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Girls Inc., Bouchier announces First Woman Of Inspiration for 2022-23

Photo Top L-R: Saakshi Arvikar, first Woman of Inspiration 2022-2023, Nanase Tonda, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta, Nathalia Cordeau-Hilliard, Communications and Development Lead, Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta Bottom: Leanne Hawco, Communications Specialist, Bouchier

Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Bouchier have announced Saakshi Arvikar as the first entry of the 2022-23 Women of Inspiration series.

The Women of Inspiration committee chose Arvikar for her volunteerism and advocacy for a more diverse and inclusive community for women and girls.

Arvikar is co-founder for Queens in Code and established Advocate2Educate.

“It’s just that belief in yourself that you can achieve it. Even if, starting out, you don’t have that belief in yourself, you fake it and eventually you kind of start believing in yourself and good things will start coming your way.”

Arvikar volunteers with several organizations in Wood Buffalo, including the Northern Lights Health Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

At the time of publication, she completed her first year of Integrated Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences at McMaster University.

Saakshi Arvikar is the youngest person to be named a Woman of Inspiration since Shreeya Patel in the 2020-2021.

Volunteer spirit

As a child, Arvikar spent time at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Alta., which sparked her interest in medicine.

“I was just so curious about it all the time. As I grew up and did all these biology classes and stuff in high school, it was always very interesting. I did a lot of extracurriculars that weren’t exactly medical related, but still working in the community and helping people and that kind of stuff.”

Arvikar said she hopes to work in pediatrics while assisting with medical research.

Her studies eventually took her to coding workshops, where she noticed she was one of the only girls in the class.

Along with her friends and others who had similar experiences, she formed Queens In Code, becoming the group’s co-founder and co-president.

Arvikar said the focus of the all-girls team of computer programmers is to create a supportive and encouraging environment for younger girls to explore science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

Queens In Code is a partner organization with Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta’s Operation SMART program.

Advocate2Educate is another of Arvikar’s passions.

The charity collects school supplies destined for waste and diverts them to students, who don’t have access to those resources.

Arvikar said the idea came about following a visit to a school in rural India.

Through Advocate2Educate, her team gathered 200 kilograms of school supplies from eight elementary schools in Fort McMurray, and donated most to Janvier’s Father R. Perin School.

“If you accomplish something, you need to say that you did because you did. Don’t lie, brag, or be over confident, just have that firm belief in yourself.”

Arvikar plans to spend six weeks this summer volunteering at hospitals in India.

As a senior high school student, she also volunteered teaching younger and less experienced youth in performance arts and exams.

Musically inclined, Arvikar attended the Parr Academy of Vocal Arts, and performed in local and provincial music festivals.

Arvikar is one of four women to be honoured at the 2022-23 Women Of Inspiration Gala in March 2023.

Residents can submit nominations for the Women of Inspiration series on the Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta website.

The deadline for the second entry to this year’s Women of Inspiration series is June 30, 2022.