From the ice to the stage: Sean St. John’s journey to empower youth

A woman shakes hands with a man as she presents him with a medal in a blue velvet box.
Miyo Yamashita, President and CEO of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, presents Sean St. John with the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers.

Question: What do sports, the performing arts and the National Bank of Canada have in common?

Answer: Teamwork, community, the desire to empower youth, and Sean St. John.

Sean is an Ottawa-born descendant of Irish, French, and Mohawk First Nations heritage.

He is also an Executive Vice President at National Bank and the proud father of Alex, a competitive hockey player. From a young age, Sean played hockey, lacrosse and rugby himself. And so, in 2016 when he was invited to join the Canadian advisory board of Right to Play—a global charity aiding children in overcoming adversity through play—it was a natural fit. There, he also serves as Co-Chair of Indigenous programs.

Fast-forward to 2022, when Sean joined the NAC Foundation Board of Directors. It was not only an opportunity for him to return to his roots, but also give back to the community that shaped him.

“To me, the performing arts are just as valuable to a child’s development as sports,” Sean says. “Learning how to play an instrument, perform with others, create a new dance, tell stories through art…they all involve teamwork. They foster a sense of community, expand a child’s mind and provide priceless experiences.”

Sean also appreciates that the National Arts Centre brings the performing arts to youth across the country. His desire to help elevate performing arts learning and engagement, especially for young people in Indigenous communities, is reflected in his recent appointment as Lead Advisor and Advocate, Indigenous Programs, NAC Foundation Board of Directors.

“I want to empower Indigenous youth by helping the NAC share their stories and culture not only within their communities, but also with children in classrooms across Canada,” Sean says.

The NAC’s Arts Alive especially resonates with Sean. The learning and engagement hub brings music, dance and theatre to schools in remote regions across Canada, and partners with Connected North to offer virtual performing arts workshops and residencies led by teaching artists from throughout the country. Sean has been a Community Champion of Connected North since 2018.  

 “Arts Alive not only brings performing arts learning to the North, it also introduces children nationwide to Indigenous arts like throat-singing, traditional songs, dances, stories and more,” remarks Sean.

On August 18, Sean, who also serves on the boards of the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, was recognized by the Governor General of Canada for his volunteer achievements with a Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

“I am proud to be honoured in this way,” he shares. “And I am lucky to work for an organization that shares the same values that I do. National Bank supports me in my volunteer activities because we share a common goal: to provide our children with the tools they need to build confidence, learn teamwork and foster a sense of community. For me, one of those tools is access to performing arts education.”

Congratulations, Sean!

Join more than 6,500 champions of performance, creation and learning by supporting Canadian artists, educators and students through the NAC Foundation.

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