Thank you for joining me!
I shall pass this way but once; any good then that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
– Etienne De Grellet
I was born in a town named Panajachel, in Solola, Guatemala on January 7th, 1995. I grew up the youngest of three in this small town right beside a beautiful lake named Atitlan. This is where I spent my first ten orbits around the sun trying to figure it out.
I was lucky to go to a school named Collegio El Caminito until grade 5 before moving to Vankleek Hill, Ontario. There I studied at Pleasant Corners Public School from grade 5 until grade 8. Then I went to Vankeel Hill Collegiate Insitute for high school.
During high school, I juggled four jobs. I played soccer, hockey, rugby, volleyball, badminton, and ran cross country. In grade 12 I almost single-handedly, coordinated and planned all of our high school’s intramural activities for the student body. The activities touched almost all of the student body as they included: ice hockey, basketball, volleyball, badminton, dodgeball and more! When I wasn’t at school I was kept busy playing for my home soccer and hockey team in Vankleek Hill. Over these years, I volunteered as a referee for Champlain Minor Ball Hockey. I was also involved in many ice hockey tournaments as a volunteer and as a player. At our graduation ceremonies, I was awarded three community bursaries, all of which were for my community leadership involvement. Throughout my four years of high school, I managed to squeeze an 80% average, the minimum to get accepted into a couple of programs in University.
I got accepted into Biopharmaceutical Science at uOttawa. I failed many courses after losing interest in the program including organic chemistry, animal form and function, and biochemistry to name some. I had to change my program and biology was what made the most sense so that’s what happened, I switched to the biology program. I hit rock bottom during my third year after I continued to fail my courses so I made the same resolution we’ve all made to ourselves, to try new and better things at the beginning of the semester. So I did. I got a job in a parking lot and spent more time studying. Things were going well, I join our chess club at uOttawa and my grades were improving.
In my fourth year, I started hearing a lot of complaints about our student union including that they were not funding clubs as they should have, that they were stealing money and that they were corrupt all around. So I thought that I could take over the position that was responsible for developing our clubs program and make it significantly better. Once I read through the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) Constitution I quickly realized why things were the way they were with our student union. The constitution is an absolute mess. There is very little to no competition in the SFUO elections because the field of candidates is significantly restricted. SFUO executive candidates must be bilingual which automatically discounts over two-thirds of the voting population. The voter turnout in recent SFUO elections has ranged between 5 and 20 percent. Students are not voting and why would they? Why would they vote for someone who wouldn’t accept them as their leader?
Seeing the list of issues grow longer and longer with our student union motivated me to run in their elections, even if that meant that I had to learn French. It turns out that you can’t develop policy or campaign when you’re busy prioritizing learning a language. I approached my representatives at the time asking them to move a motion eliminating the bilingualism requirement for candidates. I intuitively pointed out that the requirement is bad because it automatically disqualifies the majority of the population. I was told that if I didn’t like it, that I should go to another school. I’ve never been more insulted in my life. I couldn’t believe that the people who were supposed to represent me were actually telling me to go to another school. I couldn’t sleep that night I was so angry.
In my fifth year (last year), to calm me down, I decided to get back into healthy activities by starting 6 clubs including boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, Muay Thai, judo, and extreme camping. Just getting the clubs up and running took significant time, though, and effort. Once 5 out of the 6 clubs gained enough interest, events begun to take place. My best sport was Brazilian jiu-jitsu so naturally, I began teaching brand new beginners the basics. I basically developed this club to the point where we had the most advanced students teach everyone else, for free and for the sole pleasure of doing something exciting. The managers of the martial arts room didn’t seem to like this and proceeded to shut down every meetup or practice that we would set up. Craig Quesnel, one of the facilities manager explicitly prevented students from teaching each other. The primary purpose of the University is to, “promote the advancement of learning and the dissemination of knowledge.” Telling students that they cannot teach each other for, “safety reasons”, and other ignorant reasons is infuriating and should be illegal.
After being told to go to another school for trying to improve our democracy at school and being told that I wasn’t allowed to teach students or be taught by students martial arts for, “safety reasons”, I decided to quit school and do my own thing.
While this was happening, I couldn’t help but notice all the mass shootings taking place across the border. I kept hearing about all the shootings and homicides taking place inside our own borders. Toronto, at about 3 million individuals, about 3 times the size of Ottawa has had over 70 fatal shootings this year. This, and being told that a childhood friend of mine was shot to death in Guatemala City pushed me past the tipping point. I had to run for public office. Whether it was municipal, provincial, or federal. I had to make this stop. I have to make this stop. I can make this stop. I will make this stop, period.
My university experience was quite volatile and not as pleasant as I wish it was. I did have the opportunity to create a couple of clubs I wish had already existed at the university to help make my last year at the university be just bearable, but not even that lasted. The facilities manager completely broke us up and shut us down just before halfway through the winter semester. I decided that if I couldn’t help solve the issues facing the university at the administration or student union level, that I could run for office, address, and solve these pervasive problems while bringing nothing but the absolute very best out of what this amazing one of a kind city has to offer.
After going through so many things in such a short period of time I was lucky to gain the many unique experiences that I did. You can be confident that my ideas, skills, talents, passion, drive, and ambition are the perfect ingredients for strong leadership development at the highest office in Ottawa.