Let us introduce you to an incredible GEM in our community, Vanessa Brenders.

In the summer of 2020, Vanessa started a baking business, Cookies & Crumbs. She used this platform to contact hundreds of businesses to support and advocate for individuals with mental illnesses and women in domestic violence relationships. Vanessa raised over $9000 for the Windsor Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and Hiatus House, where she provided much-needed clothing and supplies for children and women.

In her school community, Vanessa played a leadership role in all four years on the student council, including student senate representative, minister of social justice, and minister of media and communications. Through the Best Buddies program, Vanessa partnered with life skills students, promoting inclusivity and ensuring that every student has a friend. She also helped develop the Wellness Group by Jack.org, raising awareness and providing information about mental health issues including anxiety and depression.

Vanessa is a weekly volunteer at a long-term care facility where she led a government-funded anti-depression program targeting dementia patients and provided data to the province of Ontario’s ministers. During COVID, she sewed and donated over 200 masks to the hospital and locals in need. She was also a research intern, where she helped connect children in underprivileged communities to available scholarships.

In 2022, Vanessa was accepted as the first and only Canadian ever to attend the Girls Leadership
Association for Sports and Service program in Costa Rica. Some of her roles included cleaning the local community, volunteering at the neighbouring dog shelter, and teaching soccer to unprivileged children in an after-school program.

Vanessa has already begun working towards her goal of becoming an environmental engineer by
participating in a national research program, Youreka. She has conducted groundbreaking research with university students and teaching assistants. This year, with an impressive second-place finish at their regional symposium, her team will go through stages of peer review to get their paper published in a journal.



Jocelyn Adams
​$1000 Vats Memorial Scholarship Recipient

Jocelyn’s passion for community service sparked at the young age of three years old when she attended her first Terry Fox run with her parents. Since then, she has raised over $49,000 for the Terry Fox Foundation through bake sales, yard sales, and recruiting friends and family to help fundraise for the local event. In fact, her hard work and dedication to the foundation were appreciated by Terry’s family when they personally asked her to be the Youth of Canada representative for the 40th anniversary commemorative book, Forever Terry: A Legacy in Letters.

Jocelyn’s community involvement has expanded from planting trees for Earth Day and creating wellness kits for WYC through the Kids in Action youth group to volunteering at her church and supporting the Tecumseh Fire Department, as well as becoming a volunteer instructor of Taekwondo.

Throughout her high school career, Jocelyn has participated in several sports teams and extracurricular activities, including Student Council, where she helped organize and run several fundraisers and school initiatives.

 click here for the
2023 Scholarship Recipients


Lindsey Bareich
​$1500 Scholarship Recipient

  At twelve years old, Lindsey walked into boardrooms full of business people and pitched her idea of turning a Halloween family tradition into a fun charity event. Lindsey created Carve 4 Cancer, which annually supports the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation and, to date, she has raised over $65,000!

Within her school, Lindsey is a Student Parliament member, the co-chair of the Relay 4 Life Committee, a peer mentor, and a peer helper, assisting international exchange students and providing tutoring services. She also participates in the school band, badminton team, prom committee, and yearbook committee,and is an active member of a FIRST Robotics Team, where she has also spearheaded a branch of FLL Without Borders, bringing educational and sanitary resources to an orphanage in Kikima, Kenya.

With a love for baking and an entrepreneurial mind, Lindsey founded her own business, A Pound of Butter, which she also uses to support local charity events by donating baked goods.

Zainab Alawar
​$2500 Scholarship Recipient

When speaking to Zainab, you instantly feel her genuine care and empathy for others. Her natural compassion, determination, and instinctive drive are a force to be reckoned with. Since moving to Canada eight years ago, she has built an incredible resume. Her most cherished accomplishment is graduating from the Science, Engineering, Arts, and Technology program, where she led the development of a prototype to help individuals with disabilities by enhancing electric wheelchairs that are easily accessible and affordable in pricing. 

Through Women’s Enterprise Skills Training, Zainab has participated in the We Rise Together Workshop, Women in STEM Panel discussions, Tree Planting, RISE UP Project, Toastmaster Youth Leadership program, Card Making for Seniors, and Art Training.

In her community, she has supported many organizations, including the Homelessness & Housing Help Hub—collecting hygiene products and funding; the YMCA—as a support assistant, tutor, and translator for new immigrants; and others such as UNICEF, the Ukrainian Picnic, the Salvation Army, the Windsor Islamic Association Center, and the WFCU Arts Fest and Craft Show.

Through the Community Action Network, Zainab has taken the initiative to address unmet needs in our community, like access to primary health care, the housing crisis, creating a lunch program for schools across our community, and more. 

In hopes of easing the transition for others, Zainab is a peer tutor for the Multicultural Council of Windsor and a current leader for the NOW program, assisting multicultural and diverse groups of newcomers into their new beginnings.