Two Maple Ridge students awarded Loran scholarships

Each of the high achievers gets $100k for higher education

Emerald UnRuh of Westview and Joanne Banh of Maple Ridge secondary

Emerald UnRuh of Westview and Joanne Banh of Maple Ridge secondary

Two local high school students won scholarships worth $100,000 apiece over the weekend.

Just 30 Loran Scholarships are given out across Canada each year, and two have been awarded to Maple Ridge students – Westview’s Emerald UnRuh and Maple Ridge secondary’s Joanne Banh.

The two girls were among 3,800 who applied for the awards with written exams. After a round of four 15-minute interviews at UBC in November, they were chosen as finalists. Just 76 graduating students were flown to Toronto for the final application process, and they went through six more interviews, both with individuals and panels, over Friday and Saturday.

“Their ideals are character, service and leadership,” explained UnRuh.

So the interviews were designed to “peel back all the layers” of the applying students.

The Loran Scholars Foundation boasts having “the country’s most rigorous and personalized selection process.”

UnRuh said they were posed personal and probing questions.

On interview began with: “What’s your biggest failure? Why?”

Afterward, the young women flew back to Maple Ridge and waited for a call. Sunday was a long, intense day, and both girls had their phones in hand most of it. The finalists had set up a Facebook page, and as each of the kids across Canada received their good news, they posted it to the site.

Banh watched 29 students post their good news, and started to despair – then she finally got the call.

“I was the very last one.”

When their call finally came both girls had the same reaction – they cried.

“It’s more than a scholarship, it’s a program,” said UnRuh. “I’m so excited for it.”

The girls received a tuition waiver from one of 25 universities, including UBC, UVic, Queens and McGill.

They also get $9,000 per year for living expenses for four years of undergraduate study.

Also included in the unique scholarship:

• up to $8,500 in funding for summer internships in the area of public policy, enterprise and personal/community development;

• participation in an Outward Bound orientation expedition, an annual summer retreat and other scholar gatherings;

• personal mentorship from Canada’s leaders in the private, public and non-profit sectors.

A student must have a minimum 85 per cent grade point average to apply for a Loran Scholarship, but things like community service work and leadership win them the $100,000 award.

“I just wrote the essays, and gave it a shot,” said UnRuh.

She talked about her involvement with the Golden Ears Métis Society, the Canucks Autism Network, the student planning committee, book clubs and even playing field hockey. She won the Si-Yam Award for leadership at the annual district Aboriginal Achievement Awards.

“I love to get involved with any demographic that can use some support,” she said. “I grab at those opportunities. It gives a huge sense of accomplishment.”

UnRuh said that even had she not won the scholarship, the application experience – meeting current Loran scholars, fellow finalists and the interviewers – was inspirational.

“It has made me dream bigger, and think bigger.”

She has been accepted into UBC, but is also considering Montreal’s McGill and the University of Ottawa. International relations, political science and indigenous studies are her areas of interest

Banh balances school and working as a swing manager at McDonalds with a lot of charity work. She and three other girls re-started the HOPE group (Helping Other People Everywhere) group at MRSS, doing activities like clothing drives. She is a team leader in the volunteer program at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

“We visit with patients and try to enhance their hospital experience,” she explained.

Banh is at the hospital on Thursdays, and Tuesdays at the Salvation Army, working as a kitchen volunteer.

She is interested in business, and Western University in London, Ont. and UBC are both high on her list as good business schools.

The Loran scholarship will give her the opportunity to visit developing countries and get involved with programs to help people. She wants to assist in educating young girls in places where they have little opportunities to attend school.

She is also looking forward to the networking and contacts that she will develop through the Loran Foundation.

For Banh, she went from a situation where she would incur a huge debt to attend university, to having her education accommodated, and new doors opened.

“This was a big shot in the dark for me,” UnRuh said, and urged her peers to be passionate about what they want.

“Really give it everything you have, push yourself, try harder – you’re never going to regret that.”