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W.H. Croxford grad Saheed Alawiye receives national Difference Maker Award

W.H. Croxford High School graduate and accessibility advocate Saheed Alawiye has won a national Difference Maker Award from the Rick Hansen Foundation.
W.H. Croxford High School graduate Saheed Alawiye (left) has received a Difference Maker Award from the Rick Hansen Foundation for his advocacy work involving accessibility and adaptive sports.

Saheed Alawiye, a 2022 graduate of W.H. Croxford High School, is one of just 14 individuals this year to receive a national Difference Maker Award from the Rick Hansen Foundation

Established in 1988, the Rick Hansen Foundation works to create an inclusive world for all, including those facing accessibility challenges. 

The foundation's School Program Difference Maker of the Year Award is given to selected students in kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as educators across Canada who are community leaders in promoting accessibility and inclusion for differentially abled people. The award also comes with a $500 honorarium. 

“Anyone can create change and it’s inspiring to see positive stories of difference-makers,” said Jill Wurflinger, director of the Rick Hansen Foundation School Program, in a press release. 

This year, 14 individuals across Canada were recognized by their peers for the Difference Maker Award and Alawiye was one of the chosen few. 

“I was really happy,” Alawiye said, when he found out he was selected for the award. “I told my mom and she screamed.” 

Alawiye, 18, is a board director of the Calgary Adapted Hub (CAH), an organization that champions inclusion and accessibility in Calgary. The funds the organization raises support infrastructure improvements in public buildings to make them more accessible and welcoming for those facing mobility challenges.  

After hearing about the organization from his mom, Alawiye, who uses a wheelchair, started attending meetings and was soon asked to be a director – a position he intends to maintain while attending university next fall. 

“The Calgary Adapted Hub, within that organization, we always have different plans on how to change things and make them more accessible for different wheelchair users,” Alawiye said. 

Working with CAH, Alawiye is an advocate for adaptive sports and recreation programs for children and youth by identifying current gaps in sporting programs, according to a press release. 

He also spearheaded a wheelchair basketball game between students and teachers at W.H. Croxford this year, as part of a phys. Ed and leadership unit that taught students about alternative sports.

A competitive athlete himself, Alawiye believes being in a wheelchair should not limit the activities he is able to participate in. His team recently played in the Canadian Junior Wheelchair Basketball tournament, where they placed fourth. 

As a recent high school graduate, Alawiye aims to make all buildings accessible through his advocacy work through CAH. 

“When you go to some places, they might not have a ramp to enter or there are stairs, so if there is an elevator, it makes it easier for me to move around,” Alawiye said. 

He added that visiting buildings without elevators means he has to be carried up the stairs, which makes it difficult to be independent. 

One of CAH’s current projects is adding accessible infrastructure to public washrooms so wheelchair users can more easily use these public spaces independently. 

In the fall, Alawiye plans to attend university for a degree in business administration, using the $500 from the Difference Maker Award to go toward funding his studies. His long-term goal is to become a realtor and build houses that are accessible for everyone. 

According to Alawiye, to become more inclusive, communities can start with small improvements and then evolve to make everything on an even playing road for all. 

“Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I should be left out of activities,” Alawyie said. “I want to partake in them.”

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