Gifts That Keep on Giving

President’s Scholarships attract top students who make a difference at U of G

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U of G President’s Scholars, from left: John Wynands, Hannah Gray, Sarah Buttle, U of G president Alastair Summerlee, Emily Nickerson, Melissa Wagner and Adam Ruebsaat Trott. Absent: Christopher Dulhanty and Alexis Wagner.

The President’s Scholarships ─ some of the University’s most prestigious entrance awards ─ are funded primarily through donations from alumni, friends, faculty and staff. Those gifts help individual students, to be sure, but they contribute to the University community as a whole through the ongoing involvement of President’s Scholars in the life of the campus.

Since the President’s Scholarship endowment fund was established in 1987, it has received contributions of more than $1.4 million. Just over 250 scholarships have been awarded to first-year students on the basis of their high school achievements, leadership abilities and citizenship activities, including eight students recognized this year. Like the President’s Scholars before them, these students are on their way to becoming U of G student leaders.

Sarah Buttle, Lakefield District Secondary School, Lakefield, Ont.

Sarah was a standout performer in high school in both academics and athletics. She was consistently on the honour roll and was recognized over several years for outstanding achievement in visual arts, science, history, English and leadership. She was chosen to participate in the Galios Mathematics Contest, served as a student mentor and was a member of student council. She helped to organize the Terry Fox Run and was a member of the school’s Amigo’s program. As an accomplished figure skater, she volunteered countless hours to coaching and mentoring novice skaters and helped to organize the Lakefield District Secondary School skating team, of which she was captain until graduation.

Sarah discovered a passion for international issues as an ambassador to The Hague International Model United Nations Conference in the Netherlands, representing the delegation nation Tuvalu, and representing Kenya at the Trent International Model United Nations Experience, where she was declared runner-up for the World Health Organization. With these experiences, she helped to educate her school about the effects of climate change and encouraged her school’s equity and diversity club to help fund the construction of a school in rural Kenya. With the knowledge she learned about HIV/AIDS at both conferences, she helped to promote the national “Have a Heart Campaign,” which raises money for research and educates youth on HIV/AIDS.

Christopher Dulhanty, Loyola Catholic Secondary School, Mississauga, Ont.

Christopher believes that if you are committed, passionate and determined, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your goals. His many successes are proof that this positive approach works. In 2009, he qualified for the World Youth Track and Field Championships in Italy with a personal best in the 2000-metre steeplechase, establishing a new Ontario record, posting the fastest Canadian time of the summer, and placing 11th in the world. He is a respected leader and mentor to new members of the Mississauga Track Club and shared his experience and passion as captain of Loyola’s track and field and cross-country teams.

Chris’s leadership extends beyond the track. He served as a facilitator of the Loyola leadership camp, a member of the inaugural Link Crew at Loyola, a core member of the graduation committee, a representative of the student athletic association and a member of A.C.T. (A Company of Thespians).

In addition to receiving recognition throughout high school for outstanding academic achievement in mathematics, visual and performing arts, science, social science and English, he was awarded a University of Toronto National Book Award, the SEARS Festival Junior Thespian of the Year award, the 2009 Ferro’s Choice Award: Best Writer, the Encounters with Canada Award for strong Canadian pride and social awareness, and the Loyola Catholic Secondary School’s Joe Hugel Award for the highest overall final average in Grade 10.

Hannah Gray, Esquimalt High School, Victoria, B.C.

Through her enthusiastic involvement in athletics, academics, theatre and music Hannah sought and created opportunities to enrich her high school and community. As co-captain of the Esquimalt High School rowing team, she mentored and supported her teammates. In Grade 9, she was accepted to the Victoria Children’s Choir, performing across the country and as a soloist of Vivaldi’s Gloria alongside the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.

As the representative for her school’s gifted education program, Hannah helped organize a conference for gifted students at the University of Victoria. She participated in a week-long session of leadership training at the Sierra Youth Coalition Youth Action Gathering and joined a group of dedicated environmentalists to remove invasive plant species from a local heritage site.

As president of the student-run club Esquimalt Students Caring about Peace and the Environment, Hannah shared her passion for the environment and social justice. She has worked to promote the status of women, joined the fight against AIDS, helped to make her school community a homophobia-free zone, and provided food and clothing for local homeless people. Hannah participated in a six-week YMCA-sponsored exchange to Quebec, and while there participated in a fundraiser to support families of children with cancer. Not content with just making a difference locally, Hannah travelled to a small Mexican village during Grade 10 to promote literacy and construct benches for a playground.

She was recognized for academic excellence throughout high school, received the junior English award and achievement awards in many subjects.

Emily Nickerson, Fredericton High School, Fredericton, N.B.

As president of Interact (Rotary for Youth), Emily helped to raise $5,000 to support a number of charities, including one year of education for 20 students in Honduras. Her final accomplishment was being selected as a Canadian ambassador for an international Rotary youth exchange in Belgium. While there she travelled to Senegal on a school humanitarian project, where she spent two weeks experiencing the challenges of urban and rural life. Emily was named Outstanding Youth Exchange Student of the Year for her active involvement in her Belgian school and community.

Emily has consistently excelled in academics, earning numerous awards for top marks and was awarded a Black Kat Scholar for outstanding achievements in academics, sports, extra-curricular and community service. She led a four-member team in the Sanofis-Aventis Biotalent Science Challenge and received funding to work in a genetics lab at the University of New Brunswick, preparing DNA samples for genome mapping of black spruce. She also represented her school in French oratorical competitions and placed first in the province.

