GTA student wins major national scholarship
March 29, 2018
Social media can be a very useful tool as Abigail Samuels discovered while scrolling through Instagram last Christmas Day.
After breakfast and gift opening were over, the teenager picked up her smartphone and saw an advertisement for the ‘The Best School Year Ever’ contest and a full year boarding scholarship at St. Michaels University School (SMUS) in Victoria, British Columbia.
The award is worth $55,000.
“I started to do some research to find out what type of school charges that kind of money,” Samuels said. “That was what really caught my attention. As I learnt more about the school and the competition, I decided I was going to apply.”
Students at the coed boarding and day school are challenged by an extensive curriculum, including Canada’s most established advancement placement program offering 27 subjects.
With the closing date less than two weeks away, the Grade 10 student didn’t have much time to prepare the application package.
Candidates are required to submit a 2-3 minute video and copies of their two most recent report cards. They are expected to introduce themselves, talk about their dreams and their thoughts on what would make the best school year ever and what they feel they could bring to the SMUS student body.
The videos are uploaded to YouTube and submitted with a completed contest application form.
With the help of a school friend and her mother’s support, Samuels completed the video and made the deadline.
The 15-year-old Brampton Centennial Secondary School student made the final six that was invited, along with one of their parents, to tour the school campus earlier this month.
“We were there for four days and I was blown away by what I saw,” said Samuels who is the eldest of two siblings. “This is not your normal high school. There are a few buildings spread over several acres of land, so it is more like a university campus. This school has a global reputation for academic excellence and that was very obvious during my visit.”
The six finalists also did an interview.
On March 8, Samuels got a phone call informing her that she was the winner.
“Looking back, this is the best and most expensive Christmas gift I have ever received,” she said. “I am so happy to be attending one of the top private schools in the country. I just can’t want to get out there and start classes.”
Though the scholarship is just for a year, Samuels expects to complete her Grade 12 there by applying for other boarding scholarships and financial aid.
Jullet Samuels, who migrated from Jamaica 15 years ago, is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments.
“Abigail has a pleasant personality and is studious, determined, driven, goal-oriented and very focused,” she said. “She turns obstacles into opportunity and goes after them as hard as she can.”
Samuels plans to be a paediatric neurosurgeon.
“I am interested in the study of the human brain and I love being around children,” she said.
McMaster University tops her list of post-secondary institutions.
“They just have an incredible health science program,” Samuels, who plays basketball, volleyball and basketball and participates in track & field events at school, pointed out.
She is in the second cohort of the Leadership by Design (LBD) program that will provide at least seven years of developmental support. Admitted in Grade 10, students are offered leadership and career development until they graduate with an undergraduate degree or, for those choosing to go further, a graduate degree.
The students – who must be Canadian residents of Jamaican or African-Caribbean descent – meet once a month on Saturdays for a full day with subject matter experts. The meetings are held in university and corporate settings.