Jessica Kendel does her best to make life easier for those around her, both at home and outside of it.
The Grade 12 Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute student, who lives just north of East St. Paul in Narol, was nominated for the 2013 Gerrie Hammond Memorial Award of Promise and the Prairie Award of Promise, which will be handed out at the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s Women of Distinction Awards Gala at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on May 1.
Kendel said four staff members from MBCI banded together to push for her nomination. She learned about compassion from a young age, as she helps to care for sister Daniella, who is blind.
"She’s been an exceptional child since she was a baby," said her mother, Angie. "She’s always had a heart of gold, always cared so much for other people.
"She’s always been a second mom to her little sister."
After seeing the challenges some people face – she also works with special-needs children through respite work – Kendel is holding an assembly on disability awareness at the school later this month.
"It’s something I had been thinking about a number of years, but now, being in Grade 12, I can have more of an impact than just some random kid in the middle of school," she said. "It also worked well, because our global issues class is all about taking action…The year-end project is called a take-action project, so the two fell hand-in-hand."
Kendel explained she is planning to hold a blind obstacle course, an activity representing what it’s like for those with dyslexia, and a rigged hearing test mimicking what hard-of-hearing and deaf people experience. All of the activities are meant to help people understand what it’s like for people who live with those disabilities.
"You have people that are completely open-armed and welcoming to the idea, and also people who are opposed to it," she said. "There’s one fellow in one of my classes who will throw around words like ‘retard’ or make fun of someone who had Down syndrome, and I’m just sitting there in the back row seething ‘Are you kidding me?’ This is why I’m doing this."
Kendel’s other passion is music, which she started through charitable work. Her father, Kevin, recalled the six-year-old Jessica playing the role of a golden goose in a musical theatre fundraiser for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
Now, Kendel also teaches voice, piano, and flute at Café Music School at 1519 Gateway Rd. She instructs 10 students aged five through 17.
She said music always came naturally to her, so putting it in terms someone else can understand has been a welcome challenge.
Kendel hopes to pursue music as a career, as she has been accepted to the University of Manitoba. She is still deciding between performance, composition, and teaching as a path.
She has also had the opportunity to get into the recording side of things, accepting an internship at Studio 11, located at 49 Henderson Hwy.