Emily’s athletic accomplishments are just as impressive. She was a member of her high school cross-country and track and field teams, competed at the Canadian Summer Games as part of Team New Brunswick Cycling, and for three years represented the New Brunswick Speed Skate Team at the national short-track championships. She was also selected to participate in the pre-Olympic Speed Skate Canada Youth Leadership Symposium in Richmond, B.C.

Adam Ruebsaat Trott, Oak Bay Secondary School, Victoria, B.C.

An accomplished musician, a competitive athlete and a humanitarian, Adam balanced school and community involvement with an outstanding academic record. He played lead violin in the British Columbia fiddle orchestra and was captain of a local youth soccer team. He was chair of the Oak Bay Youth Committee, advising municipal council on youth issues; as a result of this leadership, he was nominated to attend youth parliament in Victoria.

For several years Adam helped to organize Victoria’s Bike for CAP AIDS, a bike ride that raises money to supply bikes for AIDS workers in Africa. As a member of the Gay Straight Alliance Club, he helped to organize a successful diversity conference and day of silence. He was a co-organizer of a volunteer trip to Mexico during spring break to build houses for impoverished families. And as a member of Interact, he helped to raise funds for a girls’ school in Malawi.

Of all the projects Adam has worked on, his involvement with Youth Against Cancer has had perhaps the most impact on him as a leader. He took on significant leadership roles in awareness and fundraising activities, served as a mentor to younger students, and led more than 70 students in the most successful campaign ever for Cops for Cancer. The group surpassed their goal of $18,000, raising more than $25,000 in just one month.

Alexis Wagner, Centennial Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Guelph

Alexis was described by one of her coaches as talented, tenacious and passionate ─ traits that helped her excel on the high school field hockey, ice hockey, badminton and soccer teams; playing rep ice hockey; representing Ontario in field hockey; and in the classroom, where she maintained an excellent academic average.

At the age of 14, Alexis represented Ontario at the U16 National Field Hockey Championships. As one of the top four players on the team, she led the province to a silver medal. The following year, she was named captain of the team.

Outside of sports, Alexis was vice-president of the grad committee, a math tutor and a member of the global outreach gardening and recycling committee. She was a contributing artist to the school’s Art of Dissent exhibition, a volunteer at St. Joseph’s long-term health-care centre working in the Alzheimer’s day program, and has been a volunteer at Guelph Museums since the age of 10.

She was a provincial gold medalist in the Skills Ontario IT office software category and represented Ontario at the national competition in Prince Edward Island. Her success in this competition helped to raise the profile of this program; the following year, more than 100 students at her school participated.

Melissa Wagner, United Mennonite Education Institute, Leamington, Ont.

Creativity, ingenuity and passion have served Melissa well in achieving success in everything she does, whether it is as minister of revenue for her high school council, on the basketball court, or as a member of a hurricane disaster-relief team in New Orleans.

As minister of revenue, she focused on strengths in the local community to support off-campus educational trips. She launched a campaign to sell beef from local farmers and brought students into a local bakery to make their own pies to sell. These innovative and creative ideas are reflective of the outstanding leadership that Melissa displays in everything she does. As captain of her high school and the Windsor Valiants travel basketball teams, she led by example and was respected by both her coaches and peers.

Melissa was an active participant in the school choir and won the Grade 11 drama award for best supporting actress. On top of consistent first-class honours in academics, she was the top female student athlete in 2009 and 2010 and received the W.T. Huntingford Memorial Award for outstanding achievement in the fields of academics, athletics and community involvement.

Giving back to the community is important to Melissa. She is active in her local church and travelled to New Orleans on a service project to rebuild homes and to Colorado to work with homeless and low-income people. She was the children’s activity co-ordinator at the Mennonite Community Festival, a youth choir leader, and ran the Angel Pet Fund awareness booth at the Essex Pet Show.

John Wynands, Thousand Islands Secondary School, Brockville, Ont.

John says he has come a long way from the timid, shy boy he was when he started high school. Through his involvement with the Humanitarian Education Leadership Program (H.E.L.P.), he supported many worthy causes, but also discovered strengths and leadership skills that have served his school and community well. He was an active player in the fundraising and awareness campaigns of the club and travelled to Nicaragua to live for two weeks in a small village.

John is a senior member of the school cross-country team and was voted most valuable player because of his sportsmanship, leadership and athletic skills. He also contributed significant time as a volunteer at both elementary and secondary track events and convinced local dairy farmers to donate chocolate milk for track meets. He helped to organize many community running events and played an active role in fundraising efforts for the school’s new track, a $1-million project for which he negotiated $10,000 in sponsorship.

John was named an Ontario Scholar for achieving an outstanding academic average all through high school and was top of the class over several years in the departments of art, math, communication and international language, science, and technology.

The President’s Scholarships provide $26,000 over four years and include the opportunity for a summer research assistantship after the first year of study (a $6,000 stipend) with one of Guelph’s leading professors.

The scholars are nominated by their secondary school principals. Although all Canadian high schools receive an information package about the scholarships, interested students are invited to learn more by visiting the U of G website or by contacting the University’s associate registrar, Student Financial Services, at 519-824-4120, Ext. 56032.