Youth leader and innovator

Our Community Investment Committee is made up of volunteers from all aspects and ages of our community, including young people. On a recent edition of IMPACT, I had a chance to sit down with Angela Wang, a recent graduate from Westwood Community High School, the class valedictorian and a United Way volunteer. To say that she is an impressive young lady would be a pitiful understatement. She is articulate, thoughtful, intelligent and expressive. She is also poised to change the world.

Angela Wang

Angela was born in China, and lived there until she was 6 years of age, raised by her grandmother while her mom and dad paved the way for a new life in Canada. Those first few years as new Canadians were not easy, but they instilled in Angela a sense of community.

“I remember when we first came to Canada we had a hard time making ends meet,” she recalled. “We always had a lot of help from the community. Whether it was organizations like United Way or Salvation Army, we received the support we needed to make a better life.”

The experience of receiving kindness inspired Angela to give back, once life had come together in Fort McMurray. She joined the Community Investment Committee in the summer between grade 10 and 11.

“I felt like I wanted to give back, contributing to the system that helped us, and helped me get to where I am today,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given.”

I asked Angela to describe in her own words the work of the Community Investment Committee.

“We have several teams,” she said. “We listen to presentations from different agencies throughout the community. They tell us what they do, what they have done, and what they are planning to do in the future. We consider their request for funding.”

While some of the content of the application process can be rather heady and detailed, Angela feels that she really benefited from this volunteer experience.

“It’s been good to learn about how the funding process work,” she said. “It’s good to see what it’s like in the more adult world.”

She was deeply struck by the compassion and commitment of the agencies.

“Almost all of them seemed to bring something new to the table,” she said, “something they really cared about. You could see their passion when they spoke about their programs.”

While young, Angela seems wise beyond her years, as she takes a breather after impressive results in high school before heading off to the University of Alberta to study electrical engineering.

“I’ve always know exactly what i wanted to do,” she said, “though I didn’t necessarily know the word for it. I’ve always been interested in creating new innovations and technology. I want to do something where I am constantly learning and where I can make a difference.”

During the science fair, Angela applied her passion for innovation to an out-of-this-world problem. She created a device to help the Mars Rover lift itself out of the sand when it gets stuck.

“You’re already talking about Mars and you haven’t even left Fort McMurray yet,” I joked during the August 1st IMPACT interview.

Angela Wang on SHAW

Angela’s work ethic, academic performance, and academic curiosity earned her a coveted TD Scholarship for Community Leadership worth $70,000. She was one of only 20 students from across Canada to receive this honour.

“It was a moment of surrealism and disbelief,” she said, describing her reaction when she heard the news. “I was in complete shock and totally silent.”

The scholarship will allow Angela to fully engage in her academic studies at the University of Alberta as she begins the next step of her dream.

“To me, engineering is about building the future, building technology for the future, about advancing society.”

There is no doubt in my mind that this young lady will do all of that and more.


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.