Konrad Zawadzki, Year 12, and Lincoln Dugas-Nishisato, Year 9, have received Global Youth Action Fund (GYAF) project grants from the International Baccalaureate.
They’re among the 101 students in 48 countries selected from more than 500 applicants. Each project selected supports one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and is designed to have community impact.
Fighting Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Zawadzki’s project involves educating the UCC community and others about Duchenne muscular dystrophy — a progressive genetic disorder characterized by muscle degeneration and weakness — and raising money for Defeat Duchenne Canada.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy largely affects males because their Y chromosome can’t protect them against the alterations of the dystrophin protein carried by their X chromosome. Zawadzki’s mother unexpectedly discovered that she was a carrier during some genetic testing, and further testing indicated that his sister is a manifesting carrier: her heart has been affected by the altered protein. She is under the care of a cardiologist, but it was an unsettling discovery.
“My sister’s diagnosis was very difficult news for the family. I’m not affected, but I can see how lives look for kids who have Duchenne’s and realize my life could have gone differently. It has deepened my sense of empathy.”
A dedicated rugby player who regularly works out at the Upper School’s Strength, Agility & Fitness Centre (SAS), Zawadzki wanted to combine these interests with efforts to raise money for Duchenne. He discussed ideas with Jordan Guilford, UCC’s strength and conditioning coach, and the result was a series of talks about fitness and sports at the SAS last spring.
For two months, Konrad promoted the fundraising campaign, which culminated in the series of weekly lectures. With help from Guilford and other UCC staff, the series featured a sports psychologist, two successful weight lifters and a professional rugby player. The Lift to End Duchenne
campaign raised more than $5,000 and also familiarized students with the SAS.
“I want to bring people into the SAS community and help them appreciate their own health more,” Zawadzki says. “We got a good amount of attention last year, but I want to raise more money this year while promoting fitness. The GYAF grant will help me make an impact.”
Assisting Ukraine through the Sunflower Project
Lincoln Dugas-Nishisato comes from “a family with a long history of community service work,” he says. His focus is on collecting and sending much-needed supplies to people in Ukraine facing hardship because of the war.
“I remember the invasion on February 24, 2022,” Dugas-Nishisato says. “I was extremely horrified that a large country could invade a small country with limited resources and destroy homes and shatter lives of ordinary people. I don’t have any Ukrainian heritage, but I knew I wanted to help.”
He met with people from various Ukrainian groups in Toronto and discovered a group of like-minded people that was shipping necessary goods to Ukraine where they would be unloaded by residents who would distribute the goods to needy families and others.
Says Dugas-Nishisato, “UCC values service that is globally minded and I was confident the community would help fill a shipping container for Ukraine.”
He was delighted to find out that he’d be receiving the GYAF grant, especially since he’d never applied for any type of grant previously.
“I didn’t expect to get the grant, because I knew there were a lot of qualified applicants from around the world and I am on the younger end of the spectrum. I’m proud that the IB recognized the value of this project and had confidence that I could execute it. It will make a real difference, which is the best feeling in the world.”
The Sunflower Project will launch after Thanksgiving, with UCC’s 10 houses assigned specific categories of items for donation, such as non-perishable food, diapers, tools, and medicine. The grant will cover the cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Toronto. It will ship in early November, and the winning house will have their banner displayed in Ukraine.
“I have no doubt we’ll be able to do an excellent job with this,” says Dugas-Nishisato. “I’ve seen the UCC community come together to do great things before and if we put our minds to it, we’ll help people in Ukraine.”
John Sweetman, director of community service, CAS and clubs, encouraged both students to apply for the grants.
“These are both serious endeavours and I’m very proud of them for doing this work,” he says