Keleigh is switched on

Local high school grad offered her pick of top schools

Ballenas Secondary School grad Keleigh Annau was one of the founders of Lights Out Canada.

Ballenas Secondary School grad Keleigh Annau was one of the founders of Lights Out Canada.

It was a tough decision for Ballenas grad Keleigh Annau but after being accepted by not one, but four of the most prestigious universities in the world she has made her choice.

The Mount Allison University student has decided on the University of California Berkeley for her graduate school.

“I heard back from Berkeley first, then the next week was Harvard, then Oxford and Columbia back to back,” she said.  “I never imagined I would get into my top four. I didn’t really believe it.”

Annau was so worried about getting into graduate school at all that she submitted 22 applications in the fall — six to graduate schools (she was accepted into five in all) — the rest to internships or other programs.

“The reason I submitted so many is because I never thought I would get into all of them. I thought maybe I would get into one,” she said and added, “I was really, really flattered.”

Annau graduates in May with a degree in international relations.

She plans to pursue a Master’s in public policy, with a concentration in environment and sustainability, but her resume is already impressive.

The student who calls Parksville home, founded Lights Out Canada when she was just 16. The annual event sees hundreds of schools across the country turn off their lights for a day and follow lesson plans on climate change.

The seventh edition of the event is scheduled for April 20 and will see schools across the country turn off their lights and spend the day learning about climate change and what youth can do to take action.

Annau said that last year the event had 170,000 students and teachers in nearly 400 schools participate and she said she hopes just as many take part this year. When Annau came up with the idea she admitted she didn’t know back then how big it would get.

“I was not an environmentalist … I had never done anything on that scale,” she said.

It all came about after one of her teachers encouraged her to go to a conference on climate change in Victoria.

“It completely blew my mind. I knew it would be an issue but had not given much thought on how much it would impact me and my peers,” she recalled.

She said that is where she met Dev Aujla, the founder of DreamNow, a charitable organization that produces ideas that do good for the world.

As a producer, DreamNow brings together people, raises money and plans for the growth of ideas.

“He has mentored me for seven years now.  When I told him about my idea he was super encouraging and said I could do it if I was passionate.

“They told me the sky is the limit.  That is how it started.  I didn’t really believe it when it happened the first year.  It had been a year of planning with some help from friends.  So much work went into (it),” she admitted.

The goal of Lights Out Canada is to educate students and teachers about the dangers of climate change and provide participants with a host of ideas on to how to change everyday habits and empower them to lead more sustainable lifestyles. It also encourages schools to be aware of environmentally unfriendly practices, and revise them.

Annau said during the first year it was hard to see beyond her own school but now she can see her vision growing.

Annau said students and schools can register for the event up until April 20 at lightsoutcanada.org.

Although Annau is currently busy writing exams, she will be back home in Parksville in a couple of weeks where she will visit with friends and family.  She said she always makes time to watch her brother Nic who plays for the Parksville Royals.