BY Aisha Hyder, Grade 12 Do you want to thank someone who inspires you? Well, MAX is giving you the chance to thank your hero. I was fortunate enough to sit down with co-founder of MAX, Aazar Zafar, and learn about how I can nominate my hero for an Award for Excellence. But, wait, hold on… did I mention that there are MAX scholarships for high school and university students, and a MAX Gala in March?! Questions and Answers from the interview: A.H.: What is MAX? Who decided to create MAX and why? A.Z.: MAX stands for Muslim Awards for Excellence. Basically, we are awarding Canadian Muslims; professionals and students who have achieved high levels of excellence in their career, and at the same time, have contributed to elevating the brand of Muslims. These individuals will be awarded at the MAX Gala. A.Z.: The genesis of MAX was when I noticed that Sikhs had their centennial gala and other communities had their own gala. I thought it’s time that Canadian Muslims have their own gala. It’s time to recognize Canadian Muslims who are excelling and contributing positively towards this great country of ours! A.H.: What awards is MAX offering? MAX Platinum Awards for Excellence (3) MAX Hall of Fame Awards (3) Scholarships: University Student (3) Scholarships: High School Student (3) Additional Awards (2) A professional who has achieved a high level of excellence within their career Entrepreneur of the Year $10000; for a student in the sciences or engineering field $10000; University entrance, grade 12 $15000 Emerging Venture of the Year A professional who has achieved a high level of excellence within their career Charity of the Year $2500; for a student who has exhibited academic excellence and participation in extracurriculars $2500; University entrance, grade 11 or 12 Women of the Year; for a Muslim women in a professional organization A professional who has achieved a high level of excellence within their career Friend of the Year; for a non-Muslim who has helped elevate the brand of Muslims $2500; for a student who has exhibited academic excellence and participation in extracurriculars $2500; University entrance, grade 11 or 12 A.H.: What is the MAX Gala? A.Z.: To nominate someone and apply for an award, visit maxgala.com. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2016. The Awards Committee will choose award finalists, and they will be invited to the MAX Gala between January 31 and February 22. A.Z.: On March 24, 2016, the MAX Gala will be held in the main ballroom at the Ritz Carlton. This is where the award finalists will be profiled, and then the winners will be announced. The purpose of profiling award finalists is to showcase all of the great work being done by Canadian Muslims in our community! A.H.: Besides award finalists, who can attend the MAX Gala? A.Z.: The MAX Gala is a networking event. We have corporate sponsors such as, KPMG, who have a booth. We also have Abraham’s, dentistry practices, and charity companies such as, Islamic Relief, IDRF, and Muslim Welfare Centre. In addition, we have guest speakers; Mohamed Lachemi, who is the president of Ryerson, and Zaib Shaikh, who is the Toronto Film Commissioner and actor on Little Mosque on the Prairie. The third guest speaker is reserved for Justin Trudeau, Bill Morneau, or Maryam Monsef. A.Z.: Essentially, the MAX Gala will be a professional networking event, and everyone is welcome as long as they purchase a ticket on our website. A.H.: After winning an award, how can the winner be involved with MAX? How can youth be involved with MAX? A.Z.: Every award winner has to commit fifty hours to MAX as a volunteer. That’s our way of getting winners involved and doing a little bit of succession planning. A.Z.: We are always looking for volunteers, and we have a volunteer form on our website that youth can fill out. We have nine different subcommittees that youth can get involved in; some examples are Marketing, Social Media, Awards Committee, and Website. A.H.: Where do you see MAX in five to ten years from now? A.Z.: The MAX Gala can potentially become a weekend conference. What I am realizing is …and I didn’t expect this …one evening to recognize Canadian Muslims achieving excellence in our community is not enough …I didn’t realize how much excellence there was in our community until we started getting all sorts of nominations and feedback. Thank you, Aazar Zafar, for starting a stellar initiative! To the readers, remember to visit maxgala.com, and be sure to nominate your hero and apply for a scholarship by January 15, 2016!