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CTV's Community Heroes: Meet a UBC student trying to make Vancouver more sustainable and accessible

Stephanie Quon is in her fifth year at UBC studying electrical engineering.

While balancing her studies, she spends much of her time looking for ways to make Vancouver greener and more accessible.

"I think growing up in Vancouver has been such an incredible opportunity to feel more connected to the environment," she told CTV News.

At 15, she launched The Sprouts Initiative, which focuses on pillars of accessibility, sustainability and community.

Her first project tackled the issue of food waste, with Quon finding a way to bring excess food from local shops and bakeries to the hands of those in need.

“There were definitely challenges and kind of feeling like I didn’t have enough experience, or that I wasn’t really sure what I was doing,” she said. “As I gain more experience, I kind of try to see that is more of a skill – that I was willing to be optimistic about the possibilities.”

Quon's goal was to donate 100 meals, but the project has grown to more than 10,000 donations.

She has since spearheaded dozens of other projects and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for community programs.

"I definitely recognize the privilege that I have, and coming from that position, there's so much opportunity to be able to give back and support other people on their terms," she said.

"I also think that, especially with sustainability and climate change, there’s really an opportunity right now to take action," she added.

She said her projects focus more on accessibility now, and through The Sprouts Initiative, she has supported projects in the community including installing power doors at a hospital and even created a sensory room at UBC for students who are neurodiverse.

“There have been times where people have reached out and shared that they had visited the room and I remember someone sharing that they felt that post-secondary was more accessible to them now that that kind of space existed,” Quon said.

"I think those moments, I really felt just so grateful to be able to work on his projects, and I felt like it was really worth it, all the late nights," she continued.

At 21, Quon has been recognized for her contributions by the BC Achievement Foundation.

 "It feels incredibly special," she said.

"Going to the ceremony, I think, was so incredible being surrounded by other people who are doing work in the community. And I was so inspired by their stories and their motivations for their work," she said.

So what's next for Quon?

She plans to graduate this school year and expand on her initiatives.

The university student says the learning never stops, and there's always more to do for the community.

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