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2018 Calgary Awards Recipients Bios

The Community Achievement Awards

José Duque, Arts

José Duque, ArtsJosé Duque is the founder and music director of the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra (CMO), an after-school program offering children and youth from low-income families access to music education at no cost. This social change model is known as the El Sistema Method, which José studied in his native Venezuela. Upon moving to Calgary in 2005, Jose began advocating for a similar music program in our city. He saw a need to offer musical training to vulnerable children and youth, especially during the critical after-school hours in communities with high ethno-cultural diversity and socioeconomic need. Today, the CMO boasts 60 members and over the last ten years, over 300 young lives have been directly impacted by José's teachings. While promoting social change through the universal language of music, José offers his students a daily haven of safety, joy and fun that builds every child's self-esteem and sense of value. The CMO has played at various branches of the Calgary Public Library, community events, and The City's Canada 150 celebrations. José's tireless work to create an engaging and inclusive music program is changing the lives of vulnerable youth in Calgary.

4Seasons Transportation, Commerce

4Seasons Transportation, CommerceSince 2002, 4Seasons Transportation has been serving students with special needs in Calgary and the surrounding region. The company evolved out of a need for specialized care for children with complex learning and behavioural needs who rely on bus transportation to get to school. The company takes great care in hiring the right people to transport guests and providing a unique and comprehensive training program for its transfer care specialists (drivers). 4Seasons works closely with the schools and families it serves to understand each child's unique needs, and develop a relationship of trust and compassion between the child and transfer care specialist. The result is children arrive to school calm and ready to learn. Brooke Garcia started out as a 4Seasons driver eight years ago when it employed eight people. Today, Brooke is owner and president of the company, working tirelessly to grow the company to 300 employees, all doing their part to transfer 1,000 students per school day. Brooke is an internationally respected authority on barrier-free transportation services, sharing her expertise with school systems across Canada and the US and at industry forums.

Peter Oliver, Community Advocate

Peter Oliver, Community AdvocateCommunity advocate Peter Oliver is the founder and volunteer President of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association (BNA). Established in 2016, the BNA is the voice and social hub of the Beltline community, one of Calgary's most densely populated neighbourhoods and home to both a diverse resident demographic and a vibrant business sector. With unwavering enthusiasm and perseverance, Peter has led several large projects that have had significant positive impact on his community. Creating protected bike lanes, successfully campaigning Enmax to divert power lines from overhead to underground, ensuring smooth access for residents and businesses during the 17th Avenue construction, and improving the Sheldon Chumir safe consumption site, are just a few examples of Peter's commitment to a better life in the Beltline. Peter takes time to research solutions to challenging issues, and advocate for the best outcomes for his community, and all Calgarians. Peter is a passionate, selfless and innovative leader, a true community champion.

Honourable Mention

Cam Stewart, Community Advocate

For over 38 years, Cam Stewart has been a champion for positive change in Calgary. Since retiring from the Calgary Police Service in 2004, Cam has continued his passion for community service and shared his valuable expertise with volunteer committees with Immigrant Services Calgary, 12 Communities Safety Initiative and Alberta Hate Crimes, to name just a few. Cam has spent the last 10 years building bridges and breaking down barriers to create inclusive and accessible communities in Calgary, making him deserving of an Honourable Mention in the Community Advocate category.

Kerby Centre, Community Advocate Organization

Kerby Centre, Community Advocate OrganizationKerby Centre is a non-profit, multiservice centre providing support to aging adults and their families. Since its inception in 1973, the Centre has evolved into one of Canada’s flagship agencies, setting the standard for older adult services and programming. Connecting with over 30,000 Calgarians annually, Kerby Centre strives to fulfill its mission to 'assist older people to live as well as possible, for as long as possible, as residents in the community'. The Centre is a 'one-stop shop', with direct contact to essential community services in the areas of housing, financial aid, elder abuse, medical needs, and social services, to name a few. Kerby Centre reduces isolation by providing valuable volunteer opportunities in the community and offering computer training to help clients navigate the world of online forms required of so many programs and services. Kerby Centre is a voice and advocate for aging adults, continually adapting its services as the senior population grows, and leading the way as demands grow and change. Kerby Centre is committed to bettering the lives of Calgary’s aging population.

Leighton Wilks, Education

Leighton Wilks, EducationLeighton Wilks is an instructor and PhD candidate at the Haskayne School of Business. Highly respected by his students, Leighton is a four-time recipient of the University of Calgary's Students' Union Teaching Excellence Award. Leighton is a driving force and top-ranked coach with the X-Culture program, an experiential collaboration between business schools in Canada and across the world. The program is offered to Haskayne business students, providing experience working on virtual teams. Challenges include time zone and cultural differences while working on a real-life issue for a real-life company. X-Culture involves 3,000 students in 100 universities from 40 countries around the world. Leighton's passion for the program was instrumental in bringing the Annual X-Culture Global Business Week symposium to Calgary this July. A lifelong Calgarian, Leighton’s motivation lies in giving his students the tremendous learning and networking opportunity that comes from participating on a global team. He has a passion for enhancing learning opportunities for all his students.

Irene and Walt DeBoni, Heritage

Irene and Walt DeBoni, HeritageIrene and Walt DeBoni have a strong commitment to all aspects of heritage in the city of Calgary. Without their leadership, dedication and philanthropy, there would be a large gap in funding, preserving and sharing history with Calgarians and our surrounding neighbours. The couple's support extends to other cultural and historical organizations including the National Music Centre, the New Central Library, the Glenbow Museum and a Forever Fund with the Calgary Foundation to facilitate the future of Historic Calgary Week. Their long standing and sustained work with Chinook Country Historical Society and Historic Calgary Week has brought increased awareness to the countless stories, sites and experiences that make up the fabric of our city's history. As co-chairs of the annual Historic Calgary Week volunteer committee, Irene and Walt are hands-on in engaging with partners, academics, authors, pioneers and citizens to organize and deliver a festival that grows in success each year. As extraordinary advocates and ambassadors of Calgary’s history, Irene and Walt DeBoni truly are contributors to making life better every day.

