Edmonton high school student wins prestigious $80K Schulich scholarship

It’s become an annual tradition for an Archbishop MacDonald student to win a prestigious award.

For the fourth consecutive year, a student at the Edmonton high school has won a Schulich Leaders Award. This year, Jennifer Huynh has awarded the honour and the accompanying $80,000 scholarship.

“It felt so so surreal. I’ve always known that I’ve loved STEM, that this is what I want to study, so just being able to have this opportunity to just keep doing what I love. It’s just amazing,” Huynh said.

“I’m so thankful to the University of Alberta, my school and obviously the student foundation for believing in me. It still feels a little bit like a dream and I definitely feel like I’m still processing it a little bit.”

READ MORE: 2021 Regina graduate awarded $100K STEM scholarship

There are 100 Schulich awards distributed to 20 universities around Canada, including the University of Alberta, which chose Huynh as a recipient this year.

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“She’s just such an outstanding student at our school. Not only is she academic, she’s such a leader, and social justice is so huge in our school and she just brings it out in everything that she does. She’s such a kind student and totally motivated,” Archbishop MacDonald High School principal Theresa Antonakis said.

The scholarships are designed to support students who are seeking post-secondary education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Huynh won the award not only due to her academic achievements — all her marks are above 95 per cent — but also because of all she does outside of the classroom. Despite restraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 17-year-old completed a course at Harvard University simply because she was interested, and she volunteered at a Canadian technology company and in her community.

“I was really involved in the immigration, refugee community because I myself am an immigrant,” Huynh said. “My family and I came from Vietnam to Canada when I was just a child, so I’ve really enjoyed being part of the community and trying to help people and giving back.”

READ MORE: Regina high school student receives $80K scholarship for post-secondary studies

One of the greatest benefits of the scholarship is it allows recipients to focus on academics and endeavors outside of school that will help kickstart their future careers.

“You don’t have to worry about making ends meet or paying off student debt,” Schulich Leaders Scholarships executive director David Goodman said. “You can spend that time — rather than working a part or full-time job, and something that you might not advance your career in — and you can spend that time pursuing an entrepreneurial venture or working perhaps for a lower wage in a research position.”

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“Not only can I now focus much more on my education and on pursuing research opportunities, but in a way, it’s also further motivated my aspirations to break innovative boundaries in STEM and hopefully one day use my education to have some sort of positive impact on the world,” she said.

The $100-million Schulich program was established in 2012 and funds up to 100 students pursuing undergraduate STEM programs each year.

“It’s an opportunity for them to advance their careers at a very early, early stage, and provide a host of recognition opportunities, and, of course, advancement opportunities for further development in the STEM disciplines,” Goodman said.

Antonakis said having an Archbishop MacDonald student win the award four years in a row brings a lot of pride to the school.

“It is a legacy and we really pride ourselves on our academics, but not only our academics, our leadership,” she said. “Our students are such trailblazers. They’re innovative students, and they’re so motivated to do well, not just academically, but to make a change in the world. They really want to make a difference.”

Huynh will be attending the University of Alberta in September, where she will study math and physics. For now, the Edmontonian is keeping her options open in terms of a career.

“I think my biggest aspiration wherever I end up with my career is to just make a positive impact on the world and hopefully improve lives for people through STEM.”

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