Nothing was more frustrating for a young Khayshie Tilak Ramesh than being told she was not old enough to contribute to her community.
But it was a message she heard time and time again while growing up in Bendigo.
“That made me really annoyed, but I was like, ‘Probably shouldn't argue with people who are older than I am,” she said.
Fortunately, she persevered.
Now 19, the law student has become a Red Cross young humanitarian leader and co-founded Bendigo group Young People for Refugees, a group of youth who provide support those who have just arrived in Australia.
She also serves on the board of Community Leadership Loddon Murray as well as volunteering for Benetas.
Those efforts were celebrated on Wednesday when mayor Margaret O’Rourke named Ms Tilah Ramesh the city’s Young Citizen of the Year for 2017.
The teen described the honour as “surreal”.
“I can think of a billion other people who would also deserve the award,” she said.
Ms Tilak Ramesh hoped she could push for more leadership opportunities that empowered young people to turn their dreams into a reality.
Young people’s ideas should not be dismissed as “silly”, she said.
“The main problem I see, especially at uni, is a lot of people have good ideas, they just don't know how to put it into practice.
“[What’s] lacking is that self-esteem sort of stuff that tells them to stray from the groove and think of something else.”
A whole of community approach was required to coax out the best in its young people, she said, explaining the adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ had resonated with her since childhood.
“The child can have intrinsic motivation but its up to the community to inspire that,” Ms Tilak Ramesh.
Asked what motivated her to give so generously of her time, the young citizen of the year said it was the hope of a better future.
Something that's always resonated with me since I was younger is, 'It takes a community or a village to raise a child'.- Khayshie Tilak Ramesh, young citizen of the year
While the details of that future was uncertain, Ms Tilak Ramesh was sure community spirit, something she described as Bendigo greatest asset, would be passed from generation to generation.