A 17-year-old West Kootenay student who doubles as a volunteer firefighter has won Canada’s largest merit-based undergraduate award.
Tala MacDonald, a Grade 12 student at Mount Sentinel Secondary School located between Castlegar and Nelson, is one of just 30 people out of over 6,000 applicants to win the $100,000 Loran Award.
The scholarship includes annual stipends, tuition wavers, mentorship and funding for summer work experiences.
MacDonald already knows what she’s going to do with the money.
“I want to help people and I want to do what I can to make the world a better place,” she said.
Even before she won the scholarship, MacDonald was making an impact in her community.
When she was 16, the Pass Creek native joined her older brother as a volunteer with the Passmore Fire Department.
“It’s been incredible. It’s really taught me so much about community,” said MacDonald.
“It’s not just all the hard skills you learn, like how to respond and the medical training being a first responder, but it’s a really great network of people who are dedicated to helping the community and that’s been amazing to be involved in.”
MacDonald is also busy at Mount Sentinel, where she’s worked on environmental initiatives and in visual arts. Two years ago she spent two weeks in Mexico building homes through a school program, which she called a life-changing experience.
“She’s an outstanding kid,” said Mount Sentinel teacher Danny Leeming in a statement. “Tala’s contribution to our program over the past three years has been exceptional.”
School District 8 students have had success applying for the Loran Scholarship in recent years. L.V. Rogers’ Galen Boulanger won in 2015, followed by LVR grad Kozmo Sammartino in 2017 and J.V. Humphries alumna Jesalyn Tremblay in 2018.
MacDonald meanwhile will attend Montreal’s McGill University in the fall, where she will study political science with a possibly focus on law and human rights advocacy.
“Winning this scholarship and having this opportunity has been so incredible,” she said.
”I was just so shocked and honoured. It’s really allowed me to have the support and the direction to pursue that passion, and I really look forward to that in the future.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.