering at Peekaboo Beans, a children’s clothing company. While there, she learned about Playground Builders, an organization that builds playgrounds for children in war-torn areas. Katie connected with the founder, Keith Reynolds, and worked with him to raise money to build two playgrounds in Afghanistan – one of which is the first playground for disabled children in the country and the other is at an all girls’ school. Through her fundraising efforts, Katie was able to donate $1,800, which Playground Builders then matched.

For the last two summers, while spending time with her grandparents in Kamloops, Katie continued volunteering, working with the Boys and Girls Club. She led camps for children aged five to seven and developed a strong connection with one of the campers who had Down Syndrome. “I read and did music lessons with him and it was amazing to see how happy he and his parents were as a result of our connection. It led me to want to do more.”

When she returned home at the end of the summer, Katie started – and continues – to volunteer at the Down Syndrome Research Foundation in Burnaby. There, Katie is working with a UBC Speech Pathology PhD student who is running a research project about families with children who have Down Syndrome. Joining her interest in science and linguistics with the knowledge that many children with Down Syndrome have hearing and speech deficiencies, led Katie to become interested in pursuing speech sciences.

Katie’s interest in science and language have been fostered at Crofton House – as has her confidence. “When I came to Crofton House, I found it really inclusive and the teachers very supportive. Those things gave me the confidence to start to speak out in class and to participate in discussions.” That confidence has translated to her volunteer work and other aspects of Katie’s life.

Since last spring, Katie has also been involved with a project to help children with rare diseases. Katie is working with Nicklas Harkins, diagnosed with a rare disease, Mucopolysaccharide (MPS), when he was five. As his MPS was stabilized, Nicklas could see how he benefited from research and he wanted to help other children with rare diseases that often do not receive funding or research. “Nick and I approached UBC because of their great research. They liked our idea and, working with UBC, we have set up a fund. We have started fundraising and are planning on organizing an event on Rare Disease Day in February.”

In addition to school and volunteer work, Katie has been dancing competitively since she was four years old and dances about 25 hours a week. “I am preparing to take my Tap Teacher’s Exam through the Canadian Dance Teachers Association so that I can teach children, passing on the lessons I have learned through dance to them.”

Katie is planning to continue to volunteer and teach dance as she attends UBC next fall. Her volunteer work and vision for the future will certainly make a difference to many.