A Summerland student spent the weekend in Toronto, interviewing for what could be a life-changing scholarship.
Mary Benoit, a Grade 12 student at Summerland Secondary School, was participating in the national selections for the Loran Award, a $100,000 scholarship over four years for undergraduate studies in Canada.
According to the Loran Scholars Foundation, Benoit was among the top 88 of 5,194 candidates from across Canada.
Benoit said applying for the competitive scholarship appealed to her since it focuses on leadership, service and character.
“I felt that over the past few years, what I’ve been doing and what I had been thinking about … it really spoke to me and I thought that I would be a good fit for it.”
She also said it was a “really big thing” that she was called up to compete for the award.
After national selections, the Loran Scholars Foundation will grant up to 36 Loran Awards. It includes annual stipends, tuition waivers from a partner university, mentorship, summer internship funding as well as annual retreats and forums. If not selected as a Loran Scholar, she is eligible to receive a $5,000 finalist award.
Benoit said her dream career is to become a rural doctor.
“I really want to be a rural family doctor or practitioner because I believe that there’s a great need in B.C. for those kinds of doctors,” said Benoit. “A lot of families in B.C., and I’m sure Canada wide, are going without that proper family medical care.”
Benoit started making plans for her future early and building towards it with volunteer service.
In Grade 10, she chose to do work experience in a care home, the Dr. Andrew Pavillion extended care unit in Summerland, where she worked with one of the activity co-ordinators.
“I would get to interact with some of the patients, especially the ones in dementia care. They would love having books read to them or playing games with them,” said Benoit. “I really, really enjoyed that experience. And it kind of led me into wanting to do more volunteering in the medical sector.”
The following summer, Benoit ramped up her volunteering, applying to a program that sent her to Nepal to intern in hospitals in Chitwan, about three hours away from the capital, Katmandu.
“My favourite one I think was the cancer hospital. I got to be in the room with this female doctor,” said Benoit. “It was a very intimate experience getting to see that; what is the day to day life of a doctor? What are these long shifts like? What are some of the things that they have to deal with?”
Her experience there echos her decision to specifically enter rural practice. Growing up in small towns, she said she got to see the effect doctors have on their communities and the relationships they build.
“That’s the kind of medicine that I’m really striving for. Less of the corporate working in a big hospital, owning your own firm and more just having those day to day relationships with the people in your community,” she said. “Just really getting to know them getting to know their families, giving them good quality care and making a difference in their lives.”