The BMO200 William A. Downe Scholarship launched in 2017 to celebrate BMO’s bicentennial anniversary and Bill Downe’s tenure as CEO. Open to children of BMO employees, this scholarship removes barriers to education and recognizes “academic achievement, community involvement, and leadership potential” as determined by judges from the Loran Scholars Foundation.
We talked to Nevedhaa Ayyappan, a 2021 BMO200 William A. Downe Scholarship winner and $10,000 recipient, about alleviating financial stress, being true to yourself, and learning from rejection.
1. What led you to be selected for this scholarship?
A number of factors led to me receiving this scholarship. Overarchingly, I fit the requirements needed; I have been an active citizen, shown leadership and growth, was a grade 12 student, and a parent of mine is a BMO employee.
But I believe it was my diverse experiences in community involvement that allowed me to shine. I have discussed education reform and transition child benefit with Ontario MPP’s, worked at a start-up helping POC in tech advance their careers, and founded countless school teams. I have used my voice to bring hidden issues to light, bringing about significant change. I will continue to advocate for what I believe, and this bias towards action has allowed me to be a recipient of this scholarship.
2. What has been the most rewarding part of winning the scholarship?
Winning this scholarship has liberated me from financial stress. With no minimum GPA requirement either, my family and I have been awarded peace of mind!
I am now able to invest more time doing what I love; spending time with my friends and family, getting involved within my university and community, relentlessly learning, and overall becoming the best version of myself.
The scholarship has reinvigorated my passions, making it possible to make a difference in the world through STEM.
3. How do you plan on using the money?
As most scholarships are, the money will go towards post-secondary education. I will be studying Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, so BMO will have helped me cover parts of tuition and residence fees.
4. What was your biggest takeaway from the process?
The application process allowed me to reflect on WHY I do what I do, the impact that I have made, and where I want my life to lead in the future. My biggest takeaway from the process is that authenticity is everything. All of us are unique and different, and trying to write ‘like a scholarship winner’ will just remove the spark of individuality. Be true to yourself, try your best, and things will work out.
I will continue to be authentic, and work on what I love; making an impact with tech.
5. What are your career plans?
While in university, I plan to work in green-tech and robotics, through coops and internships. Afterwards, I plan on working in the tech industry or work in tech policy (politics, lobbying for the world and the people first hit by climate change). Overall, I hope to gain exposure to different industries and jobs over the next few years, and my career prospects are not set in stone.
6. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is the #1 goal you hope to accomplish by then?
Within 10 years, I hope to have made meaningful change in the world.
Career-wise, I see myself using my tech education, creative mind, and driven spirit to address social issues, particularly climate change. I hope to innovate and build on a daily basis, whether that is as an employee or as a founder of my own company.
Personally, I hope to always be learning, growing, expanding my understanding of the world. I see myself travelling the world, becoming immersed in different cultures, and studying philosophy.
But of course, the future is unpredictable (who would have expected COVID-19), and I am confident in my ability to adapt and overcome any and all challenges I will definitely face
My number one goal? I want to become a person that 17-year-old me will be proud of.
7. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Rejection sucks. I have been turned away from countless jobs, awards, and scholarships. But, each application improved my writing skills, helped me reflect further, and brought me to where I am today. Even if you don’t land the first one, don’t worry! As they say, rejection = redirection.