ESSMY student wins $100K scholarship

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A St. Albert student will have a free university education after beating thousands of other candidates for a $100,000 scholarship.

École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville student Roisin Cahill was announced this week as one of the 34 winners of the Loran Scholarship. Offered by the Loran Scholars Foundation, the award is billed as the biggest undergraduate scholarship of its kind in Canada.

The foundation is a national organization that rewards scholarships based on evidence of character, community service, and long-term leadership potential, said spokesperson Joana Nyambura. Candidates have to go through several rounds of competitive interviews to qualify, and are evaluated for qualities such as grit, courage, integrity, and personal autonomy.

“It’s more about their potential impact on the community,” Nyambura said.

About 5,023 Canadians applied for the scholarship this year, with about 500 of them reaching the semi-finals for interviews. The 88 finalists travelled to Toronto last Feb. 2 and 3 for a conference and more interviews.

Cahill, 17, is a soccer and piano player who lives in Sherwood Park. Now head of the Interact Club at ESSMY, she helped the club publish an all-ages colouring book in 2016 to raise money for Edmonton-area literacy programs – one that later got backing from the CIBC.

The club is now working to sell the rest of the books and hopes to partner with new immigrants to help them practice English, Cahill said.

Cahill also helped her school’s environment club write a white paper on conservation and the environment that was sent to Edmonton’s archbishops. The club has planted native plants, started a composting program, and is spearheading a drive to eliminate plastic bottles at the school. She also volunteers at the Youville Home and serves on the school’s student council.

Cahill said she was excited when she learned she had qualified for the finals and jetted off for Toronto on Feb. 1.

“The food was incredible,” she said, and she got to attend free sessions on post-secondary life.

But most of the two-day conference was dedicated to socializing with her fellow candidates and past Loran Scholarship winners.

Cahill said it was super interesting chatting with her fellow candidates. Some were really into artificial intelligence (which she admits mostly flew over her head), while one girl wanted to use chemical engineering to remove pollutants from the air.

“They all had such different approaches to how leadership impacts communities,” she said, adding that she wished all the finalists could have won.

Cahill also had to survive six rounds of panel and one-on-one interviews with foundation members. She said the interviews pretty simple, as it was like chatting with someone with whom she had a shared interest.

Cahill said she initially doubted that she had gotten the big prize as there were so many great candidates. It wasn’t until she had returned home on Feb. 4 that she got the call.

“I was pretty excited. I was like, ‘This is good news,’” she said. (She’s not really a jump-up-and-down-and-scream kind of person, she explained.)

“I was just kind of relieved it was over and happy it had gone really well.”

The Loran Scholarship is worth $100,000 over four years and pays for a student’s undergraduate education at one of 25 universities, Nyambura said. It includes mentorship, summer internships, networking opportunities, and a $10,000 annual stipend.

Cahill said she planned use her award to study international relations for a possible career in conflict resolution at the United Nations. She would also go on a canoe adventure retreat in Ontario with the foundation this August.

Cahill thanked her family, teachers, and members of the Youville Home and St. Albert Rotary Club for their support in getting this award.

“Really, it’s a community effort.”

The full list of winners can be found at loranscholar.ca.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.