Social Justice Activist Shilpa Narayan Bags Sher Vancouver’s Youth Leadership Award

Sher Vancouver is pleased to announce the winners of the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award for 2018.    The January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award is an annual award bestowed upon a deserving youth who is 16 to 30 years of age and who has demonstrated involvement, commitment, and leadership in the LGBTQ community.

Surrey, British Columbia –  Sher Vancouver is pleased to announce the winners of the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award for 2018.

The January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award is an annual award bestowed upon a deserving youth who is 16 to 30 years of age and who has demonstrated involvement, commitment, and leadership in the LGBTQ community.



Shilpa Narayan

Gold Award



Mike Hsiao

Silver Award



Hunter Levi Hastings

Bronze Award



Hanna Jacobsen

Honourable Mention



“There were many strong applicants this year and it was difficult to select a winner.  I am just amazed by the quality of the applicants and the wonderful work they do in the community. We wish we could have recognized and supported everyone,” states Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha.

A 12 member jury independently ranked the Top 4 applicants.  Each judge allocated points from 4 for the winner, then 3, 2, and 1 for honourable mention.  The jury consisted of community members such as a university professor, social justice high school instructor, and engineer, as well as board members from Sher Vancouver.

Sher Vancouver acknowledges the generous financial support of Ofir Vaisman of No Fear Counselling for funding the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award. “We must recognize and support youth in the community who are making a difference for those who are suffering and at-risk.  This award provides a platform for emerging human rights leaders to be celebrated for their activism and allow them to continue to break down barriers for those who cannot speak or defend themselves due to the cultural or social stigma of gender or sexuality issues,” says Ofir Vaisman of No Fear Counselling.

Here are the bios of the winners written by the winners themselves:



(Gold Award)

Shilpa Narayan is a 23-year-old award winning mental health and social justice activist as well as a Gender, Sexuality, Women Studies student at Simon Fraser University. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, facing tremendous adversity and struggling with self-harm and suicidal ideation. However, she then realized that stigma should not get in the way of taking care of our mental health. Instead of calling her depression and anxiety a “struggle”, she began to call it “her journey.” She became an active voice to support others. Shilpa creates workshop locally and globally for students, teachers, parents and social service providers to connect with resources and educate on mental health literacy and the importance of creating safe spaces for those struggling and needing ways to cope with societal challenges. Currently, Shilpa’s work focuses on the intersections between mental health and social justice including supporting marginalized communities.  As she continues her work and her journey, she is honoured to present various mental health and social justice workshops, speak at community events, and facilitate conversations around mental health and social justice advocacy worldwide. In April 2018, Shilpa was awarded the Surrey Board of Trade’s Top 25 under 25 award for her mental health and social justice work in the Surrey community.  In November 2018, Shilpa was a speaker at WE Day sharing her story with 20,000 youth at Rogers Arena. Shilpa believes that no youth should face their challenges alone, therefore, she dedicates her life to ensuring that youth voices, specifically of those marginalized are heard and honoured.



(Silver Award)

My name is Mike and I currently lead a volunteer-run non-profit organization called Race Force. Race Force was founded 13 years ago when I was 12 years old and its mission is to support charitable athletic events. Since inception, Race Force has organized, managed, and led thousands of volunteers for over 300 events in Vancouver and beyond. As a result, millions of dollars were raised from the events we supported. Many of the events Race Force supports are grassroots and benefit many communities. In the LGBTQ community, Race Force is the organizing partner of the Vancouver Pride Run since 2015 and has also provided volunteers for the Seattle Walk and Run with Pride.  I am an avid volunteer and have also held a few volunteer leadership and ambassador positions for many non-profit organizations. Currently, I am one of the ambassadors for the BMO Vancouver Marathon. My passion is working with people and making the world a better place. I graduated in 2017 from UBC with a Bachelor’s of Electrical Engineering Degree and I currently work at Ronald McDonald House BC/Yukon as the Volunteer Manager.


(Bronze Award)

I am a 23-year-old aspiring high school teacher whose passion is making an inclusive and bully-free community for future generations. I came out as transgender when I was fourteen and faced many challenges, including being disconnected from my peers and being socially stigmatized for not conforming to gender expectations. It was scary, and sometimes frustrating, to have to be the first transgender student accommodated in many of the schools I’ve attended, especially when my gender identity was seen as a “problem.” My experiences during my transition and the emotional roller-coaster I was subjected to ignited a fire inside me to pursue a socially just and supportive community for future youth, so that they may never have to experience being bullied for who they are or be forced to hide their true selves away to fit an image society expects of them. This led me to volunteering in my college’s Pride Community, spending time helping to not only provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students but serve as a resource of education on various LGBTQ+ topics, a peer-support network, an advocate for LGBTQ+ services on-campus, and planning and leading Pride events for LGBTQ+ students to explore their sense of identity without feeling ashamed or afraid of being bullied. My focus is to bring attention to the non-binary and overlooked gender identities, such as ‘they/them’ pronouns and gender-neutral facilities. My ideology is that difference is a strength, and with understanding comes change. I am thankful to have been awarded the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award and I am excited to help shape a brighter and more inclusive future.



(Honourable Mention)

Hanna Jacobsen is a 2nd-year student at the University of Victoria, where she studies Sociology and Social Justice Studies. She has been involved in LGBTQ/2S+ activism since she joined her high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance at fifteen, within which she has fundraised for the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre and co-emceed a school assembly on anti-homophobia and transphobia. Since then, Hanna has also facilitated workshops for QMUNITY’s PrideSpeaks Program, helped plan a Day of Pink event for youth, organized and presented historical diversity bus tours of Vancouver with PeerNetBC, written on social, economic, and environmental justice issues for Check Your Head’s youth blog, and more. Last summer, she worked as the Pride and Outreach Co-ordinator at QMUNITY—you may have spotted her tabling at one of Vancouver’s many summer Pride festivities. While Hanna grew up in Vancouver, she now lives in Victoria and remains involved in the LGBTQ/2S+ and activist communities there. She hopes to use her education to create a more equitable world and is constantly learning from her peers how to do so. Hanna is honoured to be a recipient of the 2018 January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award.