Skip to content

2015 Canadian Regional Summit

March 18, 2015

—This post was written by Jordan Yeo, co-president of the Simon Fraser University chapter—

This year, Golden Key’s Canadian Regional Summit (or CANCON) was held from February 27 to March 1 at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel in the heart of beautiful downtown Vancouver, BC. Nearly 100 students, advisors and alumni members from throughout the country gathered for a weekend of networking and professional development.

View More:

Friday kicked off as delegates arrived with a photo scavenger hunt activity throughout the downtown area. We were extremely fortunate to have one of the most beautiful weekends the city had seen all year – many students commented on how warm and sunny the weather was, especially compared to the snowstorms in the East Coast! This led to some great photo opportunities and adventures exploring nearby attractions. In the evening, we headed to the nearby pub, Mahony and Sons, for delicious food and drinks, and mixing and mingling among attendees.

View More: opening session began on Saturday morning, with an official welcome from the co-presidents of the host chapters, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Ian Sankey, Director of Golden Key in Canada, provided updates from headquarters and recognized the scholarship winners who were in attendance. He also introduced Council of Student Members representative Azin Zanganeh and Council of Advisors representative Dr. Bruce Shore. For our opening keynote speech, we were very fortunate to have Dr. Art Hister, a local news personality and medical doctor. The title of Dr. Hister’s presentation, “Simple Steps to Living a Longer, Healthier Life”, was a hilarious yet inspiring presentation which took everyone by surprise and brought about some much-needed laughs for an early morning.

View More: the morning and afternoon, breakout sessions were held on a variety of topics, featuring a diverse group of presenters with backgrounds in everything from marketing to astronomy and humanitarianism. Among our notable presenters were Kevin Vallely, an architect and world-record holder for the fastest unsupported trek to the South Pole, who spoke about the importance of resiliency in achieving one’s goals; Michelle Harper, the National Marketing Manager of Purdy’s Chocolatier, who provided real-word advice on career-building opportunities in addition to some delicious chocolate samples; Nisha Khare, a registered clinical counselor and actress, who led a facilitated discussion on following your dreams; and Marjan Jamsaz, an international relations consultant who spoke on the importance of “living from the end”.

View More: View More:

Saturday evening began with our closing keynote address from Ryan Steele, a participant onseason 2 of The Amazing Race Canada, who spoke about overcoming cancer, launching his comedy career, and his experiences competing in a race around the world. Delegates then participated in a chapter sharing session, where representatives from each chapter provided updates on events and initiatives they had participated in over the past year. It was a great opportunity for Golden Key members to learn from one another and bring ideas back to their chapters. After the sharing session, we headed up to the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the hotel for a beautiful three-course dinner overlooking Coal Harbour. Many of our speakers joined us for the dinner, making it a great opportunity for networking in a more casual setting. We also created a slideshow that played throughout the dinner, featuring all of the photos that our attendees had taken throughout the weekend and uploaded to our Guidebook mobile app, and gave out numerous door prizes. With all the formalities done and hard work completed, we ended Saturday night by heading to Joseph Richard Nightclub and celebrating late into the night with new friends from every province!

The fun didn’t stop there, though. Those who were able to stick around on Sunday participated in additional activities organized by the host chapters, including a bike ride around the seawall in Stanley Park.

On behalf of the entire CANCON 2015 team, we would like to thank all of our attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers who helped to make the weekend a success. It was inspiring to see so many bright minds gathered in one place and to make so many new connections. We hope everyone who attended CANCON 2015 was inspired to “make your future now”, and we look forward to seeing many familiar faces at next year’s summit!

View more photos from the event at


Alumni Story – Linny Kimly Phuong

March 15, 2015

linny phuongWe’re all influenced by our parents to some degree, but Golden Key member from Monash University, Linny Kimly Phuong, has been inspired by her parents more than most. Her Vietnamese parents came to Australia in the 70’s as part of the United Nations Humanitarian Entry Program.

