A Mount Boucherie Secondary student is one of 88 finalists vying for a national $100,000 scholarship.
Nhi Dao is in the running for the Loran Award.
Bestowed by the Loran Scholars Foundation, it’s the largest undergraduate university merit honour awarded in Canada on the basis of character, commitment to service and leadership potential.
Dao heard about the opportunity in the school’s schedule posting of scholarship opportunities for Grade 12 students and was encouraged by her school’s counselling staff to pursue it.
She has progressed from a regional selection process held recently at UBC Okanagan, where 10 students from across the Interior including Penticton, Lake Country and Kamloops were seeking to be a Loran Award finalist.
“As far as I know I am the only one from my school who has applied and made it this far,” said the 17-year-old.
Dao comes by her community service acknowledgement honestly.
Among her school activities outside the classroom include participation in a school Instagram page which generates stories about school staff and students; donates time to a non-profit cafe at her school to raise money for Global Village Charity Foundation projects; chairs a school committee that raises money for students who can’t afford the expenses associated with attending graduation ceremonies; volunteers with initiative to help students deal with mental stress and anxiety; and serves on a district-wide student council as the representative for her school.
She said her mom is the inspiration for her busy extra-curricular agendas. She’s encouraged her to follow her own passion and soak up every opportunity she can in high school.
“If you think about it, there are seven days in the week and we are actually only in class for a few hours five days a week, so you have the rest of the afternoon and night available if you don’t procrastinate to do other things,” said Dao.
“A lot of kids my age want to have ‘me-time’ when they are not at school but that time for me is taking part in other community service school activities.”
She says her passion has also been unleashed with the support of Mount Boucherie school teachers and staff.
“They really encourage you to be involved in the community and help out…while academics are important they also want you to help you to be a well-rounded student.”
Born in Toronto to Vietnamese immigrants, Dao moved with her mom to the Okanagan seven years ago.
“I am inspired by my mom because she came to this country with nothing, not knowing the language, and made a life for herself. She has taught me not to waste any time in doing anything you want to do,” Dao said.
“What I have learned about myself is it’s OK to step out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes you see people in my age group focused more on the consequences of what could or couldn’t happen in taking on a challenge.
“I am trying to live my life to the fullest as a Grade 12 student and not have ant regrets when I look back. Being in school is a safe environment to take on challenges in your life before we graduate and go off into the world.”
Dao plans to attend Ryerson University in Ontario next fall and enrol in that school’s four-year fashion design degree program.
“Toronto is kind of the fashion centre of Canada so to be close to that is exciting and you are also that much closer to New York City’s fashion world,” she said.
Dao will travel to Toronto for the Loran Award final selection stage in February, saying to win would help her financially in her post-secondary goals.
“An award like this would be life changing,” she said.