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The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week: Annabelle Rayson

Cathy Dobson For an entire year, 17-year-old Annabelle Rayson worked in her basement for three hours a day on a research project with the potential to change the planet. She worked hard, on her own, without the help of a fancy lab.
Annabelle Rayson, 17. (Submitted photo)

Cathy Dobson

For an entire year, 17-year-old Annabelle Rayson worked in her basement for three hours a day on a research project with the potential to change the planet.

She worked hard, on her own, without the help of a fancy lab. The result was strong science and international recognition.

“I’m very proud of that,” said Annabelle who is a St. Pat’s Grade 12 student. “The reason I won is because all of my research was done in my basement on my own. I’d reach out and ask questions but otherwise I was by myself and that showed creativity and resourcefulness."

Annabelle Rayson, 17, at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists. Submitted Photo

Her research on how to use zooplankton to protect freshwater ecosystems against harmful algae blooms was a winner at the local science fair level and went on to earn the gold medal at the Canada wide science fair. She then represented Canada at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

Possibly Annabelle’s biggest accomplishment to date was receiving the prestigious 2022 Stockholm Junior Water Prize in August. She is only the third Canadian to win the competition and the first Canadian female to win since the contest started in 1995.

Annabelle is this week’s Exceptional Person for her considerable science abilities, but also for a range of other great accomplishments.

Five years ago at the age of 12, she was serving as a legislative page at Queen’s Park and met MPP Caroline Mulroney who is co-founder of the Shoebox Project, a charity that provides for homeless and at-risk women.

“I realized Sarnia didn’t have a Shoebox chapter so I started one,” said Annabelle. “I’m driven by social justice. It’s the tapestry weaving everything I do together.”

Annabelle Rayson (far right) delivers gifts to the Women's Interval Home last year, as part of her annual Sarnia Shoebox Project. (Submitted photo)

Two or three times a year, Annabelle teams up with her mom Stephanie Lobsinger, her family and friends, to assemble hundreds of shoeboxes full of personal items and little luxuries, then distribute them to local charities like the Women’s Interval Home.

Next week, in honour of International Women’s Day, Annabelle is delivering 100 shoeboxes to five groups.

Her time spent as a page ignited an interest in politics that Annabelle says could one day help her incorporate environmental and social justice initiatives into law. Already she is a student trustee with the St. Clair Catholic District School Board and a member of MPP Bob Bailey’s youth advisory board and the Ontario Youth Environment Council.

Annabelle Rayson, right, was Irish Miracle Committee co-chair along with Olivia Thomas last year. (Submitted photo)

Diane Yurkewich is head of the science department at Annabelle’s school. Like many St. Pat’s teachers, Yurkewich has watched Annabelle excel academically and take leadership time and again.

“Annabelle’s optimism, her maturity, her kindness and creativity stand out,” said Yurkewich. “She has a far-reaching vision for the future and the part she wants to take in it.

“She wants to be involved in finding solutions to big issues like inequalities with access to clean water, and she wants to ensure those solutions are lasting.”

Currently, Annabelle has applied to several universities to study environmental or integrated sciences.

“I am hoping to either go into academia eventually and continue my research and maybe consulting, or environmental law or possibly intellectual property and patent law, and then possibly run for office one day.”

Yurkewich, her teacher, predicts that Annabelle is sure to be among Canada’s Top 30 Under 30 leaders and innovators one day.

When the local Chamber of Commerce assembled a panel of speakers to celebrate International Women’s Day next week, they included Annabelle who does regular speaking engagements about science education, women and protecting the environment.

“She’s already accomplished so much at such a young age,” said the Chamber’s Robin Cooke. “There’s a lot of work ahead for our next generation and we want to hear from her about her fresh ideas and her mentors.”

The Chamber is working with the County of Lambton and The Famous Five Speaker Series to celebrate International Women’s Day March 8 at

The Sarnia Library. The event runs from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. and features Annabelle, Sarnia’s Elizabeth Solitis of Bridges Global, Frances Wright, CEO of Famous Five Foundation in Calgary, and Dr. Tapo Chimbganda, founder of Future Black Female.

Who do you consider an exceptional person in Sarnia-Lambton? Nominate someone you know and explain why you think they should be The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week. Email [email protected].

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