Volunteer firefighter, 19, cracks Top 10 list
Volunteer firefighter, 19, cracks Top 10 list
June 9, 2017
The Nugget
Article by: Michael Chen
Alaya Robert

Alaya Robert

Earlton native Chelsie McKnight has nothing but good things to say about her sister.
And when she put those thoughts into a written nomination for Roots Canada's Nicest Person Award, she didn't expect her 19-year-old sister, Alaya Robert, to become one of the 10 national finalists.
“'I didn't tell her I was doing it and I posted it online, so she called maybe five, 10 minutes later crying on the phone because she was so happy,” McKnight recalls. “And then when she found out she was Top 10, she was playing cards with my grandma, which is like the nicest thing ever, it just adds to the whole thing.”
The award winner will receive several prizes from Roots, the most notable being a $10,000 donation to the charity of his or her choice.
McKnight and Robert have been working hard to raise awareness of the contest.
“I feel like a bit of a marketing campaign here, because we've posted on social media. And to see [people] respond has been really really cool.
“Alaya was saying she feels like I'm her PR person or something,” McKnight says.
“For me, I already feel like a winner. For me, reading and seeing all the support of my family and friends is breathtaking,” Robert says. “I'm so speechless and I'm very very grateful, that's when you see that we're all in this together even if I win or not.”
Robert volunteered from an early age with help from her grandmothers, who were very involved in the community. Though she has taken on many roles, from assistant volleyball coach to representing francophones, she says volunteer firefighting is most important to her.
“My father has been a firefighter for 12 years now. He's now the fire chief of Armstrong Township firefighting. Ever since I was little, it was my passion to be, my dream to be a firefighter,” Robert says.
McKnight says “Alaya...as soon as she turned of age she did all the training right away and the one thing she wanted to get for her birthday was a pager so she could be the volunteer firefighter for Earlton. She got the pager and she was crying, she was so excited for that.”
Robert acknowledges the difficulties of firefighting, but stepping outside of her comfort zone is nothing she isn't used to. She started travelling by herself in Grade 9 and has already visited Italy, Japan and Jamaica.
Robert didn't travel this past year in order to save for college, which she will attend in Ottawa to study occupational and physical therapy. She hopes to come back to Armstrong in the future.
“I do want to stay in my community. I want to come back after my college, work in health to help people and I really don't want to stop my firefighting career,” Robert says.
“Those are my dreams - to make a difference in my community, to make a difference in life.”
Voting for Canada's Nicest Person continues to June 18, with the winner announced the following day. One vote can be entered every day per person at