Howe Sound Secondary's Jon Gill was recently named a rising star at the Squamish Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards. Chatting with him in person, it is easy to see why. The Grade 11 student is not only a talented pianist, member of various clubs and an environmental advocate, but he is also well spoken and thoughtful.
The Chief sat down with the accomplished youth for a conversation about his activities, concerns of youth in Squamish and his plans for the future.
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: Can you tell me about your history in Squamish?
A: I wasn't born here, but I have lived here since I was about five years old. I was born in the U.S., but moved to Vancouver when I was one year old, went to preschool there. The rest of my childhood was in Squamish.
Q: When did piano start for you?
A: I got into piano about six years ago. My sister, Lucy Gill, was in voice classes, and I was interested in the piano, so my parents said I should check it out. I have been doing it ever since. I still love it.
I practise, depending on my workload at school, a couple of days a week.
I have won scholarships through the Howe Sound Music Festival. This weekend, I went to the Performing Arts BC Provincial Festival.
It is all kind of a family affair. My mom works at Squamish Academy of Music, my dad takes lessons abd my sister and I take lessons.
Q: Do you get nervous before you perform?
A: I get nervous, but it is good. These events are supportive environments. The thing is just to enjoy it.
Q: What are some other things you do?
A: At school, I am in the Eco-Club and the Interact Club, which is a junior Rotary club.
Q: We were talking about the environmental crisis with a child therapist for a story this week. She said all they hear about the crisis overwhelms some kids and they shut down. Others cope by taking action. Do you have any insight on why you are the joiner and doer?
A: I enjoy joining these things because they are available to me — they are an opportunity, so why not? Thinking of Eco-Club, it is also a good or right thing to do, if you are able. The environment impacts us all. With the Interact Club, we do a lot of local and international fundraising. I think if we can impact others and take time to reflect, then we are better citizens. You are helping in the way you can.
It is really important to be involved in your community. Lots of kids in my school are active citizens. It is important for us to move forward — it can be local, it can be global, it can be anything. The age I am now, I think it is really important to be involved in things that can make a difference.
Q: Unless school is much different than when I was your age, I imagine there was some peer pressure along the way to not be the joiner?
A: For me, it is almost the opposite. It is a community thing for us. If anything, I have felt really supported to pursue extra curricular things.
Q: Would you ever have your eye on being in government?
A: I haven't looked into it, but I recently went to Ottawa so I got a look into government there. That may be interesting for me? When I am older, I guess we will just have to see where life takes me.
Q: What do you do for fun, when you have time for it?
A: Music is a big part of my life. I love going to the symphony. Going to see musical theatre shows is also a big family thing for us. Seeing these performances is a bit of a family pastime.
I am also getting my drivers license. I have my L and am taking driving lessons.
Q: It is hard to speak for all youth, obviously, but what do you think Squamish youth are concerned about?
A: Environment is one, for sure. We live in a very unique place and we don't want to see that taken away.
I am in Grade 11 and we are starting to think about post-secondary options, and we think about having to live somewhere. In Squamish, we love our community, but we think about what our options are [for housing].
Q: What is your plan for after high school?
A: I would like to go to university and I am most interested in international relations. And I really love languages. I learn French and Spanish in school and I learn German on my own. So, something with either of those areas, or if I can tie them both together, I would love to.