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For three decades, we’ve celebrated SAIT’s outstanding graduates — those making a difference on the world stage, in their communities and at SAIT. As SAIT enters its second century, we are proud to welcome our latest inductees to this distinguished group. Their proven leadership skills, notable contributions to the community and exceptional achievements are truly inspiring.
When Victor Buffalo was a SAIT student, his class went on a field trip. During a stop at a cafe, his classmates invited Buffalo to join them. He declined. Instead, he sat outside, eating his bagged lunch alone. “I cried, because I couldn’t join them. I didn’t have any money.” Two decades later, when he was first elected Chief of the Samson Cree Nation, Buffalo remembered that incident and established the Samson Education Trust Fund, now standing at $35 million.
He served as Chief for eight years, working to build a brighter future for his people through education and economic development initiatives including the establishment of the Peace Hills Trust Company, building four state-of-the-art schools, and travelling to China to broker economic opportunities for First Nations.
Buffalo, a father of four, has received the Order of Canada and been inducted into the Alberta Business Hall of Fame — but even at 75, he keeps adding to his list of achievements. “What things do you want to accomplish? Write them down and go after them. It’s how I started. I told myself, ‘I am going to be a goal setter’ — and I’ve accomplished most of the things I wrote down. That list keeps growing. Some you accomplish, some are far-fetched, but you keep trying.”
“Everybody is someone.” This belief informed the work of David Sartorelli over his 32 years of service as a paramedic. Working in Calgary’s downtown core, Sartorelli was in constant contact with those society doesn’t always care for. But Sartorelli cared. He’d share a kind word, give a reassuring touch, advocate for a patient who wasn’t being heard. On calls, he would ask, “Is there anything we can do for you?” He talked people considering suicide off bridges, delivered more than 25 babies and was always attuned not just to the patient — but to the person. He died of a heart attack in 2014 at the age of 57, while at home with his wife, Sherry, after finishing a shift.
But his legacy lives on. Passionate about sharing his knowledge and positive outlook, Sartorelli served as a mentor for new paramedics and taught courses in advanced cardiac life support. He eagerly learned from those around him and constantly strove to do his best for his patients. In 2013, Sartorelli received the Alberta College of Paramedics Award of Excellence and the Federal Emergency Medical Services Exemplary Service Medal — the first person ever to receive both. A memorial award in his name, donated by his family, supports SAIT students studying to enter the profession.
There’s a generation gap in the construction industry, and 29-year-old Avree Bujaczek is determined to address it. She knows first-hand the rewards of construction work, having been involved in projects ranging from the Airport Trail tunnel and new runway, to flood mitigation at the Calgary Zoo, to University of Calgary field research stations. As a field coordinator with PCL Construction Management Ltd., Bujaczek assists with overall project performance and is responsible for relationship-building and coordination with sub-trades and clients. “Every day is different, which keeps it exciting. There are new challenges, new people, new projects to move along,” says Bujaczek.
As vice chair of the Calgary Construction Association’s Young Construction Leaders Committee, Bujaczek helps her industry peers under 35 to increase their knowledge and skills in key areas such as networking and communication. And as a member of a BuildForce Canada advisory panel on recruiting and retaining women and promoting diversity in the industry, she is ensuring many others have access to a career in construction. “Coming out of high school I never would have thought I’d be where I am, doing what I’m doing.”
Albert Myles Mejia has always been on the hustle. As a child, he’d shovel sidewalks, mow lawns, run errands — anything (legal) to make a buck. Today, the 27-year-old designer and entrepreneur owns his own streetwear company called Legal Hustle Clothing Inc. — just one of many ways Mejia serves as an ambassador for street culture. “I’m not pushing clothing; I’m pushing a lifestyle and a story,” he explains. “I am very influenced by street culture, from hip hop, dance, street art and fashion to sports. It’s what I grew up on.”
He’s the founder of the YYC SOLEdiers Facebook group — a community of 6,200 people passionate about sneakers. He and his team are the drivers behind the YYC Sneaker Swap, an annual event that’s grown to more than 800 attendees. Mejia is also a professional dancer (he co-founded dance crew Empirical Freedom); the promotions coordinator with the SAIT Students’ Association; an active volunteer (with Movement with a Message, providing opportunities for artists advocating for social justice issues); and a role model for Calgary youth. “I get to show people that you don’t have to do what people expect you to do. The only person that stops you from doing it is you.”
Contributing to the community is second nature to Nicky Nash. Both her grandfathers served as mayors of their hometowns and, as a child growing up in Hussar, Alta., Nash joined her community in successfully raising enough money to build a new arena. That sense of possibility stays with her. “Hussar’s population is only a few hundred, so it shows the power of volunteering and what people can do when they come together,” says Nash, 30.
Today, as Executive Director of Kids Up Front Calgary, Nash and her team harness that collective power. They work with 230 partner agencies to distribute donated tickets for events such as hockey games, concerts and plays to youth under 18 who are experiencing poverty, abuse, illness or disability.
She’s been with Kids Up Front since 2012, when her passion for creating change inspired Nash to leave a marketing career working on Fortune 500 accounts. She continues to volunteer with Give a Mile, Ronald McDonald House and other groups in addition to her busy job. “I have three thank-you cards from kids framed in my office. It’s a good reminder of why we are doing this and who we are doing this for.”
Text by Ruth Myles | Photo George Webber