For most of her life, 17 year old Sidney Mrus has been what most people would refer to as shy. That is until 2017 when Mrus decided to throw her hat in the ring as a candidate for the Ladysmith Ambassador Program. The grade 12 student at Ladysmith Senior Secondary was crowned Ladysmith Ambassador 2017-18 and has spent the last year representing Ladysmith at a number of community events including the Light-Up, Ladysmith Days, the Maritime Festival and Tour de Rock/Cops for Cancer.
"My sister participated in the program and I saw how much it helped her come out of her shell - I knew that it could also help me with my self-confidence," Mrus says. "I also loved how much involvement there was with our community."
For the past 63 years, volunteers with the Ladysmith Ambassador Society, a not-for-profit group dedicated to instilling community spirit and pride in local youth through healthy development initiatives and educational bursaries, have been running the Ladysmith Ambassador Program. Candidates and Ambassadors volunteer at many community and area functions and participate in programs aimed at strengthening self-esteem, such as communication, public speaking and leadership. They also learn about and share Ladysmith's rich history. For the past year, Sidney Mrus has been assisted with her duties by Vice-Ambassadors, Nina Charley and Brandy-Lin Olson.
"From a young age I have always wanted to be a role model and show that anyone can become an Ambassador," explains Charley. "I also wanted to learn more about myself, become confident in who I am, become more involved in my community and build new friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life."
Olson had similar reasons for joining the program.
"Ever since I was a little I have dreamed of becoming a Ladysmith Ambassador," she says. "My mom was a Ladysmith Ambassador in 1994 and my aunt was as well, so it's a family tradition. I believe in the program and what it stands for."
The team strives to be outstanding role models to the youth of Ladysmith and other places they visit, as Ambassadors also travel throughout British Columbia to promote our beautiful town. These experiences have created many memorable moments for the Ambassadors.
"My favourite memory was when we had the opportunity to be in the Tofino parade. We were their first out of town entry so they thought it was the neatest thing ever," Mrus recalls. "They asked what Ambassadors were and what we do, so we explained all of the fun things we do for our community."
"I've been able to connect with so many different types of people in Ladysmith and other places in our province," says Charley. "I love seeing all the younger kids excited to see us in our crowns and having such big smiles on their faces. It’s been a privilege to represent not only our little town but my family."
Olson agrees. "I really appreciate the little girls and boys who look up to us," she says. "It is the most amazing feeling when they run up yelling "Look, it’s the princesses!".
The skills the Ambassadors receive help to provide a solid and positive foundation as they enter the world of employment and post secondary education. Past Ambassadors also have an opportunity to participate in the B.C. Ambassador Program where they represent Ladysmith alongside other candidates from across the province. Madeline Tremblay, the 2011-2012 Ladysmith Ambassador, represented Ladysmith and B.C. as a 2016-2017 British Columbia Ambassador. The 2017-18 Ladysmith Ambassadors are looking back on their own experiences with fondness.
"I will take away so many wonderful memories," says Mrus. "This program helped me be more self-confident and outspoken. I used to be an introvert but after my experience in the Ambassador program I would say I’m an extrovert."
"I’ve learned that I am a strong young woman who can achieve anything she puts her mind to while wearing a shiny crown on top of her head," says Charley. "I've learned that being yourself will get you so much further than trying to become something you're not. And I've learned that true beauty comes from the kindness you show to the world."
Olson also encourages other Ladysmith youth to become candidates for an Ambassador position.
"Take a chance. As they say "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take," she says. "The program has changed me by showing and teaching me to never hide my true self - it's okay to always sparkle no matter where you go!"
On Saturday, April 28, outgoing Ladysmith Ambassador Sidney Mrus and Vice-Ambassadors Nina Charley and Brandy-Lin Olson will pass the torch to three new Ambassadors during the annual Coronation Evening Program. Good luck to all candidates and thank-you to the outgoing Ambassadors for a job well done!