The Loran Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards in Canada, awarding a small group of outstanding Canadian students each year with $100,000 to pursue their undergraduate studies. We talked to one of the 2020 Loran Scholarship winners, Ayden Harrison from Lillooet Secondary School in Lillooet, BC about how she won, advice on applying, and her efforts to empower girls.
Tell us about yourself.
I am the eldest of three siblings, so I naturally take on leadership roles. I am very grounded within my community, and I believe that having a strong community builds strong leaders. I grew up in a multi-sport family, so I know the value of teamwork. My parents volunteered their time to coach my brothers and me in almost every sport that we played. They taught me the importance of giving back. I created a girls group to help empower the youth in my community. I have volunteered at our long-term care facility for over three years. Every summer I work two jobs, one at our local coffee shop as a barista and the other doing seasonal work. Last summer I had the ability to work in all six of the Indigenous communities that surround the town of Lillooet. The summer before that I was Lillooet’s tourism ambassador. I have always hated this part of questionnaires. I love the work that I do because I can do it without the pressure that recognition brings. However, I have realized that sharing my story is not recognition, but inspiration.
What was your reaction when you found out that you were named a 2020 Loran Scholar?
I was in a state of disbelief. I don’t think that I realized how amazing Loran truly is. I never in a million years thought that I would be selected as a scholar. When I was first told I thought that they had called the wrong person, or that my jet-lagged brain had misheard them.
What is the most meaningful leadership experience you’ve had so far?
I created a girls empowerment group for girls in elementary school. My goal was to empower the younger girls and give them a positive role model to look up to. Myself and a group of girls from the high school walk down to the elementary school twice a week, where we do crafts, science experiments, and journaling with the younger girls. In my group, I have a lot of girls who struggle with school or with self-confidence. I had one girl, she was very shy, never wanted to participate in our discussions and did not have a ‘big buddy’. She wanted to be there but she didn’t feel comfortable with the other girls. I couldn’t figure out what to help her open up. One day I asked her what her favourite animal was and she told me that it was horses. I just so happened to have had a new mentor join my group who had lived on a farm—it was like the heavens opened up, I had the perfect big buddy for her! I introduced them and it was magic. I watched this little girl’s personality do a 180. She started participating in class discussions and she became more open with the other girls. All she needed was the small boost of confidence that having a big buddy gave her. She continues to shine and grow. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to witness it and that something that I created could have such a big impact on somebody else’s life.
What motivates you to give back to your community?
I grew up in a town of 1,200 people—5,000 including the outlying communities. My town runs on volunteers and the generosity of others. My parents coach my sports teams, they drive my brothers around the province for sports, and along with other parents, they allow us to compete in higher-level sports. I want to give other kids the same opportunities that were given to me as a child.
What part of the Loran program are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to going to university across Canada. I had never been to Ontario before attending Loran’s National Selections in Toronto. When I describe my country I want to do so accurately and I can’t do that if I stay only in British Columbia. I cannot wait to see what this chapter of my life has in store for me.
What are you most looking forward to about university? What do you hope to get involved in there?
I am looking forward to meeting new people. I love when people tell me where they came from and where they hope to go, it’s very fascinating to me. I play a lot of sports so I’m looking forward to continuing that in university. There are not many clubs where I live that are not sport-related, so I’m excited to see what they have to offer in that department.
What advice do you have for other students applying for the Loran Award or any other scholarship?
My advice to other kids who want to apply to scholarships would be to just do it. I never could have imagined that I would receive this award, but here I am. I know that applications suck, but you just have to push through them because you have nothing to lose, only gain.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years I will hopefully be graduating medical school and starting my journey as a doctor. I want to participate in Doctors Without Borders, to help as many people as I can, while I can.
What’s one fun fact about yourself? Is there anything else you want to share?
I play competitive rugby. I have played for my regional rugby team for four years winning a silver medal last year at our Provincial Regional Champions tournament. I have also played elite sevens, with my team winning gold in our year-end tournament. I recommend this sport to everyone as it is accepting of everybody no matter their size, athletic ability, or background.
You will be working in three different sectors during the summers between school. What kind of summer experiences do you hope to pursue?
I would love to focus on women’s rights and the empowerment of women in the world. I am excited to travel outside of Canada to pursue this as well.
Applications for the 2021 Loran Award are now open! The Loran Scholars Foundation looks for students who demonstrate strength of character, a commitment to service, and leadership potential. To learn more about the Loran Award and how you can apply for it visit https://loranscholar.ca/becoming-a-scholar/ and/or join one of their webinars.