Bethany Poltl is a Grade 10 student at St. Paul’s High School in Niagara Falls, Ont., with one impressive resumé. Photo courtesy of Niagara This Week

Niagara teen on a fast track to success

By 
  • December 10, 2017
Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for its wineries, charming old main street and a possible future prime minister — 14-year-old Bethany Poltl.

At least that is what the town’s Lord Mayor, Pat Darte, thinks. A Grade 10 student at St. Paul Catholic High School in Niagara Falls, Poltl’s resumé would make a university graduate envious: She is a Bible school leader, two time Canada-wide Science Fair alumni, ballet dancer and most recently, chair of the Niagara-on-the-Lake youth advisory committee, a newly formed organization dedicated to youth involvement in the community.

“I wanted to unite the youth of Niagara-on-the-Lake and build a base from which we could create opportunities,” said Poltl. “I’ve noticed other cities have youth advisory committees. I’m very active in the community as well so I wanted to establish a committee here in Niagara-on-the-Lake.”

Lauren Kruitbosch, community engagement co-ordinator for the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, said Poltl sent Darte an e-mail describing her vision for the council.

“Her ideas were intriguing and fitting of our mandate, which is getting in touch with our youth,” said Darte, who invited the teen to a meeting with himself and several city councillors. “We had our first meeting and wow — she’s a young girl but she had a whole presentation prepared with a layout, structure, goals, the whole package. I know adults who cannot plan and deliver a presentation like that. It was astounding.”

Following the meeting, the Lord Mayor’s office approved the formation of the committee. For the remainder of the summer, Poltl and Darte worked together to create an online application and review candidates. They selected eight young women (no boys applied) from the Niagara-on-the-Lake community between the ages of 13 and 18 to be committee members for the 2017-18 year.

“It’s a great mix of girls,” said Poltl. “We are all like-minded and have similar passions but everyone brings something unique to the group.”

The committee had their first official meeting with the Lord Mayor and city councillors on Nov. 27 before getting down to business.

“They hit the ground running after that meeting,” said Kruitbosch. “I’m so impressed with them. They have already planned two Christmas events.”

The committee will introduce themselves to the town on Dec. 9 by walking in the Niagara-on-the-Lake Christmas Parade. “We will be collecting donations for local animal shelters,” said Poltl. “The committee’s theme for the year is raising awareness about mistreated and unwanted animals.”

She is also planning a holiday talent show. The show will feature local youth musicians, actors, dancers, visual artists, poets and choirs within the community.

Poltl is no stranger to the spotlight. Her project on the effects of high fructose corn syrup on fruit flies won a bronze medal at the Canada-wide Science Fair in 2015. In 2016, she received an invitation to the Young Citizens of Canada program in Ottawa for a project on Dr. Jennie Robertson, Canada’s first female surgeon.

Despite her impressive resumé and busy schedule, family comes first for Poltl, who is an only child. Her mother, Heidi, is a teacher at St. Paul’s.

Poltl visits her grandparents’ home every Wednesday after school, before her ballet class. It is a tradition she looks forward to each week.

“I really enjoy spending time with my grandparents and my mom. I always say my mom is my best friend,” said Poltl, laughing.

She is also actively involved in her church community at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “I have been an altar server for seven years, I am a leader for the Bible school leader and every year I run the Kids’ Corner at the church’s peach festival. Church plays a pretty big role in my life. I try to live by the Church’s messages like the golden rule, helping others and being compassionate.”

Poltl is still deciding on a career path, but she knows she wants to help people.

“I’m considering all of my options. I am passionate about math and science but I also love the arts. In whichever career I choose, I want to have an impact on those in need,” she said.

Whatever she chooses to do, she can add a glowing reference from the Lord Mayor to her resumé: “Going forward, she is at the top of my list to help with anything.”

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