Stars come out for young host of online show

Saanich teen wins United Way 2016 Youth Now volunteer award

Mya Hewstan-Gates of Saanich is a 2016 Youth Now award winner. The 13-year-old was honoured for her youth-inspiring online show

Mya Hewstan-Gates of Saanich is a 2016 Youth Now award winner. The 13-year-old was honoured for her youth-inspiring online show

In her online show Verse, Saanich’s Mya Hewstan-Gates is an outgoing host who interviews local celebrities.

When the camera’s off, she’s a reserved 13-year-old whose economic use of words almost makes her look shy.

Obviously, the winner of the United Way’s 2016 Youth Now volunteer award is anything but.

“You see the same thing in great actors who put everything into their performances, but when you talk to them, they’re quiet, reserved,” said Jessica Van der Veen, acting coach for Hewstan-Gates.

The United Way’s local youth council selected Hewstan-Gates for a Youth Now award for the success of Verse, a teen video program on Youtube.

“Through her volunteer pursuits, Mya is expressing a real desire to make a difference in the world,” said United Way spokesperson Heather Skydt. “She’s a positive, passionate, and motivational force in our community. Mya is going places and our awards are just one stop on her journey of success.”

The United Way Youth Now Awards provided an opportunity to celebrate Mya’s drive to inspire her peers to explore creative and dynamic life paths through her work on Verse, Skydt added.

“It’s an honour. I’m excited to know I was nominated, and it’s been a cool experience,” said Hewstan-Gates, a Grade 8 student at Lansdowne middle school.

Hewstan-Gates was identified by the youth council for showing courage to interview her peers, her confidence to appear on a public social platform, and her ability to memorize a script and perform under pressure.

However, she wasn’t able to be at the recent award ceremony, as she was at a dance competition in Nanaimo on the same night (her team took first place in the hip-hop, large group category). Dancing is the other stage Hewstan-Gates routinely steps onto.

To date, Verse has six episodes, including one with former NHL player Geoff Courtnall. While the show touches on Courtnall’s hockey experience, it puts a focus on mental health, and talks about the Courtnall family’s connection through the Archie Courtnall Centre at the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

“The show is about people following their passion, it’s meant to inspire teens to follow their dreams,” Hewstan-Gates said.

Verse started when Hewstan-Gates and her aunt Chanone Smtih, a producer at Stylux Studio, settled on the idea of an interview show.

The latest episode features quantum physicist Dr. Shohini Ghose, who presented at TED-X.

“The show is a framework for Mya, it displays her ability to be flexible and adaptable, making sure the interview is about the person,” Van der Veen said.

Hewstan-Gates plans to release more episodes of Verse in the near future.

To see the previous episodes visit

The United Way’s Youth Now Council promotes leadership and volunteerism among youth. Members are between 15 and 19, and provide funding and policy recommendations to the United Way board of directors.


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