UCC graduate foregoes huge Canadian award for Princeton
August 30, 2017
Flanked by his trusted mentor and family at a backyard barbecue, high school graduate Martin ‘Kal’ Shaw couldn’t have asked for a better 19th birthday gift and celebration as he prepares to pursue post-secondary education at Princeton University.
When the teenager was offered the opportunity four years ago to attend Upper Canada College (UCC), he consulted with provincial court judge Donald McLeod who has known Shaw since he was a baby.
The mentor said his protégé’s resilience, drive and ability to adapt have been constant.
“I attended his graduation and I couldn’t have been prouder,” said McLeod who founded and chairs 100 Strong, an initiative to fund a summer school program for 12- and 13-year-old Black boys and co-chairs Stand-up which is a mentorship program for Grade Seven and Eight boys, the majority of whom reside in designated priority neighbourhoods. “When you see young people like Kal excelling in the classroom and giving back, that lets me know that, perhaps, I am doing something right. The ball is now in his court for him to do the same thing to uplift others and I am confident he will do that.”
Shaw chose Princeton over Boston University to pursue chemical engineering studies before enrolling in medical school.
“The decision was based on Princeton’s undergraduate focus on opportunities that will benefit me,” he said. “I can definitely see myself there.”
In deciding to go to school south of the border, Shaw turned down the prestigious Loran Award offered to students attending Canadian universities. A total of 33 young Canadians were selected from an initial pool of 4,438 applicants based on evidence of character, commitment to serving their communities and long-term leadership potential. Each scholar was interviewed or assessed by up to 12 different individuals over a three-month period.
Valued at $100,000 over four years, the award includes an annual $10,000 stipend and matching tuition waiver, access to $10,000 in funding for summer internships, one-on-one mentorship and annual retreats and scholar gatherings.
Shaw was accepted to the University of Western Ontario, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto.
“It came down to a choice between the scholarship and school,” said Shaw. “I wanted to be at a school that would allow me to do what I wanted in full flight. Princeton stood out to me as that place.”
During the summer, Shaw interned at Exactus Energy Inc. where he co-ordinated projects for solar panel design and fitting projects. Earlier this month, he and a few engineers from Exactus demonstrated to kids enrolled in the ‘Minds on Math’ summer program how drones are used in their solar panel projects.
Started three years ago by Shaw and his mother, Camille Prince, who is an educator with the Durham District School Board, ‘Minds on Math’ is a free drop-in math tutoring program offered to elementary students in the White Oaks community in Whitby.
“The purpose of this program is to encourage students to keep math on the brain and to avoid the ‘summer slide’ by providing accessible and engaging hands on math projects that promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” said Shaw who was among 200 delegates chosen last year to attend a global youth summit to address the future of medicine at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. “It is all about making math fun.”
Volunteering comes easily for Shaw who relishes helping others.
At UCC, he was actively involved in the annual ‘Horizons Day’ program in which students from Toronto’s inner-city schools are invited to take part in four learning events on campus.
As a jazz musician, he performed monthly at a local nursing home for residents with dementia.
After a year at O’Neill Collegiate & Vocational Institute in Oshawa, Shaw was accepted in Grade Nine to UCC which is a world-renowned international baccalaureate boys’ school. His exceptional high academic credentials enabled him to secure a full scholarship with boarding.
“Attending an elite school was our son’s choice as he wanted to be in a challenging environment,” said Shaw’s mother. “He was excelling in the public school system, but he wanted more for himself. Kal was looking for an environment where he could grow academically, athletically and musically at the same time. He did the research and brought the school to our attention.”
Shaw made his mark at the institution, excelling in academics, sport and music.
In 2015, he was named one of 15 UCC Lang Scholars. The program was launched in 2013 to recognize top student-athletes with great leadership potential and to help them fulfill it through access to unique enrichment opportunities complete with leadership training conferences, guest speakers and various activities. Lang Scholars are also expected to contribute to college life through mentoring of younger students and additional community service.
As the varsity soccer team captain, he scored a record 26 goals and led his school to an undefeated 16-0 season and the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools and Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association championships two years ago.
The recipient of the UCC Golden Boot Award for three years, Shaw – who was also the varsity track team co-captain – earned the respect of his teammates and coaches for his outstanding leadership.
He was also the co-lead of his school’s senior jazz band and a member of the neuroscience program and Black History Club which last February invited community activist and journalist Desmond Cole to speak on campus.
“The goal in bringing Mr. Cole to speak was to provoke serious thought and conversation, considering the brutal experiences and conditions of our current social climate,” said Shaw who plays the piano and saxophone and was a member of the Jazz FM 91.1 Youth Big Band. “The club was fully aware that discussing this relevant topic may cause some students to feel uncomfortable…UCC prides itself on being a forward-thinking institution. As Mr. Cole pointed out, racism along with other oppressive actions still exist in today’s society and these conversations are important to raise awareness and educate the school body on what we can do to combat these issues.”
At UCC’s Jazz Night last April, Shaw and his mother performed a duet on the saxophone and piano respectively.