The Loran Award is one of the biggest and most prestigious awards in Canada. This year, thousands applied but only a small number of outstanding Canadian students were selected as a 2021 Loran Scholar. Each one receives up to $100,000 to explore and develop their talents as they pursue their undergraduate studies.
We talked to Pénélope Fernandez-Busto, a 2021 Loran Scholar from Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf in Montreal, QC about building her own company, learning from a mentor, and not underestimating yourself.
1. Tell us about yourself.
Hello! My name is Penelope and I would describe myself as a very ambitious and resilient person. I’m always up for a challenge and it’s helped me grow and explore different interests in the last few years! I was able to be part of my CEGEP’s debate club and model UN club, and later on became captain of the debates team! I’m also part of the feminist club, as women’s rights is a topic that I’m passionate about. It led me to work on many projects, such as creating a campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence. I’m currently the president of my student council and I love to spend my free time drawing, painting, and playing soccer.
2. What was your reaction when you found out that you were named a 2021 Loran Scholar?
I would say I was in complete disbelief (I still am) when I first heard the news! I felt a lot of gratitude and was very honoured to receive the call. I found out about it one or two hours before I had to take a midterm and I remember I stopped feeling anxious and was very excited for the rest of the day!
3. What is the most meaningful leadership experience you’ve had so far?
When I was 15, I participated in a program called Junior Achievements, where I was able to build my own company with a team of students. I was elected president of my company and at first, I thought being in a position of leadership meant I could work the most and be able to control every aspect of the company’s development. However, just a couple of months in, we noticed we weren’t as productive and a few of my colleagues lost their motivation – some even left the program. I remember realizing then that the way I was leading could have a negative impact on my colleagues and the success of our company. I believe this experience was eye-opening for me because it led me to change my definition of leadership. I realized that being a good leader meant knowing your colleagues’ strengths to delegate tasks accordingly. It also meant being able to guarantee good communication amongst the team. By organizing more group meetings, we were able to stay on the same page, all the while working as a team and helping each other out.
4. What motivates you to give back to your community?
Being able to have a positive impact, big or small, in situations of social injustice, especially on issues that affect women around the world.
5. What part of the Loran program are you most looking forward to?
Although every part of the program interests me, I am most looking forward to developing my relationship with my mentor. I think it is such a unique opportunity to learn from an accomplished person and have them by your side as you navigate your 4 years of university. I’m very excited to meet them!
6. What are you most looking forward to about university? What do you hope to get involved in there?
I will be going to law school next year and although it will be challenging, I look forward to evolving in a more mature environment and learning from other passionate students. I would love to be a part of the student association or help out at my university’s legal clinics!
7. What advice do you have for other students applying to become a Loran Scholar or to any other scholarship?
Don’t underestimate yourself! The Loran Award has a pretty competitive pool of applicants and the application process might seem daunting, but you have nothing to lose! I never expected to get to where I am today, but that would have never happened if I hadn’t built up the courage to apply in the first place. My last tip would be to spend time on your essays – let it be a unique and genuine reflection of yourself!
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to work in a field of law where I can help individuals that are in situations of injustice. The legal system still has many flaws and I hope to tackle them during my career, whether it is uplifting marginalized individuals or working on new legislation.
9. You will be working in three different sectors during the summers between school. What kind of summer experiences do you hope to pursue?
I’m passionate about politics and law, so I would love to work in public policy during the summer!
The Loran Scholars Foundation looks for students who demonstrate integrity, courage, compassion, grit, and personal autonomy. To learn more about the Loran Award and the scholarship application process, visit https://loranscholar.ca/becoming-a-scholar/.