The Multi-faceted Maria Tesla

Student finds volunteering is its own reward.

Words and photography by Jeanylyn Lopez

maria teslaMaria Tesla is going into her fourth year volunteering for Carassauga in the Kids Zone. Like other students, Tesla started volunteering because she needed the hours to graduate from high school. She admits she didn’t know what Carassauga was when she first signed up, but after her first year, she loved the experience. Since then, she’s returned every year to help with the three-day festival of cultures.

“I like the atmosphere and all the activities,” she says. “Seeing all the children have fun is great. The simplest things can make them smile so easily. It’s such a good experience for them.”

Tesla remembers one year where kids came up to her to give her gifts. One made her a ring and others offered her food.

“The fact that you know you did something good for the community, that’s the biggest achievement,” she says. “You know you had some sort of impact on [the children], and they kind of look up to you as a role model.”

During the festival, Tesla’s work revolved around the Kids Zone doing a bit of everything. She worked at the arts and crafts table, monitored the entrance and checked in the volunteers before th efestivities began. She’s visited a number of pavilions including Canada, Africa and South Korea, but her favourite pavilion is Croatia.

“I was born in Croatia so I’m familiar with a lot of the history and customs,” she says. “Plus, they have the best chocolate pancakes!”

Tesla has also volunteered for the Mississauga Marathon, helping people register for the race and explaining routes to runners, as well as giving participants their running kits.

Not only is Tesla a volunteer extraordinaire but she has also co-authored a mystery thriller with her best friend Angela Kwan. The novel, Pronounced Dead, takes place on an island called Opprimo where a historical myth comes back to haunt its dwellers. Tesla and Kwan plan the story to be a series of six books.

“Many books stick to one genre, but this one’s not like that,” she says. “There are different elements: horror, mystery, comedy and some romance—everything combined together in the right amount.”

Besides writing, in her spare time Tesla enjoys watching classic horror movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. She also likes reading anything by Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.

Tesla just finished her first year at University of Toronto Mississauga in her double major of criminology and social legal studies, and political science. After graduating from UTM, Tesla is considering a career in social work because she enjoys helping people. If given the opportunity, she says she would love to be part of Carassauga’s board of directors.

“I think the festival is an amazing experience, and everyone in Mississauga should come down to visit—especially since next year the festival is celebrating its 30th year.”

Fun fact: Tesla is also the great-great-niece of famous scientist and engineer Nikola Tesla, inventor of alternating current, the distribution of light, X-rays and more.

Jeanylyn Lopez is a journalism student at Sheridan College and recent graduate from U of T. She also loves sports and is a huge Toronto Raptors fan.

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