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High-flying alum lands $4,000 Forces AVENIR award

David Chouinard named “personality of the future” in undergraduate category
October 3, 2013
By Beverly Akerman

David Chouinard founded TEDxMontreal.
David Chouinard founded TEDxMontreal. Photo by Eva Blue

David Chouinard speaks French and English fluently, but he says that as far as he’s concerned, the word “impossible” doesn’t exist in either language. There’s evidence to support this claim: last night, Chouinard topped a list of 100 undergraduates by taking home Force AVENIR’s $4,000 Personality award.

Now in its 15th edition, Forces AVENIR brings together government, public and private partners “to recognize, honour and promote” students developing into “socially conscious, active and responsible citizens.”

The prizes — worth $15,000, $4,000 or $2,000 — are conferred for individual achievement and for specific projects, in university, college and high-school categories.

Chouinard, who earned his Bachelor of Computer Science from Concordia this year, already boasts an impressive CV. He acquired his pilot’s license before his driver’s license, was awarded a Government of Canada Millennium Scholarship while at CEGEP, obtained a patent at age 19 for live flight-tracking software, and seriously considered flying himself down to Harvard University in Boston, where he’s now a graduate student in software engineering.

He’s also the founder of TEDxMontreal, an affiliate of the original TED — a non-profit conference series devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” The Montreal organization’s 50 volunteers “focus not on big names, but on the fascinating things future leaders are working on,” Chouinard says.

His advice for other budding entrepreneurs? Make sure to acquire very strong technical skills before you start worrying about business training.

Chouinard says was very excited to be included in the Forces AVENIR finals. “I’m sure this will bring much needed attention to TEDxMontreal.”

Cirque Social, a short documentary about Machincuepa Circo Social, was nominated for a Forces AVENIR award.

A group of five current students at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema were also among the event’s nominees: film animation student Marie-Josée Archambault and her team — Noémie Boisclair, Edouard Dufour, Alfonso Herrera Salceda and Shahab Mihandhoust, who are all studying film production. Speaking for the group, Archambault says they were “super surprised and happy” to be finalists.

Their nominated project was Cirque Social, a short documentary about Machincuepa Circo Social, the Mexican branch of Cirque Du Monde. Created by Cirque de Soleil and based in more than 80 sites worldwide, Cirque Du Monde is a global citizenship program that uses circus arts as a catalyst for social change.

Archambault stresses the program’s benefits for at-risk children and adolescents. It is, she says, about building physicality and learning about team work. “You can’t walk on stilts without having two other people help hold your hands. This program really teaches them how to be in front of others, to work together and help each other. We saw real changes in behaviour.”

Now Archambault and the team are hoping to turn the short into a full-length documentary film, despite the “million hours” necessary.

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