It's nearly impossible for Heaven Berhe Sium to make it to her classroom without being stopped by her peers numerous times in the hallway. The scenario was almost inconceivable three years ago for the warm-hearted and now outspoken international student from Uganda, who in the past could often be found by herself with nose in book at the junior high school library. However, through encouragement from the family she resides with in Strathmore and several teachers, Heaven quickly became involved in her school and within the community. Due to her unwavering support and dedication for the betterment of those around her, Heaven's personality and attitude has earned her respect form her fellow classmates and distinguished the recent graduate from the class of 2015 – making her the perfect candidate for this year's Strathmore Times Class Act award. "It is nice to have someone say 'oh thank you for doing this' even though you do it from the goodness of your heart, and that someone actually appreciates what I do," said Heaven. "I just love helping people because it makes me feel good. If you can help, why not right? I'm more open to say what I want, and what I want change in."
Heaven became a member of the Strathmore community three-and-a-half years ago, when her family sent her to Canada to graduate with an education that carried more weight around the world – an opportunity that is accompanied by a $20,000-a-year price-tag. As her father works for the United Nations and wanted to ensure a great future for his children, Heaven's older brother and younger sister are also attending school and university in Strathmore and Calgary, while three more siblings are back in Africa. Since moving to Alberta, Heaven has embraced her new community and strategically kept her schedule jam-packed. Not only does she stand out in her academics, but volunteers with the Strathmore Hospital and Sagewood Care Centre, while finding time to attend nearly every sport's game, drama production, and school event – usually cheering the loudest. "I may seem like the social butterfly, but I don't go to parties and I always have a timetable," said Heaven. "I always have a specific time to do something. I don't want my education to struggle because of that. That is the main reason I'm here; for education. But education shouldn't take up all my life and if I studied all the time I'd probably go crazy. And I'm really loud at sports but that's my way of venting."
Yet her commitment doesn't end there. Heaven tutors other students, works in the school cafeteria, serves as a scorekeeper at basketball and soccer games, helps to fundraise money for school initiatives, and is part of the graduation committee. Every year, the award singles out an individual who showed extraordinary accomplishments in one or more areas outside of their education, while remaining in good academic standing. Therefore, the person's character and personality distinguish them in their community and their school. When Heaven's paperwork came before the committee, the decision was a no-brainer. "It's true, it is the perfect award for Heaven to win, she represents the best of that class," said Strathmore High School Associate Principal Kyle Larson, who was also on the committee. "She's so incredibly supportive of all of the events at the school, and I haven't seen many kids that come to more basketball games, or to more of the Bisons' games. And she's vocal, she's heard, and the kids love her. She's a warm and infectious person that all the kids generally love having around."
With the help of the award's $500 bursary, Heaven will be attending Mount Royal University to complete a Bachelor Degree in Sciences and will then continue on to the University of Alberta to study dentistry. Despite normally travelling home to Uganda for the summer, Heaven will spend this year volunteering with the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games, spend time with her friends, and will experience Strathmore's Heritage Days for the first time.