International student leader awarded for building community
Even though he’s been on campus for a short time, Yatendra Solanki has had a big impact on the SAIT community. An international student from India, Solanki came to SAIT in 2018 to study power engineering.
“I studied electrical engineering at university in my home province, Gujarat, where I also spent one year working in power generation. I wanted to study internationally to advance my career opportunities. I started searching online and friends of our family in Calgary suggested the SAIT program and it looked like the best place to accomplish that,” he says.
Adjusting to a new country and a new school didn’t stop him from getting involved in many extracurricular activities.
“My father is the biggest source of inspiration. He advised me to advocate for student issues. That’s why I became involved in student leadership at home and it was natural for me to get involved at SAIT too.”
Solanki has served on the board of directors of the SAIT Students’ Association (Saitsa). He is also on the executive of the Power Engineering Student’s Association and a student member of the Calgary chapter of the Institute of Power Engineers.
Connecting international students
A major contribution to the student community has been Solanki’s role as president of the South Asian Students Society of SAIT. He organized SAIT’s first student celebration of Diwali which is India's festival of lights and the biggest and most important holiday of the year. It was hugely successful, attracting more than 200 people including South Asian students along with a diverse group of others from the greater SAIT community.
“I tried to create a unique experience for international students from South Asia and to bring a taste of their home to our campus,” says Solanki. “It helped many international students feel a little less homesick and it also helped many other students whose parents or grandparents immigrated to Canada reconnect with their roots. It was all about sharing positive feelings with everyone.”
Inspiration through adversity
As is the case with all SAIT students, Solanki’s life has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was laid off from one part time job that was helping to fund his studies, but he secured another one. And he received some great news. He is the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship — the Nova Chemicals Student Award, one of four awards funded by the company, presented for academic achievement, leadership and community involvement.
Solanki continues to demonstrate both leadership and community spirit during the COVID-19 crisis. He is volunteering as a Director of Communications with the Alberta chapter of One Voice Canada, a student organization that bridges the gap between international students and local communities. “We are working on a food drive. We’ve set up donation boxes and food drop boxes in grocery stores, the Hindu temple and other places,” says Solanki. “We’re preparing food hampers and delivering them to people who need them.”
On receiving the President’s Medal Solanki says the feeling is “amazing.”
“I can't express it in words. This honour shows a big appreciation of my hard work it’s a source of inspiration for making a big contribution to the community in the future. I dedicate this medal to my father and mother and my entire family. They are so proud of what I have accomplished.”
Solanki says, in the immediate future, he hopes to stay in Canada and work in the power engineering field and to stay active in community organizations.