HOMETOWN: Dundas, Ontario
TRADITIONAL TERRITORY: On unceded Anishinabek (ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒃ) and Haudenosauneega (Iroquois) territory
At nine years old, Nicole Rakowski designed a natural filtration system with sand and gravel, educating her classmates on how to clean water. Since then, Nicole has shown leadership within and outside of her community, showing a strong aptitude for making a change in the world.
Nicole brings with her a wealth of culture experience from travelling to over 32 countries. She draws on this experience to develop perceptive and meaningful solutions to complex issues.
When she travels, she engages with the culture, looking for ways she can help the community. During her time in Nepal, she educated the family she was living with on how to reduce their garbage by purchasing products with little to no packaging. She also showed them how they could compost food scraps and taught community members about the ill effects of burning garbage.
One of Nicole’s greatest achievements is how she continues to establish an environmental policy and framework with Pearle Hospitality in Hamilton, Ontario. She envisioned a system where all items could be recycled, benefitting both the environment and the company. This policy implementation came with great difficulty, but she has persisted and continues to successfully establish a policy through her determination and collaborative efforts.
Initially Nicole’s work would involve taking old dishes, vases, decorations, etc. that were thrown out in her car to a local charity so that it could be re-used. Eventually her work continued to grow with the company, putting up recycling signs, educating the staff of where to put things.
In 2014, Nicole was awarded the Susan Vajoczki Legacy Travel Scholarship to pursue research in environmental science. Nicole travelled to Isle de Juventud, an island near Cuba, to perform coral transects, survey reef fish and manatees, as well as various other tasks. She also wrote a paper on the invasive lionfish species, and presented her findings at a lecture at McMaster University, engaging the students in thought provoking discussions.
As Nicole is an active environmentalist in her community, attending fundraisers and conferences, participating in local cleanups and standing up for preserving our lands, Nicole was invited to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gala in France in 2016. Nicole was personally honoured by DiCaprio for her contribution to their Tiger Protection Program.
This December, Nicole travelled to Antarctica with G-Adventures to experience the enormity of life in harsh conditions -- and to partake in citizen science projects. From her education, she understood that Antarctica acts like barometer for our future. She was able to witness the true vulnerability of our planet, that accelerated climate change was happening.
Nicole is a guiding force in her community, university and in the advancement of local initiatives. It is through her drive to help others and the planet, and her determination to leave a lasting positive impact on the planet that makes her a truly inspiring environmentalist.