Already a global citizen, Edmonton born Vernon Senior Secondary grade 12 student Ashtyn McKenzie has lived almost half her life outside Canada and is an intriguing mix of two cultures. One year in Hong Kong and seven in Malaysia with her missionary parents have contributed to the mixed culture presence she radiates as an artist, athlete, scholar and volunteer.
Dressed in ripped jeans, brown leather boots, her chestnut wavy hair cascading around her cowl necked shirt and loosely knit scarf, she is the image of an artist. Her brown eyes sparkle when she talks about her favoured creative outlets, acrylic painting and detailed, realistic black and white pencil sketches of people and animals. Her expressive hands move gracefully as she peels clear wrap off a plate of paint and talks about the layering she used for a recently completed startlingly intense painting of a wolf. "I’m trying not to be a lazy artist. I mix my own paints. The art room is a safe place for me to experiment, paint, and learn what paint does with other mediums."
It seems to be working. In recognition of her exceptional talent the Vernon Secondary School art department purchased her self-portrait last year. She currently has eight acrylic pieces showing at the Lake Country Art Gallery in Winfield and on her own time is creating a portfolio entitled Animals, Abstract to Real for a Ministry of Education scholarship competition.
But Ashtyn doesn’t spend all her time in the art room. At six feet 1 inch tall she is a force to be reckoned with on the Vernon Senior Secondary Girls’ Volleyball team, ranked fourth in the province. Recently, she created and silk screened a new team logo on individual T-shirts for each of her teammates; all this while maintaining a scholastic average she refers to vaguely as "in the 90’s", citing math as her other favourite subject.
Generous and warm-hearted young woman, Ashtyn makes time to contribute to the community. A resident of Malaysia in 2003, she helped with Tsunami relief, working with the Penang Alliance Church to get food to survivors and help them stabilize their lives. Here in Vernon she offers free babysitting to families in the Vernon Alliance Church.
Ashtyn plans to attend Trinity Western Langley Christian School next year to study Fine Arts, Developmental Psychology and Art Therapy. Apparently they have an excellent women’s volleyball team. "I want to make a difference in the lives of others," she says, with her eye on a career with a non-profit, travelling and teaching art to kids in other countries and helping them sell their art. In preparation for this next challenge she spent last summer as a Leader in Training at Eagle Bay Camp near Salmon Arm. "I like to do the little extra things to brighten others’ days, kids and adults, and give specific encouragement. They say it takes seven compliments to come back from one criticism."
At home, Ashtyn listens to Indie bands like Mumford and Sons in her basement cave. "I’m really an introvert. I enjoy solitude. The music suits me; it’s soothing, mellow and flows well when I’m painting." She also likes to watch the UK version of X Factor or Downtown Abbey with her mom, sister Sydney, brother Jackson, and the family dog, Charlie, a Shitzu who came with them from Malaysia. She counts her mom as a great role model of a strong woman who is also fun. "She has pink and red streaks in her hair."
Ashtyn is thankful for the grounding and influence of her international childhood. "There are huge positives and different perspectives to be gained by travel. One day I hope to have children who can have the same opportunities and experiences."
Ashtyn McKenzie - Third Culture Kid
Story by: Patti Shales Lefkos
Photos by: Barry Hodgins
Cherry Sweet, Penang, Malaysia
*LAUGH OUT LOUD
Friends Lindsay and Taylor inspire me to be crazy sometimes
Stand up paddle boarding at Kalavida, rock climbing in Malaysia
Relating to people, being non-judgmental
A mix of two cultures