GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
Matthew Jessop isn't one for sitting still.
The 15-year-old EDSS student is always looking for something to do — whether it is running his own lawn maintenance business, or his involvement in the Air Cadets.
As if that isn't enough, Matthew has already amassed more than 100 hours of volunteer work at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, where he has been lending a helping hand since he was seven years old.
Matthew was recently nominated for the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award, a contest that is supported by the Ontario Community Newspapers Association, comprising community newspapers throughout the province, including the Elmira Independent, as well as TD Canada Trust, and Direct Energy.
His nominator, grandfather Paul Jardin, provided a good summary of why he felt Jessop was eligible for the award, in his nomination form:
"Matthew Jessop is not your typical 15-year-old. He is a well-rounded teenager who demonstrates strengths in many areas of his life. He is an honour student at school. He is an active volunteer in his community. He is an entrepreneur, and operates his own lawn-maintenance business.
"He is a proven leader, from years of experience with student councils. He is motivated and driven to pursue and accomplish his life interests. He is wise beyond his years, and represents what a 'Junior Citizen of the Year' really is."
For Matthew, the nomination came as a bit of a surprise, with his parents only breaking the news the night prior to this interview.
"I was quite pleased to hear about it."
Matthew maintains a busy schedule throughout the year. Every Wednesday night, he participates in "parade" evenings with the RCAC 822 Tutor Squadron, based out of the Region of Waterloo International Airport. He is also spending his Sunday afternoons at the airport, enrolled in ground school training, with his sights set on being awarded a glider pilot's licence.
Eventually, Matthew hopes to earn his private pilot's licence.
"I've always wanted to fly," said Matthew, who said the dream began on a cross-Atlantic trip to Ireland, when he was only two years old. His initial impression of flying wasn't good, until his parents managed to convince him that he was flying the plane himself, by using the controls on his seat. He's been dreaming of flying his own plane ever since.
In the spring and summer, Matthew is busy with his lawn-maintenance business, "The Lawn Ranger of Pintail Drive," where he cares for the lawns of 20 different clients. Matthew is also mechanically adept, providing maintenance and repairs on his own lawn equipment.
During the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Matthew serves as youth volunteer coordinator, and will be helping out with sanitation at this year's event.
Matthew also maintains a high average at school, earning marks in the mid- to high-80s.
His father, Ken, said that Matthew has always been one to keep busy, and he thrives on helping others. There are seniors on Matthew's street that rely on him to help out in their home, something he does with a willing spirit.
"I think he just enjoys helping people out," said Ken. "I think Matt has a passion for it."
A total of 150 candidates have been nominated for this year's Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award. The top 12 candidates will be presented with the award at a special ceremony later this year, with the announcement of final recipients made public on Jan. 25, 2013. For more information about the contest, visit www.ocna.org.