Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

From online diaries to wellness initiatives, StFX Xaverian Leaders recipients helping bring community together

July 16th, 2020
Eight StFX students are spending their summer working on initiatives designed to bring the Xaverian community together during a particularly isolating time, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students are the inaugural recipients of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership’s Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants. The projects are part of the newly formed “The Xaverian Leaders Media Network.”

Eight StFX students—recipients of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership’s inaugural Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants—are spending their summer working on initiatives designed to bring the Xaverian community together during a particularly isolating time. 

In all, the McKenna Centre awarded eight grants of $2,500 each to returning StFX students for projects that will help bring the community together and will help build a more compassionate student body in a time of physical distancing brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The projects, part of the newly formed “The Xaverian Leaders Media Network,” range from a wellness initiative designed to counteract adverse effects that the COVID-19 pandemic life can have on mental health and physical wellbeing to an online podcast sharing stories and community.  

Grant recipients include Preet Banga; Abby Fraser; Hannah MacDonell, Lauren Sobot, and Grace Moffat; Gabriel Richards; Sophie Hadley; and Kennedy Nangle. 

“With the introduction of the Micro-Grants, the McKenna Centre wishes to contribute to ongoing efforts to help our community deal with the significant challenges that the COVID-19 crisis poses for all members of the StFX community,” the McKenna Centre team says.

“The Xaverian Leaders Micro-Grants find innovative ways to maintain the Xaverian community in a time of crisis, to develop ways to be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to allow us to think and feel together despite the fact that we are physically distant from each other.”

StFX Student Services will also collaborate with the grant recipients and is excited by the potential to connect the work of the students, says Elizabeth Yeo, Vice President Students. 

“We are building community with new students through the summer and will be guiding our new students to engage with and learn about their new community through the different McKenna Center projects,” says Ms. Yeo.

“This fall, we see great opportunity to connect the work with new approaches to programming for students that we will be offering such as new stress reduction/wellness programming, arts/creative programming,  and supporting students to engage with the community through online connections which the projects will do so well.” 

Ms. Yeo says being able to combine efforts and bring students into the community through these projects will help to make sure that students will be well taken care of and that they’ll have a great experience supported with the opportunities offered by the micro-grant students’ projects. 

“We are very grateful to these students for bringing their unique talents and understanding of StFX to build community and serve their fellow students.”  

More information on the grant recipients and their projects follow:

Recipient: Preet Banga. Preet Banga of India is taking a psychology degree at StFX. In her first year, she worked as a writing tutor at the Student Success Centre and volunteered with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. This fall, she will join the Xaverian Weekly as the news section editor. 

Project: Stories of Hope. “Welcome to the "Stories of Hope," where we share experiences and thoughts around the pandemic, the psychological and emotional stress many of us faced, and how we converted it into hope and opportunity for ourselves and those close to us,” she says. “We highlight the challenges that manifest across different social contexts and the solutions created by local communities to enhance social solidarity. These narratives are motivating and inspirational and show the way to live the new normal. For those still trying to navigate the tough times, this is also a platform to seek advice and connect with the community.”  All are invited to share their experiences. “Come, join the ‘Stories of Hope’ to take your message to the world.” 


Recipient: Abby Fraser. Abby Fraser, of Cape Breton Island, is entering her second year at StFX, where she is taking a psychology degree. During her first year, she became a part of several campus groups, including the Relay for Life executive committee, Burke House Council, and Theatre Antigonish, while also serving as president of the Nova Scotia Secondary Schools Students’ Association (NSSSA).   

Project: StFX Art ConneXions. “These unique circumstances have presented us with an urgent need to find new, innovative, and engaging ways to connect with each other when we cannot do so physically. StFX Art ConneXions is a platform where Xaverians can connect with each other using the arts. StFX Art ConneXions will be collecting submissions of any kind of art from StFX students, staff, or alumni.” Expertise is not a requirement. “Use your art to show how you are dealing with the pandemic and to communicate your thoughts and feelings with other Xaverians who may be feeling isolated. This website will be also be a place where you can view art created by Xaverians all over the world. We are all in this together, and this platform will give us a space to think, feel, and share together as a community. This archive of artistic content created by everyday people during a time of crisis will also serve as a form of documentation of this moment in history.”   

Recipients: Hannah MacDonell, Lauren Sobot, and Grace Moffat. Hannah MacDonell is from Ottawa, Ontario and is in her final year at StFX pursuing a bachelor’s degree with a double major in computer science and the climate and environment program. This summer, she is working as a researcher at Carleton University developing a climate modelling software. Lauren Sobot is a fourth year student pursuing a joint honours degree in biology and psychology. She has been a campus tour guide since first year, and this summer she is working in a microbiology lab at Dalhousie University. Grace Moffatt is a fourth year student pursuing a major in biomedical health sciences and a minor in social determinants of health. She is the president of Enactus StFX and is director of communications and marketing for the Xavierian Leaders at large. 

