The program is one that recognizes the potential of youth as the world’s most effective resource to address the challenges of the future.
It’s called SHAD (formerly Shad Valley) and it’s a Canadian charity that empowers the best and brightest of the nation’s high school students at a pivotal point in their educational. The summer enrichment program places the students in residence at one of 13 top Canadian universities focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). There they participate in a program of experiences that offers a new perspective on the world.
Students are mentored by university professors, business leaders, entrepreneurs and business world innovators; all doing their utmost to inspire students to reach for the stars. This year four students from Victoria will join 797 of the best and brightest from across the country in a program that has helped develop the raw skills and talents of close to 1,600 youth since 1980.
Meagan Scott, one of this year’s SHAD participants, is finishing off Grade 11 at Esquimalt High and is headed for the University of Western Ontario in London for her summer placement.
“I really love science and math, but I’m also very interested in the humanities. I’ve thought I might be able to combine those into a career in medicine, but I’m really not sure. I’m hoping the SHAD program helps me find that direction,” said Scott. “I just think it’ll be great to make connections with other people my age, like-minded people who want to do something important with their lives.”
Another Grade 11 Esquimalt High student, Saskia van Beers, has always been interested in the sciences, perhaps a function of her father’s career as an astrophysicist.
“I just like understanding how things work,” she said. Her interest in science has led her to focus on biology in high school (she will soon receive her Grade 12 biology credit) and she has toyed with the idea of going into biochemical engineering.
“I’m hoping that SHAD will help me cement what I want to do with my life, and to make connections that I can have for a lifetime.”
Van Beers heads to Queens University in Kingston, Ont. along with Claremont secondary student Fedrigo Nicolas. Another Victoria student, Jacki Zhang, currently attending St. Michael’s University School, is going to Dalhousie in Halifax for the summer.
If the CV’s of the program’s alumni are any indication, Scott, van Beers and the others are destined for a bright future. To date, alumni have achieved 32 Rhodes scholarships, 80 Loran scholarships, 43 Schulich Leader honours and a host of other awards and accolades. Among the high school graduates who participated in SHAD, 85 per cent pursue STEAM studies as undergrads and 80 per cent have at least one post graduate degree. Sixty per cent are young women.
Three SHAD alumni are currently advising Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of his Government’s Youth Council, including Simone Cavanaugh of Montreal.
“Canada today is focused on innovation and youth and the best combination of those two things can be found in SHAD,” she said. “The experience is transformative and will last a lifetime, and that’s more important than ever before for our country.”
To find out more about the program, visit shad.ca.