Kassia Fardoe’s Rotary journey almost didn’t happen.
When she was Grade 10 at Strathcona High School in Edmonton, her Spanish teacher suggested she attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Experience (RYLE).
“At first, I was really, really scared and didn’t want to go. I was nervous,” she says.
Eventually her aunt, who is a Rotarian in Camrose, persuaded her to apply. “It will be really great,” she promised.
“But I had already missed the deadline because I had hemmed and hawed over it for so long, but my aunt had found out that the deadline had been extended, so I went,” Kassia says. “Little did I know that Rotary would become such a large part of my life.”
That life will now include 13 months as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar at the London School of Economics, where Kassia began her studies in mid-September.
The Global Grant Scholarship is funded primarily by The Rotary Foundation, with additional funds coming from individual clubs within District 5370.
Amy Smith, a previous recipient of this scholarship, is currently completing her master’s degree at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
Additional information about the scholarship is available on the District 5370 website.
Kassia was encouraged to apply for this scholarship by PDG Laura Morie (RC of Westlock), who she met when she first attended RYLE.
“Laura has been a very integral part of my life. She has always been such an incredible supporter of mine. I honestly don’t know where I would be in life without her, because she has been that influential and that important,” Kassia says.
Kassia will be studying for a master of science in international development and humanitarian emergency. “Most graduates of that program end up working in government or non-profit. Those are areas that I am very passionate about and where I would love to find myself.”
Providing RYLE and RYPEN leadership
The year after Kassia attended RYLE, she returned as a volunteer counsellor. Later, she became a member of the committee responsible for planning for the RYLE program.
“Then, I ended up getting picked to be on the RYPEN (Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment) committee,” Kassia says. “They asked if I would come over and share my experience with them. I was on the RYPEN committee for five years until I stepped down from my position recently, because I will be going overseas.”
Despite her involvement in RYLE and RYPEN, Kassia never had the opportunity to join an Interact club.
“Scona has a pretty incredible leadership program and I was very fortunate to go through that program,” she says. “But with the leadership program being so strong, it has made it that Scona can’t really support an Interact club.”
As a member of the Strathcona Leadership program, which requires Grade 12 students to plan a major fundraiser, Kassia helped organize a bike-a-thon to raise money for World Bicycle Relief.
That year, the students raised more than $100,000 for this non-profit, which builds bicycles and gives them to people in impoverished areas around the world. The new bike owners include “students who are able to bike to school and entrepreneurs who can bring their wares to market,” Kassia says.
Commitment to Volunteerism
Volunteerism has been a big part of Kassia’s life since she was a child. “It was something that was really important to my parents, so it was something I was exposed to early on,” she says.
In high school, she volunteered with Adaptabilities, where she worked with children with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. “I was part of camps during the summer or part of teen nights on Thursday evenings during the year,” she says.
“I really enjoyed being part of the Tourette’s (syndrome) summer camp. It was really interesting because it was something that I didn’t know all that much about,” she says. “Being exposed to it I think really benefited me in the long run because being educated about those types of disorders is just so, so important.”
In addition to her volunteer activities, Kassia worked as a member of the program staff with the Boys and Girls Club for two-and-a-half years while attending the University of Alberta and even following her graduation.
“I am so passionate about the work the Boys and Girls Club does. I think they are such an impressive and important organization. I have been able to see first-hand the impact it has on the kids.”
At the U of A, Kassia received a bachelor of science, with distinction. She had a double major in animal biology and psychology. As part of her program, Kassia completed an ecological research term with the university’s Southern African Field School, study abroad program.
Working with animals in Africa
Participants in the program spent a month in eSwatini (the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland), a month in Mozambique and more than a month in South Africa.
“In eSwatini, I worked on a research project examining small mammal and giraffe populations, while in Mozambique I was working on a project examining cleaner fish populations. The project in Mozambique was definitely my favourite, as all the data collection was done while scuba diving. We had the opportunity to swim with manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, dolphins, etc.”
In addition to studying animals in Africa, Kassia completed internships at Chimp Haven, near Shreveport, Louisiana, and at a zoo in northern California.
“At Chimp Haven, I was working directly in chimpanzee care, feeding and providing general care to the chimpanzees. All the chimpanzees in this facility are retired from federal medical research programs.”
In California, she worked with cheetahs, servals, fennecs, tortoises and in the large aviary.
During her final two years at university, she also earned a certificate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies from the recently opened Peter Lougheed Leadership College.
In the leadership program, she was taught by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell.
“She was very active in our education, which is really interesting because she is a very fiery and passionate and impressive woman. She actually wrote my recommendation for LSE (London School of Economics), which is pretty special.”
While in London, Kassia will be hosted by members of the Rotary Club of Dulwich, Peckham and Crystal Palace.
“There used to be three separate clubs and then they amalgamated and I don’t think any of them wanted to lose their name, so now it’s a really long name,” she says.
Members of club met her when she arrived in London and she will be attending their meetings and their District conference.