Girl holding a video camera“…Moments in life aren’t just created on their own. They’re shaped by the people you surround yourself with…the people that get you there.” – Sydney Shannon

Athlete and photographer Sydney Shannon from Whitecourt, Alberta is surrounded by her mom, dad, big brother Andrew, and her coaches who have acknowledged her talents and helped make her believe in dreaming big. In the video “I’m Sydney Shannon”, Sydney, who struggled as a kid with exclusion, describes herself as a “product of mentoring.”  Her personal narrative is a well-executed testament to not only mentorship but also to the way in which mentored youth become leaders and role-models themselves.

There is no “I” in team and Sydney’s video exemplifies this.   Her sophisticated editing choices include funny family pics, volleyball and hockey clips, the discerning wisdom of Forrest Gump, and her creative use of black & white images with selective splashes of colour, serve as a nod to countless memories and a fountain of lessons she’s learned along the way.

I’m walking away with one of Sydney’s most memorable messages: “It is possible to be the best version of yourself without losing yourself to have to fit in.” In a world today where our “version” of ourselves is often measured by unrealistic standards, Sydney’s self-awareness and her ability to relay so generously her gratitude for those family and community mentors around her who have supported and celebrated her version of herself is a radical act! She IS Sydney Shannon. She is a strong, boundless voice. She is a girl who made a video that will challenge you to reflect on who you are too.

Watch Sydney's video below and read her thoughtful piece, further explaining why mentoring has helped her in her life.

I’m Sydney Shannon and I am a product of mentoring. I’ve acquired several assets with the influence of my family, friends and coaches that have moulded me socially, physically and mentally. The saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is completely true, but your tree isn’t just your family, it’s all of your mentors; anyone who has ever played a role in your life that is able to change your way of thinking or encourage it. If your tree is your influences, how are you supposed to grow if you don’t have any? 

Challenging myself through sports and extra curricular activities have developed me as a leader thanks to my mentors. The characteristics I’ve built being instructed and influenced by my coaches and teachers have carried on into my everyday life. The physical and mental struggles I have come across through sports are only conquered by the technical advice and encouragement from my coaches. I’m sure anyone can learn to play certain sports on their own, but with my coaches by my side I’ve dealt with a pretty smooth path to victory. Through photography and videography I’ve had two amazing teachers that have shown me that this could possibly be a talent that I can carry on. They’ve introduced me to several needed skills and have even set me up with clients. I couldn’t imagine carrying on this passion successfully without their time and motivation.Mentors are almost like a shortcut of finding the best that you can be.

Having my family push me to challenge myself has directed me to university, keeping up with physical activity and meeting new and exciting people. They’ve mentored me to believe I can achieve my goals and that I have to work for my success. Becoming the person I am today has been influenced greatly by my brother, he was my best friend as a child always challenging me to do as he did, which wasn’t always the smartest idea, but today have influenced me to take risks and be different. His dominance of being the big brother had made me strive to be the best that I can be, almost as if we were competing (and if we are, I’m still winning). I don’t think people have realized yet that mentors can be anyone who is involved in your life, which is disappointing because most of your success is a result of their influential advice, time and faith they’ve put into you to see you develop as a strong individual.

Not everyone in the world has amazing mentors like I will always have, there will be women and even men that can’t find their path for success because there is no one their to lead them to it. All I can ask you is to please take time out of your day to thank all that have encouraged, inspired or have simply taken a minute out a their day for your achievements and who you are is a product of mentoring.