Man with blue framed glasses and a trimmed beard wearing a striped shirt against a neutral background.

Mar 14, 2024

5 min. read

You're never too young to be a good neighbour. Marissa Magsino’s journey to public service and environmental stewardship started in Grade 6, with a science fair. Earning a gold medal at the Bison Regional Science Fair and a silver medal at the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium put her on a track towards scientific discovery that continues to this day.

“Winning at a provincial level inspired me more to keep going,” says Magsino, who’s in Grade 12 at St. Mary’s Academy, in Winnipeg. “I’m a very competitive person, so I use competitiveness in the right direction. When you’re young, you’re curious about a lot of different things, like the intrigue of exploring new and fairly undiscovered research.”

Magsino’s research led her to an unconventional subject: mealworms. Her Grade 10 science fair project focused on using toxins to modify the behaviour of mealworms “to maximize the biodegradation of polystyrene.”

In other words, she taught mealworms how to break down Styrofoam. The project won the intermediate gold at 2022 Manitoba Schools Science Symposium, as a well as awards from the Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology, Engineer and Geoscientists of Manitoba, and the Sanofi International BioGENEius Challenge Award.

She put her research into action, implementing a mealworm recycling station in her school, where students could put their Styrofoam and the mealworms would biodegrade it on-site.

“Motivation sparks your initial inspiration on what you’re doing,” she says. “But then, discipline and passion keep you going and help you to continue to do work for the goodness of others.”

Magsino’s drive to help has grown into other areas. She was elected to the Youth Advisory Climate Council for the Manitoba government and has been doing work with them for almost two years.

“Science really motivated me in other parts of my life to get involved in so many things,” she says. “I was surrounded by peers who were also inspired to get involved in everything around them, and it made me curious how to change the world.”

In 2022, Magsino’s commitment to service was recognized by the Nellie McClung Foundation as one of 10 winners of the “Yes I Can” Leadership Award for women aged 16 to 25.

In many ways, Magsino is a typical student with plenty of extra-curriculars. She runs on the school track team and has a side hustle selling soap products. She even has a summer job, as a cashier for the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, a CAA Manitoba partner.

“Some friends who worked there previously said it was a good first job to learn a lot of easy skills,” Magsino says. “It’s honestly been one of my favourite jobs because it’s such a fun environment. People are happy to get out and enjoy something in their community. I’m happy to be a part of that.”

Even there, Magsino finds ways to be a good neighbour. “She was an exceptional employee: very friendly, outgoing, professional, trustworthy, with attention to detail, proactive and reliable,” says Melissa Schlichting, food and beverage manager for the Goldeyes and Magsino’s boss.

“She was the first one to pick up extra shifts when we were short-staffed and take new staff under her wing to show them the ropes. I hope to have her return next season!”

As she gets ready to graduate from St. Mary’s, Magsino has her sights set firmly on the future. She plans to attend the University of Manitoba to continue her research in biochemistry, and then medical school. She hopes that, one day, she can reward the people and groups that put her on a path to success.

“I want to be able to give back to the science fair,” Magsino says. “I’d like to run the Manitoba School Science Symposium one day. That was the starting point and it opened a lot of doors for me, so I want to give other youth the opportunity to get involved.”