My name is Rianna Crawford, and I am a grade eleven student from Brantford, Ontario. My passion for my Scottish heritage started off at an incredibly young age, when I was first introduced to my roots by my mother, whose family comes from the town Blairgowrie, Scotland. I remember being absolutely fascinated as my mom, a genealogist herself, would explain to me the way in which our family tree worked, and I remember the feeling of immense pride I got learning the names of my ancestors and seeing how true they stood to their heritage. From day one, I was in awe of the Clan Crest, that lies still to this day, nailed to my wall. I remember studying the gorgeous Red Stag so delicately engraved on it, a beautiful symbol that represents my family and lineage, and thinking of how lucky I was to be a part of a culture so prominent and so strong. Underneath, the words “Tutum te robore reddam” would resonate in my head like a battle cry – the meaning “I will give you safety by strength” compelled me to feel powerful, as though the bloodline which ties me to my clan rendered me an even stronger individual.

It was no surprise, then, that when I began Highland dancing, my first kilt was that of the Crawford clan, my namesake of course. Though I can no longer perform in it due to the fact that the high competitive level I am in requires a dress tartan to be worn, it still hangs in my closet with a piece of both my history and my heart still hanging in that closet along with it. Despite the fact that my traditional kilt has been disassociated with my dancing life, my heritage in its entirety has not, for I still wear the Scottish Thistle pendant that has been passed down through my family for generations on the sash of one of my other dance costumes, and my Clan Crawford Crest remains safely zipped up in my competition bag, where it has stayed for many years. The youth in me thought that maybe bringing it along would summon my ancestors, who would then watch over me while I performed and help me to look my best on stage. Now, I’ve realized that the reminder it gives me of the place I come from is what has made me stronger and more confident in my dancing for all these years, my deep roots giving me the passion and the power to do my best, regardless of where I am or who may be watching.

Needless to say, my Scottish heritage is something that since day one, I have held incredibly close to my heart. Through it I find courage, calmness and the tenacity and vigor I require to push me through my hardest of times. Through it, I find a sense of belonging – the knowledge that I come from somewhere so special, a place renowned for its strength and courage and unwillingness to give up on the things it values the most has molded me into the person that I am today.

I have been highland dancing since the age of twelve, and in my four short years competing in this art form that I love so much, I have won numerous medals, trophies and other awards, and have attained the highest possible level of competition – premier. I will be taking my Associates exam to become a certified highland dance instructor in the spring. As an individual who is passionate about her Scottish heritage, I am both honored and delighted to have been selected as the Youth Ambassador for the annual Scottish North American Leadership Conference being held in August. I look forward to sharing the sheer adoration and fascination I hold for my roots with all of you.