After four months of essays and rigorous interviews, a Yellowknife student has been named a finalist for a $100,000 award.
Emma Willoughby, a grade 12 student at Sir John Franklin High School, will be participating in the Loran Scholars Foundation national selections in Toronto in February.
Out of more than 5,000 applicants from across the nation, Willoughby was listed as one of the top 88 candidates, which will be narrowed down to 34 Loran Scholars after the national selections take place.
“It’s pretty surreal. It’s crazy. I never expected to make it this far in the process, but now that I’m here, I’m super excited and really looking forward to the next step,” said Willoughby.
The Loran Scholars Foundation is a national charity and every year hands out several Loran Awards worth $100,000 over four years. But the foundation doesn’t give out awards based solely on academic or athletic merit, rather it looks “beyond the transcript” to “find the promise of character,” according to the foundation’s website.
Willoughby credits her success to her five-year tenure working as a volunteer coach for the GOBall girls-only basketball program, as well as her time working with Northern Youth Leadership for the past two summers.
“I know that I’m super driven with everything that I do. I always like to do my best and help other people and I think I helped the judges really understand that,” she said. “I shared everything that I’ve done with my life and all my goals for the future, so I think that was something that was super helpful in setting me aside from other (students).”
After passing the initial application test, Willoughby was named a semi-finalist and went through five different interviews with the regional selection committee before moving on to the finalist stage.
“I did like taking the time to reflect on everything I’ve done in the past few years, but it has been stressful,” she said. “Even for the first application, I had to write several essays on my volunteer and leadership experiences, as well as all of my community hours I’ve done in the past.”
Even if Willoughby is not selected as one of the 34 Loran Scholars, she will still receive a $5,000 finalist award.
“So far, it’s been a super positive experience, and I know that no matter what happens in Toronto, I’m still going to think the same way of it,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself. It’s a challenge to talk and write about yourself, but you really do gain a lot of perspectives.”
Whatever earnings Willoughby receives will go towards her post-secondary education, where she said she hopes to attend either Queens University, the University of Ottawa or McGill University.
“I want to go into education to become a teacher, or work in international development and political sciences,” Willoughby added.
As for the immediate future, National Selections is the only thing that Willoughby said is on her mind.
“I’m really looking forward to going to Toronto and meeting the 87 other people who have similar interests as me and are kind of the same type of people. It’s going to be a great experience,” she said.