To say Nicole Cusick is high-energy, focused and driven is an understatement.
Just hearing what the Pitt Meadows secondary grad has done, and wants to do, requires catching your breath.
Just months after finishing Grade 12, the 17-year-old is off to study biology and psychology at the University of Victoria.
While there, she won’t just be hitting the books to get up the grade point average. She’ll be taking advantage of the post-secondary world so she can start delving into science, or health by joining a medically focused club, or maybe volunteer in a science lab.
“Those are things I didn’t have access to in high school that I really want to do now.”
The clubs will reflect her interest in medicine, which she’ll be pursuing after she breezes through her under grad years.
While many students are not sure where they want to go in life, Cusick has figured out that helping people and studying science are her top two interests.
“I definitely have a pretty big passion for science, but I also have a passion for helping people,” she said.
In her last year of high school, Cusick started the Pitt Meadows Secondary Canadian Red Cross Club. The goal was to get kids meeting once a week to talk about humanitarian issues, learn about what’s going in the world, and look at practical ways of helping people.
“The issues are so in the shadows, they had to have some attention shed on them.” Some of the topics they discussed, including and enlightening teachers in the process, included land mines, disaster preparedness, bullying and abuse, and the crisis in Syria.
The club, now with about 20 members, has been running almost a year and Cusick has passed it on to one of her colleagues.
“We’re very much act on with what’s currently going on in the world,” said Cusick.
Often, the club would meet to discuss certain issues, only to have to change the agenda to reflect what was actually happening in the world that week.
“We’re definitely teaching the students and staff that disasters don’t happen on any sort of schedule. It happens whenever and it’s up to you to be prepared and know how to act on that.”
The last year, the top three issues for the club were Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfires and an earthquake in Haiti.
In her last few years in school, she figures she’s put in 300 volunteer hours into various activities. “The time’s just flown by pretty quickly.” While the Red Cross looked at events far afield, her time with Big Brothers and Big Sisters allowed her to focus on one person. She spent two years helping out her little sister who was in Grade 5.
“It was really fun because I got to have the same little sister for two years. It’s just a really great experience. You know that they look forward to seeing you. You can see the impact it’s having before your eyes.
“She’s definitely growing into a very nice, young girl. She’s awesome. She’ll do so many great things.”
Her last few years in school were also punctuated by volunteering with the Science Alive program at SFU. That program offers science camps to draw kids in and give them hands-on experience and hopefully get them interested in the natural world around them.
Cusick also received this year’s Lynn Papp Community Service Award from the Pitt Meadows Day Society for helping with the Terry Fox Run, her membership on the student council and the district student advisory council.
Cusick gives lots of credit to Pitt Meadows secondary teachers and the school system which she says really helps kids.
And for those following her, she points out that they are closer than they think to graduating and entering into the real world. So first, she says, students should develop study and work habits to get good grades and if they can, try to decide on a path for when they leave school. “But of course, it’s never too late as well.”
There are many pressures to conform in high school, even from friends, but Cusick says students should “do what you truly want to do. That’s my advice.
“Follow what you actually want to do.
“You sometimes have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”