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Hugh Boyd student named 2020 Loran Scholar

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:57 PST, Thu February 6, 2020

Last Updated: 3:46 PST, Wed March 4, 2020

Richmond’s students have a history of shining in Canada-wide scholarship competitions. Leilani Pearson is the latest.

The Grade 12 Hugh Boyd secondary student has been named as a 2020 Loran Scholar.

The Loran Scholars Foundation has been in place since 1988. Over four years of undergraduate study, each Loran Scholar receives funding valued at $100,000. This includes an annual stipend, tuition at one of 25 Canadian universities, mentorship, summer internships, and networking opportunities with other Loran Scholars.

More than 5,000 students across Canada applied for the prestigious award, 500 were interviewed, and 88 made it to the National Selections process. 36 finalists have recently been named 2020 Loran Scholars.The selection committee looks for students who exhibit qualities beyond academic excellence.

Since 2015, Richmond has seen three other students become Loran Scholars: Palmer’s Bonnie Zhang in 2015 and McNair’s Cole Langer and Leon Picha last year.

“When I first filled out my application, I had originally thought it was just another scholarship, but Loran is so much more than that,” says Pearson. “It’s a major program that involves continuing to play an active role in the community, maintaining high grades in a full course load, summer jobs in three sectors, and so much more.”

While Pearson is thrilled to be a finalist, her journey hasn’t been without difficulties.

“I think the most challenging part was actually motivation. Each step of the way I felt like what I was doing was pointless,” she says.

Pearson describes having impostor syndrome—doubting her own accomplishments and feeling fraudulent—but says these fears were quelled by interacting with other finalists at the recent national selections weekend.

“I never would have thought that it would actually go anywhere, so for much of the journey I would end up putting myself down. It wasn’t until I actually met everyone at nationals that I realized we were all here for a reason,” says Pearson of the eye-opening weekend.

“Getting the chance to meet all of these wonderful people from all over Canada that have been doing such amazing things, it was exhilarating. I was overwhelmed at first, but I soon realized that because we were all in the same situation it was remarkably easy to talk to anyone.

“I found that I could sit down with a total stranger and have no trouble at all talking to them,” says Pearson.

At Hugh Boyd, Pearson is involved with several clubs, including the First Responders and the Greenthumbers, of which she is a co-president. 

“Not only has it given me the chance to get more involved within the school, it has also allowed for me to meet others in the school that I’ve never really spoken to before,” she says.

Noting Pearson’s commitment to school programs, Boyd teacher Renukha Ramanathan was “thrilled” when she learned Pearson had made the list of Loran finalists.

“As a First Responder, she has had many exciting calls and challenges this year that she has handled really well,” says Ramanathan.

Ramanathan believes that Pearson will make a difference in the world after high school, encouraging Pearson to “enjoy the ride.”

“There will be hard times and easy times, but it is essential to learn from it all and to enjoy it,” says Ramanathan.

As Pearson nears the end of her high school years, she has been thinking about what might come next for her. 

“I really want to study biology because it’s one of my greatest interests. I have always been curious about the world and the way it works so if I get the chance to further explore this passion it would mean a lot to me,” she says.

After researching schools that she believes fit with her needs and interests, Pearson has applied to both the University of Toronto and Queen’s University.

When she’s not busy studying, Pearson works at Dairy Queen and has been learning Polynesian Dance for 11 years.

 “I really enjoy volunteer work but I’ve also been really trying to learn more about myself as an individual, and so some of my methods for staying involved combine both my love for volunteering and staying involved, and my passions and interests,” she says.

Leaving her family and home behind is a daunting prospect. 

“I’m really excited, but also scared about the chance to be independent. I’ve never really been away from my family before,” says Pearson.

Speaking to the Sentinel before the results were released, Pearson clarified: “Regardless of the outcome of the interviews, post-secondary (education) will be a great opportunity for me to really get to know myself and truly explore what the world has to offer.”

Now, as a 2020 Loran Scholar, she can explore to her heart's content.

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