Project: The Xaverian Files. “Are you feeling homesick for StFX? You're not alone. Join your hosts Hannah, Lauren and Grace, who have teamed up to produce The Xaverian Files, a podcast that aims to get you through the ‘StFX withdrawal’ you may be experiencing as a result of COVID-19,” they say. “The podcast will tell stories of melancholy memories, embarrassing recounts, some heartbreak, and lots of laughter. The StFX community is at the centre of the podcast and each episode, we will choose a new theme ranging from meal hall crushes to campus myths and conspiracy theories.” The trio are inviting all to join them every second Tuesday as they embrace the new normal. 

Recipient: Gabriel Richards. Gabriel Richards just finished her second year at StFX, studying political science and history. She is currently looking towards investigative journalism as a career path while working for her second year as the features editor for the Xaverian Weekly and the social media coordinator for the Environmental Society At X. While she was looking forward to going on exchange for the 2020-21 academic year, she is now excited to help bring together a Xaverian version of The Quarantine Diaries. 

Project: Xaverians in Quarantine. “Here, in this diary, we will showcase how members of the Xaverian community are tackling their lives within the confines of the new realities,” she says. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many obstacles such as isolation, loss of income, and loss of opportunities. It has also brought about growth, triumph, and fight to make change. Many people are trying new things, like cooking or sewing. Others are learning about new problems, or problems that they were previously unaware of and how to deal with them, such as the massive outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. And others still are learning about themselves and how to be the people they want to be. Each week, Xaverians in Quarantine will showcase the diary of a community member that shows how they are managing, growing, or thriving in these circumstances. “In a storybook fashion, we will explore the ups and downs and twists and turns of their current life. It will allow us to stay connected and involved in each other's lives, while also staying up-to-date on how the community as a whole is dealing with these new circumstances.” Each week, they will also present recommendations from the Xaverian community about books to read, movies to watch, podcasts to listen to, etc. 

Recipient: Sophie Hadley. Sophie Hadley grew up in Guysborough, NS, and is now in her fourth year at StFX pursuing a history degree with a minor in religious studies. She has been active in the campus community, including currently serving as co-president of the History Society, and participating in the Immersion Service Learning trip to Germany and Poland for Holocaust education. 

Project: Narratives of the Nish. “Being away from the things that we know and things that feel so familiar to us as Xaverians feels very salient. During trying times, connecting with others and feeling a sense of community is important,” she says. “Narratives of the ‘Nish” will focus on the people. “Small businesses at this time have been struggling particularly badly with the strains that COVID-19 has put on the economy. Now more than ever, it is important for the public to understand how we can best support the businesses we enjoy during this difficult time. I will be interviewing the many small business owners surrounding StFX and seeing what has changed for them since the pandemic has started.” She will feature stories on how businesses have changed due to COVID-19 as well as fun stories about how the businesses got started. “On “Narratives of the ‘Nish,” you will also find stories from fellow Xaverians, and alumni about their time at StFX. My goal is to house as many unique stories and perspectives regarding the town and X as possible, in hopes of creating an archive of this unprecedented time.” 

Recipient: Kennedy Nangle. Originally from Ottawa, ON, Kennedy Nangle is a fourth year StFX student pursuing an honours degree in biology with a concentration in health sciences. A third generation StFX student, she has been active on campus and in the community, including volunteering at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. 

Project: X-Moves: Community Wellness Resource. “As a result of the current pandemic, everyone has experienced immense change, rattling the foundation on which their everyday stands,” she says. “From daily interactions to changes in routine, the old day-to-day is no more. These drastic changes can mean many things, including the unfortunate adverse effects that quarantine life and physical distancing may bring about, like mental health challenges. This is where we come in! X-Moves strives to connect, unite, and inspire members of the Xaverian community to get outside, get active, and counteract these adverse effects that pandemic life can have on one’s mental health and physical well-being.” X-Moves, she says, is an online activity resource providing information through multimedia content such as blog posts, and videos that encourage and inspire physical activity during COVID-19. This community-oriented platform will serve as a resource and encourage community members to give their own multimedia input and experience with all types of physical activity, ranging from gardening to running. X-Moves serves as a community-focused platform for anything activity-based and as a hub for positivity, encouragement, and inspiration, in hopes of combatting the negative effects of pandemic life as we move together, apart, she says. 

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