When Olivia Batten and Ashton Grigg graduate from Westisle Composite High School in June, they will be doing so with major financial backing.
Ms Batten has been awarded the Chancellor Scholarship from Queens University, its biggest scholarship, worth $36,000, while Ms Grigg has been awarded the Schulich Scholarship, a national scholarship with 25 partner universities, worth $80,000.
When she first found out she was being nominated for the Schulich, Ms Grigg wasn’t sure what to think.
“I was like ‘I don’t think I’m going to get this,’ and there was another scholarship I was looking into that was $20,000,” she explained. “I was like, ‘Miss Hamill (the school guidance counsellor), what if you pulled my name out of that national one and put me in this one?’ because I thought I had a better chance of getting that.”
Not only are the two students the recipients of major scholarships, they’re the first students from Westisle to receive these particular scholarships, something they feel proves there’s no limit to achievement for those living in a rural area.
“You can’t say ‘I’d never get that,’ because you very well could,” said Ms Batten. “Coming from a rural area can honestly sometimes give you an advantage. You understand how community works, and you understand what a good support system looks like, and how to build connections with teachers,and seek out mentors. I just think that people sometimes think being from a rural area, means that you’re never going to get high levels of success, but it could mean the exact opposite.”
The application process for the scholarships was pretty similar. Both Ms Batten and Ms Grigg had to fill out short answer questions and essays, with each girl showing why they felt they would be a great candidate for their respective scholarship.
Ms Grigg plans on attending the University of New Brunswick to pursue science, while Ms Batten will be at Queens, where politics will be her field, focussing on policy drafting, specifically concerning sustainability and clean energy initiatives.
“We really have to think of how the city centers, where the legislatures are, how they make the decisions that impact rural areas,” she said. “To have someone with a rural background to be working in those big cities, making the policies that impact rural the most, I think that’s really important.”
Ms Batten and Ms Grigg along with another Westisle student, are also up for the TD Community Scholarship, worth $70,000.
Not only is the scholarship a great honour, it’s also going to be a financial boon for the two.
“To be recognized by the school that you want to go to really shows that they believe in you and want to help you get a head start in your career after you’re done with this institution,” said Ms Batten. “To pay for basically tuition and books every year, that would be a significant financial burden off my shoulders.”
Ms Grigg agrees.
“I want to do schooling after my four years, so I don’t have to worry about putting that burden on myself or my parents, or having to worry about loans, and paying things off when I’m out of those four years,” she explained. “It’s nice to get that acknowledgement and know that you believe in yourself, but it’s nice to know that other people do too.”
Right now, the two are focussing on keeping their marks up, getting ready for their next set of exams, and getting ready for graduation and what’s going to happen once summer is over.
Both think it’s very strange that they’re going to be graduating. They feel like it was only a few months ago they started Grade 10.
“I’m excited to move on to the next part of my life, but it’s scary too,” said Ms Grigg. “You’re so close with not even your friends, but your teachers and the administration. That’s what I love about Westisle, everyone is a close-knit family, you know everyone. It’s going to be scary going to a university and not knowing your professors and meeting new people, but it will be a fun experience at the same time.”