Sydney Tuk is capping off her high school experience with an award from the province.

The 18-year-old, who graduated from West Kildonan Collegiate last month, will receive a Premier’s Volunteer Service Award as part of the 37th Annual Volunteer Awards. Presented by Volunteer Manitoba and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp., the honours are to be handed out next month.

The award recognizes the many ways Tuk has served her community over the past four years.

"Volunteering was definitely a big part of my high school experience," she says. "I think it helped me to grow and be confident in myself."

One of Tuk’s key volunteer commitments was providing leadership to Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), a student-led program that provides interactive workshops demonstrating the health risks associated with smoking.

Tuk was also heavily involved with Stand Together and Grow (STAG), a group that promotes positive mental and physical well-being.

Tuk visited elementary and middle schools in her community and gave presentations related to these topics.

"I loved the aspect that I could help younger children understand about mental health and the harmful effects of tobacco and vaping," she says.

One of Tuk’s most meaningful experiences occurred after one of her first SWAT presentations at an elementary school when she was in Grade 10. After the presentation, Tuk felt a tug on her sweater. When she turned around, a young child thanked her for visiting the school.

"That’s always stuck with me."

Volunteering with SWAT and STAG was enjoyable for Tuk because it allowed her to give back to the community and contribute to causes she believes in. "I just love how inclusive volunteering is," she says. "Everyone had a role that they could do and be a part of the group."

In addition to volunteering with SWAT and STAG, Tuk helped organize many school events and charity fundraisers. She has also volunteered with the Christmas Cheer Board, Special Olympics, and at her church.

These experiences gave Tuk confidence in her leadership skills. "That’s something I’ll definitely take with me and hopefully build on."

Tuk is a wonderful person, says Tammy Harder, a teacher at West Kildonan Collegiate.

Harder nominated Tuk for the Premier’s Volunteer Service Award because of the consistent volunteering she did during her time at the school.

"She’s super kind, respectful, academically strong and athletically gifted," Harder says. "She’s involved in so many things and she manages her time so that she can do them all well. She thrives in every environment.

"Someone like that who is so giving of her time and so positive about it needs to be recognized."

Finding out about the award was surreal, Tuk says.

"It honestly felt amazing. You don’t go into volunteering and expect something from it, but it is nice to be recognized."

Tuk is currently studying kinesiology at the University of Manitoba, where she received a scholarship to play on the women’s soccer team.

She aspires to become a phys ed teacher.

"I would love to stay physically active and help kids," she says.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.