Having grown up in a refugee family and witnessed her parent’s bravery, Linny founded The Water Well Project in 2010, which aims to empower migrant, refugee and asylum seeker community groups by improving their health literacy. The organisation has grown to 280 volunteers – all trained healthcare professionals.

The Water Well Project was recognised for its impact on healthcare in the community as a finalist in the City of Melbourne Awards for Community Contribution and with the development of the Victorian Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Action Plan.

As well as these significant contributions to Victoria Health, Linny is a trained Pharmacist, a Paediatric Doctor and is currently completing her Masters. She was named a 2013 Victorian State Finalist for Young Australian of the Year, an Australia Day Ambassador (2014-2015) and has won numerous scholarships for her academics, leadership and service. We had the chance to speak with Linny and find out a little bit more about her.

  1. Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?

Melbourne and Melbourne.

  1. What university did you go to and what did you study?

Monash University for my first degree and I studies pharmacy. Melbourne University for my second and current degrees- Medicine; and currently doing a part-time Masters of Public Health.

  1. When did you join Golden Key and for what reasons?

I was awarded membership after finishing my Pharmacy degree. I then was inducted as an Honorary Member after being a finalist for Young Australian of the Year in 2013.

  1. How has Golden Key influenced your career path?

It has been interesting to read about other individuals’ career journeys, whether in or out of the medical field.

  1. What are you doing now? What is your job title?

Paediatric Registrar at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

  1. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

In life… the most exciting thing I’ve ever done is married my best friend. He is my adviser and my confidant. I would be lost without him.

  1. What is your proudest achievement?

Watching the success of The Water Well Project. It never meant to be anything big, but the momentum brought by our dedicated volunteers has carried our organisation from strength to strength. We were finalists in the Melbourne Awards in the category of Community Contribution last year, next to amazing organisations such as Melbourne City Mission (who have been around for 150 years)- so we were so honoured. We were also recognised in the Victorian Department of Health Refugee & Asylum Seeker Health Action Plan last year, which was also pretty exciting.

  1. What motivates you? What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?

My parents’ story of arriving in Australia as refugees, reminds me constantly to be grateful for the many opportunities we are afforded. I feel lucky to be born into this world, met the people I have and done what I have to this point. I think this drives me to work hard and aim to succeed in everything I do.

Also, as a Paediatric doctor, I feel privileged to work in a field where I get to reach out and help people. Sick kids generally bounce back- and give great snotty cuddles and smiles.

I think the best advice I ever received was to be true to yourself.
People value honesty and integrity. If you do what you believe in, or are passionate about, you are nine tenths of the way there.

  1. What activities and hobbies do you take part in?

I spend a lot of time outside of work, working on The Water Well Project. Like most doctors… I could definitely do with more exercise!

  1. Do you have a defining moment/incident/day that stands out?

Getting my letter of acceptance into medical school. I wanted to have a career in medicine since high school, but things turned out differently. I wouldn’t change this for the world though. I wouldn’t have otherwise have met my husband and many friends along the way.

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?

Melbourne… because it’s the best city in the world. I love the multiculturalism. The culture, the food… I guess question 1 isn’t going to change much.

  1. What is a fun fact about you?

My guilty pleasure is lots and lots of TV… Suits, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men, Modern Family… most popular TV shows are on my list. Again, not the “doctor” lifestyle a doctor should provide. :)

2015 Washington D.C. Regional Summit

March 12, 2015

—This post was written by Amanda Wilson, Stephanie Matro and Krystle Gladu, the chapter advisors at American Public University System —

Attendees from Region 1

Attendees from Region 1

Golden Key kicked off its Washington, D.C. Summit on Friday, February 20th at the Embassy Suites, bringing together members from US Regions 1, 2, and 4. Regional Summit attendees enjoyed meeting new people, sharing ideas through engaging conference sessions, listening to motivational speakers, working on a creative and crafty service project, and exploring the nation’s capital.

