When Gabrielle Rutman was waiting to see if she'd been shortlisted for a prestigious national award, she did something she'd never done before — she went for a run.
The 17-year-old Grade 12 Esquimalt High student had spent weeks preparing her application for the Loran Award, a comprehensive national undergraduate scholarship for character, service and leadership, before she submitted it.
The day the Loran Scholars Foundation announced the finalists for the award, Rutman spent most of it feeling incredibly nervous, wondering if she had been shortlisted for the $100,000 award.
When she returned home from school, Rutman still hadn't heard from the foundation and decided to release all her pent up energy by going for a run.
“I never go for runs, but I had enough energy at this point to actually run to the water,” said the Fernwood resident, adding she got the call saying she was a finalist during the run. “I started crying. I was very, very happy.”
This year, more than 4,400 students applied for the Loran Award — only 84 of whom were selected as finalists. The announcement follows a rigorous application process, beginning with a nomination by a school, filling out a detailed questionnaire and regional interviews.
The winner receives $100,000 over four years, including a $10,000 annual stipend, tuition waivers from one of 25 Canadian universities, mentorship, and summer internship funding.
Over the past four years, Rutman has dedicated much of her spare time to volunteer efforts in the community and at her school.
To bridge the gap between the school district and students, Rutman co-organized a survey and town hall meeting to identify students' needs and priorities, both this year and last. She is co-president of a number of school clubs and volunteers as an anti-bullying ambassador for the Red Cross.
While Rutman believes in the power of student engagement, her other passion is theatre. She acts in productions with the Salt Water Musical and Blue Bridge theatres, and teaches drama part-time.
It's a love for volunteering that was inspired by her older sister Geneviere, who was also deeply involved with the community.
“I enjoy it. It doesn't seem like it's a chore and I do see there are positive benefits to other people,” said Rutman, adding the volunteer culture at the school was also a factor in getting her involved.
“That's something that's really important to me. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't be doing it. I find it really rewarding. It will always be a part of my life.”
Ally Hoffman, a guidance counsellor at Esquimalt High, who nominated Rutman for the award, said there are many students who volunteer at the school, but Rutman stands out.
“She does it with grace and kindness and she's a very authentic person and she's young and open to learning and working on herself. I think she is really good at recognizing opportunities for growth,” Hoffman said. “She's done an amazing job of thinking about and reflecting on those experiences so she can approach things in a different way with those learnings.”
Rutman will be heading to Toronto for the national selection, which takes place Feb. 3 and 4. Claremont Secondary School's Ford Smith was also shortlisted for the award.
The Loran Scholars Foundation is a national charity that partners with universities, donors and volunteers to invest in young Canadians who demonstrate character, service and leadership potential.