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Aidan and his friends fundraise for Inspired 2 Uplift. They are standing outdoors at a table that is filed with donuts. The trio hold a sign that reads “Krispy Kreme Donuts – Inspired 2 Uplift Fundraiser.”

Meet Aidan Gibbons – recipient of the 2023 CNIB National Youth Council Leadership Award!

The CNIB National Youth Council believes in recognizing youth with sight loss. That's why it created the Leadership Award to celebrate people going above and beyond to make a difference in their community.

Aidan Gibbons is this year’s National Youth Council Leadership Award recipient. Hailing from Richmond, B.C., Aidan is studying Business Management at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan).  A professional photo of Aidan. He is wearing a black suit and tie with a pair of white sneakers and sits on a stool with his hands clasped in his lap.

CNIB National Youth Council Vice-Chair Emilee Schevers had the opportunity to catch up with Aidan about what it means to be a leader, mentor and advocate. 

Emilee: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Aidan: From a young age, I always loved to give back and lead initiatives that support people with disabilities, which has driven my passion for leadership and community engagement. In my free time, I like to stay active and immerse myself in the vast world of entrepreneurship! One thing that might surprise people about me is that my dream job has always been to become a public speaker. I want to utilize my platform to inspire other youth to pursue their passions and make a lasting impact on the world. 

Emilee: What does leadership mean to you, and what or who inspires you to be a leader?

Aidan: Leadership, in my view, is the embodiment of those who genuinely commit themselves to helping others and making a positive impact on the world. It's not tied to one specific person for me. It’s the everyday heroes, like my parents, friends, and teachers, who inspire me with their kindness and dedication. They motivate me to take on leadership roles, cultivate an environment where everyone feels accepted and valued, and contribute to making our world a better place by empowering others to reach their full potential.

Emilee: You are a role model and mentor to others. What role does mentorship have in becoming a leader? And what benefits has mentorship had on you? 

Aidan: Mentorship is the very essence of leadership. The two are intricately linked, as being a mentor is the foundation for developing and honing your leadership skills. My journey as a mentor has been immensely rewarding. It has allowed me to offer guidance and support to a student facing a similar visual impairment to my own, offering a unique perspective and an opportunity to provide a resource I lacked growing up.

Emilee: You created an initiative called Inspired 2 Uplift. Tell us about it.

In a classroom, Aidan sits with a young student and shows him the magnification features on his iPhone. Aidan is holding his iPhone over a textbook.  The student intently leans-in for the demonstration.Aidan: I co-founded Inspired 2 Uplift (I2U) alongside two childhood friends during my sophomore year of high school. We identified a significant social barrier facing students with disabilities in connecting with the broader school community, and we knew it was essential to bridge this gap. In short, Inspired 2 Uplift's mission is two-fold: we provide support to youth with disabilities through our buddy program in high schools across Canada and the US while also educating and raising awareness about disability-related issues among the younger through our Events and Advocacy Sector. Last year alone, I2U has raised over $1,000 for our programs and has amassed a team of over 60 student volunteers. For me, the goal is to make Inspired 2 Uplift a globally recognized non-profit organization that supports youth with disabilities all over the world. 

Emilee: What advice do you have for someone looking to start their own advocacy initiative?

Aidan: Remember that the journey is not a sprint; it's a marathon. Don't wait for the perfect moment or the perfect plan. Start now with what you have. Small actions today can lead to significant impacts tomorrow.

Emilee: What is the biggest thing you have gained from advocacy?

Aidan: The biggest thing I have gained from advocacy work is definitely the experience and confidence in myself. I used to be hesitant about speaking up and taking action, but embracing my differences has transformed me into someone who knows the importance of their voice and believes in their ability to effect change. It's not just about the knowledge I've gained or the issues I've addressed; it's the personal growth and empowerment that have been the most profound rewards. Advocacy has taught me that my voice matters and that I can make a difference.

To learn more about Inspired 2 Uplift, visit inspired2uplift.com To get in contact with Aidan, feel free to contact him at aidan@inspired2uplift.com.