The Golden Key Summit kicked off with the opening session. The keynote speaker was Anita Miller who’s a Golden Key Board Member and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Anita gave a motivational and uplifting speech. Golden Key Executive Director Brad Rainey shared updates from headquarters and recapped 2014 with the accomplishments of each region. The first night ended with tours of downtown D.C. and the Advisor Reception.

Attendees from Region 2

Attendees from Region 2

Saturday began with lots of snowfall and the Morning Session, which prepared attendees for the day’s events. We were also introduced to the members present from the Council of Advisors and Council of Student Members. Scholarship recipients in 2014 were also recognized.

The daily session line-up included student- and advisor-led presentations, as well as business sessions with Golden Key Headquarters. Chapter members buzzed around, talking with others and learning new methods for supporting the mission of the organization.

Service Event 1The SPARK a Change service event Saturday afternoon provided an opportunity for Summit attendees to donate magazines to Magazines for Literacy. Magazines were bundled for donation to homeless shelters, domestic violence victims and youth in early education, after school programs and mentoring programs. Members also created anti-bullying posters and bookmarks for local D.C. elementary schools.

Saturday evening’s formal dinner and closing session included guest speaker Jen Croneberger, author of These Five Words Are Mine. Jen enthusiastically spoke about overcoming obstacles, and using determination to propel you forward in life. Jen’s story was inspiring and full of laughs!

Attendees from Region 4

Attendees from Region 4

Brad Rainey, Golden Key’s Executive Director, concluded dinner with special recognition and a certificate presented to American Public University System, who hosted and volunteered at the Summit.

Saturday ended in style with dancing and music, provided by local DJ Floyd Minor.

Throughout the weekend, chapters met with their Headquarters representative, the Associate Director or AD (Hamiyda Scipio, Tricia Forbes or Melissa Decell were present) and discussed their progress and goals.

Melissa Decell, Tricia Forbes, Brad Rainey and Hamiyda Scipio

Melissa Decell, Tricia Forbes, Brad Rainey and Hamiyda Scipio

Sunday’s sendoff included a hearty breakfast and final farewells to friends made. Overall, the weekend was not only a lot of fun, but also a huge success and great experience!






SPARK a Change March 2015

March 10, 2015

Sparklogo-colorAs of 1 March, chapters have dedicated 10,624 hours, touched the lives of 7,929 people and raised $2,208.51 towards SPARK a Change since its launch in July 2014. These collective actions are impacting the lives of youth around the globe! (Chapter leaders, please remember to record your events on the Golden Key website promptly after the event so we can include your accomplishments in our monthly statistics.)

Follow SPARK a Change on social media. Each month, Headquarters will be posting a challenge and a contest for SPARK a Change. Be sure to follow Golden Key on Facebook and Twitter as well as SPARK on Instagram for articles on the benefits of volunteering and posts featuring great SPARK events. If you think your chapter has a great event, please email your event details and pictures to:

March Featured Service Project:

UGA SPARKThis month, we’d like to highlight the GK chapter at the University of Georgia. At the Learning Ally recording studio in Athens, GA, a group of dedicated Golden Key members volunteered their time (3 hours) on a sunny Saturday afternoon to record books for the blind and dyslexic. Learning Ally provides a valuable resource to both the local and the international blind and dyslexic community, both children and adults. They record books and edit their recordings in these studios across the country in various languages, largely through the use of volunteer hours. These books give the underprivileged blind and dyslexic children (and adults) the tools they need to succeed where it would otherwise be nearly impossible. Imagine trying to go to lecture and follow along without being able to take notes at a high speed, see the PowerPoints or other visual representations, or read the book for yourself. Learning Ally strives to record books of many different genres and subjects to facilitate learning and reading enjoyment for their users.

The Australian National University Inducts the Governor-General as GK Honorary Member

February 24, 2015
From left to right: Joshua Ang, Myee Gregory, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), Nicholas Ramirez, Katja Theodorakis, and Selwyn Cornish. Photo taken by Nishara Miles.

From left to right: Joshua Ang, Myee Gregory, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), Nicholas Ramirez, Katja Theodorakis, and Selwyn Cornish. Photo taken by Nishara Miles.

The Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), was recently awarded with honorary membership in Golden Key International Honour Society.

This accolade was presented at Government House in Canberra on Thursday, 12 February, by the chapter at The Australian National University, frequently regarded as the highest ranked university in Australia.

His Excellency was nominated because of his commitment to the Golden Key pillars of academics, leadership and service.

To represent ANU, attendees were chapter president, Nicholas Ramirez; chapter co-advisor, professor Selwyn Cornish; and member Katja Theodorakis. Golden Key was represented by Asia-Pacific Director, Joshua Ang; and University Relations Officer, Myee Gregory.



Alumni Story – Shaun and Jennifer Star

February 12, 2015

J&SGolden Key is proud of our alumni and the amazing impact they have in their communities across the globe. Shaun and Jennifer Star are distinguished GK alumni who met while studying at Macquarie University in Australia and are now based in Delhi, India.

Shaun Star is a lawyer at a top firm in India, but has also found the time to co-found and chair the Australia-India Youth Dialogue which enhances the partnerships between the youth of the two nations. Shaun also received a Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award to go to India, was the top of his class in law school and won numerous awards and scholarships.

In 2008, Jennifer (Jen) started the non-government organisation Tara.Ed based in India. It aims to improve the quality of education in rural India by developing good teachers. Jen is also an elite athlete – representing Australia for 7 years. She was the NSW Young Australian of the Year in 2012 and last year, was named as one of Australia’s 100 most influential women and was a finalist in the NSW Women of the Year.

While as individuals their accomplishments both seem incredible, as a team they are truly unstoppable. Both Jen and Shaun were selected as one of only 75 worldwide Goldman Sachs Global Leaders, both won Golden Key scholarships and both have now studied at Oxford.

We had the chance to speak with these amazing alum:

Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?

[Jen Star: JS] I grew up in a small country town near Bowral, NSW. Now I live in New Delhi (A city with a population that’s greater than Australia!)

[Shaun Star: SS] I grew up in Sydney and now live in New Delhi

What university did you go to? What did you study?

We both attended Macquarie University (that’s where we met).

[JS] I initially studied archaeology/ancient history, but retrained as a teacher in 2010 at the University of New England in 2010. I’ve been in the field of Education since then, studying a Masters in International Education at Oxford. I am currently doing my PhD through Deakin.

[SS] I studied law at Macquarie and did a BCL (Masters in Law) at Oxford in 2012.

When did you join Golden Key? For what reasons did you join?

[JS] I received an invite when I was studying archaeology at Macquarie…and just happened to be dating the Macquarie University Chapter President at the time…I didn’t have a choice NOT to join!

[SS] I was really involved in campus life at Macquarie University, and GK provided another opportunity for me to be involved, as I was elected Chapter President in 2008. It has provided me with so many opportunities since.

How has Golden Key influenced your career path?

[JS] I received the Golden Key Asia Pacific Community Service Award when my charity, ‘Tara.Ed’ was still in its infancy (at that stage, we only had one project in one school in India). The grant gave me financial freedom to work solely on Tara.Ed instead of having to balance a part time job alongside my other commitments. Such support at that stage of Tara.Ed’s evolution was integral to its growth and success today.

[SS] I was very involved with Golden Key at Macquarie University, and this allowed me to develop a wide range of skills (such as chairing a meeting), and connect with other young achievers the world over through the GK International Conference. I also received the GK Graduate scholar award which funded my postgraduate studies at Oxford University.

smallWhat are you doing now? What is your job title?

[JS] Founding Director of Tara.Ed, an international Education NGO that promotes sustainable, quality education in rural and remote parts of India and Bangladesh.

[SS] Foreign Qualified Legal Consultant at Amarchand Mangaldas Suresh A Shroff & Co –India’s biggest law firm. I am also Chair of the Australia-India Youth Dialogue (AIYD), a track two dialogue that brings young Indians and Australians together to develop strong people to people links and discuss issues that impact both nations.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

[Both] – Pack up our lives in Australia to move to India “for one year” (that was five years ago now…and we are still here).

