Cochrane High School student Ariana Alford will be jetting off to Carleton University in Waterloo, Ont., in July with some of the brightest students in the nation.
Part of SHAD, a Canadian charitable non-profit organization that “helps exceptional high school students recognize and envision their full potential,” the opportunity will link Alford with industry leaders and university faculty specializing in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“Each year, the SHAD program provides the opportunity for about 700 students from across Canada and internationally to attend a transformational month-long summer program at one of 12 Canadian host communities,” states SHAD’s website.
Alford, Grade 10, said she learned about SHAD after one of her teachers nominated her to apply for the program.
“After I found out about it, I went home and told my parents and my mom said ‘Just try, you probably won’t get in but it will be good practise for applying to university.’ I didn’t think I’d get in, I just wanted to try,” Alford said.
Alford’s grade average in school hovers around mid to high 90s so academically she was a shoe-in for the program. In order to apply, she had to write three essays about why she wanted to be a part of the program, a time she demonstrated leadership, and a time she was tasked with solving a problem.
“I also had to describe all of my involvement in the community with working and volunteering. And I also had to explain my school involvement like participation in sports,” Alford explained.
“I wouldn’t say it was a hard process, I just had to talk about myself. I thought the essays were pretty straight forward too.”
For the essay about problem solving, Alford wrote about the hydraulic elevator she and her partners built last year for their Environmental Stewardship class. Included in her application was a video of Alford demonstrating how the elevator worked.
Alford will be in Ontario from July 3 to the 29 alongside 700 other high-achieving students mentoring under various field experts.
“They told us that we get to do stuff like learn about plasma, robotics, cardiology, game design, computer coding, and more,” Alford explained.
“I’m super excited because it sounds like it’ll be really fun and I’ll learn lots and get some hands-on experience in some of the different fields,” Alford said.
Although she’s only in Grade 10, Alford is thinking about potential career opportunities and is excited to use the SHAD program to help her research her interests.
“I want to go into pediatrics when I get older – I consider myself to be pretty weak in biology and science so I’m really hoping this will help me become a stronger student in that area. And we get hands on experience with cardiology so that should help,” Alford explained.
She’s also looking forward to connecting with other like-minded students and building a network with the SHAD participants.
“It sounds like a great opportunity to meet people who are similar to me. The website says the SHAD participants build a strong bond with each other, so I’m excited to meet lots of new people and get a better perspective on some of the industries,” Alford said.