Nihal Potdar, Youth

Nihal Potdar, Youth< Nihal Potdar is a Grade 12 student at Western Canada High School, and the CEO of Comp Science for Life, a non-profit organization that offers computer science education, organizes events and provides resources for fellow youth interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Nihal's exuberant passion for STEM coupled with a strong drive to make a positive difference to society led him to co-invent the Virtual Control Panel, a tool designed to eliminate the psychological trauma of disabilities by allowing people to interact with their environment through a virtual panel. This invention has earned accolades from the science and technology community and industry professionals. Nihal is actively involved in his school's science and computer science clubs and outside of school he is a youth mentor, a community volunteer and fundraiser, a cricket player and an active blogger. He donates hours of time designing websites for non-profit organizations. Nihal's exceptional achievements are helping contribute to the quality of life of his fellow students and Calgarians, making him an inspirational recipient for the Calgary Award in the Youth category.

Jenny Belzberg, Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

Jenny Belzberg, Grant MacEwan Lifetime AchievementFor 70 years, Jenny Belzberg has been an agent of change, a mentor and a faithful volunteer in the Calgary community. A born and raised Calgarian, her leadership abilities and generous spirit have brought success and credibility to a myriad of community efforts for the city of Calgary and beyond. Jenny's devotion to volunteerism began with Jewish community organizations that support women and families. She quickly emerged as a natural leader and rose to executive level positions on local, provincial and national Boards and Committees for a variety of deserving causes. Believing art and culture feed the soul, Jenny lends her creativity, leadership and fundraising skills to the arts community, serving multi-year Board terms with the Calgary Philharmonic Society, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Honens International Piano Competition, to name a few. Jenny has been widely recognized and honored for her lifelong commitments, and she is truly worthy of the Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement Award for all that she has done for our city.

Bill Ptacek, Citizen of the Year

Bill Ptacek, Citizen of the YearBill Ptacek has been the CEO of the Calgary Public Library since 2014. He brings a collaborative leadership approach and compelling vision, guided by the belief that libraries change lives. He sees libraries as vibrant community hubs, much more than just a storage place for books. Bill's continued effort to create a better Calgary for everyone includes reducing barriers to library access, growing the system in neighbourhoods across the city, focusing on early literacy and outreach, and building strong partnerships to better meet community needs. In just a few short years, Bill has transformed our city’s dated library system into the relevant and contemporary organization it is today. Over 688,000 Calgarians are library members and the number of physical libraries in our city has grown to twenty-one, with six innovative locations opening during Bill’s tenure. Calgary's long-awaited New Central Library opened in 2018, and in many ways is a culmination of Bill's work across the entire library system. Bill has a relentless drive to make the library experience accessible to each and every Calgarian.

The International Achievement Award

Tad Milmine

Tad Milmine, The International Achievement AwardTad Milmine is the founder of 'Bullying Ends Here', an educational presentation for youth and adults aimed at anti-bullying. Seven years ago, Tad read about Jamie Hubley, a 15-year-old teen who took his own life after years of relentless bullying. Upon reading this story, Tad made a personal commitment to help other youth struggling in silence. In his personal time, he began speaking in classrooms, sharing his own story of growing up abused, confined to his basement, and bullied at school. His raw vulnerability and first-hand experience of bullying captivates his young audiences, and they hear of his courage to reach out for help in his late teens, and eventually achieve his childhood dream of becoming a police officer. Tad's natural ability to connect with young people is evident by the 20,000 email and social media messages he receives annually from kids, school administrators and youth groups looking for guidance and support. Bullying is a universal issue, and the 'Bullying Ends Here' presentation is sought out and shared internationally. What began as a commitment to honour a life cut short, has led to a movement that is impacting youth globally, not only changings lives, but saving them. Tad's passion, resilience and dedication is making a difference in the lives of youth at home, and all over the world.

The Environmental Achievement Award

Avalon Master Builder

Avalon Master Builder, The Environmental Achievement AwardAvalon Master Builder has been building quality homes in Calgary for over 30 years. Since 2006, Avalon has been a pioneer green home builder, investing in research to create the most energy-efficient and sustainable homes possible for their customers. In 2008, Avalon started building net-zero homes at no additional cost to the consumer. Net-zero homes generate as much, or more energy as they consume over an annual time period. Avalon achieves net-zero performance by combining innovative energy-efficient construction techniques and equipment with renewable sources of energy such as solar power. Avalon is always striving to find new ways to reduce its environmental impact, and sharing lessons learned with other builders and key industry stakeholders to help advance the entire industry. Avalon Master Builder demonstrates continued leadership, innovation and action in environmental stewardship and in building sustainable and healthy homes for Calgarians.

The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

"Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense" by Marcello Di Cintio

'Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense' by Marcello Di CintioIn Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense, Marcello Di Cintio takes us on a journey of the Palestinian experience as seen through the lens of poets, authors, librarians, and booksellers. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli War, Di Cintio explores the region and visits Palestine's literary community to see how they make sense of the conflict between a rich imaginative life and the daily tedium of violence and survival. The reader is led to understand that while one's political and social environment can shape the human experience, a life can never be fully defined by the context in which it is lived. This book is not one more book about Palestine, this is a book that changes our perception of Palestine. Marcello Di Cintio is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed and 2012 W.O. Mitchell Book Prize-winning Walls: Travels Along the Barricades.  He is a native Calgarian.