Shaun teaching at AnanyaWhat is your proudest achievement?

[JS] Finishing the first six year project with Tara.Ed. Seeing that the Tara.Ed model was a success and changing lives was pretty special!

[SS] The first AIYD Conference was held in Delhi and Mumbai in 2012 and was a great success. I had brought together and worked with a great group of people – the AIYD Steering Committee – to make it happen. The conference was ultimately the culmination of 18 months of planning and hard work. Four years later, it continues to go from strength to strength!

What song represents you?

[JS] ‘Most people I know think that I’m Crazy’ by Billy Thorpe

[SS] I don’t know…perhaps ‘Star Man’ by David Bowie!?

What activities and hobbies do you take part in?

[JS] I have done the sport of judo since I was a little girl and it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, I’ll always find a judo club to practice at.

[SS] Living in India, it is hard to go past cricket. On weekends, you’ll find me on one of Delhi’s many cricket pitches!

Do you have a defining moment/incident/day that stands out?

[Both] Are we allowed to say our wedding…or is that just tacky!?

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?

[Both] Definitely Delhi! There is an energy about this city that you don’t get anywhere else. We love it!

What is a fun fact about you?

[Both] In a break to tradition, Jennifer asked Shaun to marry her…and two days after the wedding, we moved to India!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

JS – When Tara.Ed had completed it’s first project and was looking to expand, we hit a few hurdles. My mentor, Oscar Trimboli, asked me a very simple question: “what does success look like?” and it really threw me!  I was so caught up in the small details that I had lost sight of where we were going. Everyone’s picture of success is different, and in order to achieve it, you have to know what it looks like. I have mentored many aspiring NGO start ups since, and this is always the first question I ask!

SS – A quote by Margaret Mead that I often revisit when searching for motivation is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”



SPARK a Change February 2015

February 9, 2015

Sparklogo-colorGolden Key is excited to enter into our second year of SPARK a Change, our global service initiative to impact and improve the lives of at-risk youth (ages 0-17) through literacy, education and real-world preparedness. Since August 2014, chapters have dedicated 9,890 hours, touched the lives of 6,627 people and raised $2,159 towards SPARK a Change. Together we can impact the lives of youth around the globe! (Chapter leaders, please remember to record your events on the Golden Key website so we can include your accomplishments in our statistics.)

Follow SPARK a Change on social media. Each month, Headquarters will be posting a challenge and a contest for SPARK a Change. Be sure to follow Golden Key on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for articles on the benefits of volunteering and posts featuring great SPARK events. If you think your chapter has a great event, please email your event details and pictures to:


February Featured Service Project:

uvm_spark_500x375This month, we’d like to highlight the GK chapter at the University of Vermont. Dr. Kathleen Liang, the chapter advisor, teaches a service-learning and experiential-learning course at UVM called Introduction to Community Entrepreneurship. In the course, there is an activity called the Dollar Enterprise Program where students learn entrepreneurial procedures directly through a new-venture creation experience. Students actually learn about theories, and directly start new ventures at UVM! A team consists of 11-12 individuals get $11-$12 per team as seed money. Dollar Enterprise simulates a formation of any business in the real world from teamwork, generating resources, creating coalitions, and building community partners, to dealing with day-to-day operations, assessment, optimization, and time management.  Once the semester begins, it takes one month to prepare and apply for food permits and business details.  Each team runs their business for 4 weeks (at least 3 hours every day from Monday through Friday, between 8am to 5pm) during the semester in various pre-reserved locations on campus only. At the end of the Dollar Enterprise activities, all proceeds are donated to charity organizations. At the end of the 4-week business activity, each team concludes with a business report, financial report, self-assessment, and final team member assessment.  Each team donates all proceeds to local charities and a Community Entrepreneurship Education fund that has been established to assist future students who are interested in becoming successful Community Entrepreneurs. Since the spring of 2005, Dollar Enterprise has worked with over 20 Vermont organizations to generate more than $50,000 for more than 300 charity organizations.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers