Lillooet student is finalist for $100,000 award

Lillooet’s Ayden Harrison is one of the finalists for a $100,000 Loran Award for undergraduate studies, which would cover all her expenses for a four-year post-secondary degree, and then some.

“I got the news right before Christmas break,” Harrison said, laughing at the memory because the beginning of the phone call gave her the completely wrong impression.

“They said ‘we had a lot of really great candidates...’ so I thought ‘ah, well, I’m not one of them, darn, but it was awesome just to meet everyone that went.’ Then she was like ‘congratulations, we’re flying you to Toronto’ and I was sitting there and I was like ‘I can’t process anything that you’re telling me.’ ”

Luckily, she didn’t have to, Loran Scholars Foundation followed up with an email.

“I was definitely in shock. I think I started screaming after and everyone’s like ‘what?” and I’m like, I got it, I’m going to Toronto!’ ”

This will be Harrison’s second trip in the quest for the Loran Award, she’s already been to Kelowna for the regional selection process.

“I got short-listed so I was sent to Kelowna for a set of interviews with 10 other kids.”

Those were the others on the short list from the Interior, she said, other short-listed applicants gathered in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

“Out of my region there were 150 people who applied and 10 people who got short-listed and then out of those people they picked one or two,” she said.

“So out of B.C. I think there’s 10 of us who are going to Toronto. Out of Canada there was 5,000 applications.”

It was 5,194, actually, and 14 going to Toronto, with Harrison selected as one of them among the top 88 of that huge number. So how does that make her feel?

“Honestly, in utter disbelief because I didn’t think that I would even get short-listed. I don’t think I realized how big of a deal it was.”

It was a very big deal, as the following excerpts from an email from the Loran Scholars Foundation, announcing the selection, makes clear.

“The Loran Scholars Foundation is delighted to share that local student Ayden Harrison will be participating in our national selections in Toronto on January 31st and February 1st. She has a chance to earn a Loran Award valued up to $100,000 over four years for undergraduate studies in Canada,” it read in part, citing “evidence of character, commitment to service in the community, and leadership potential.”

That was demonstrated by her work with younger kids including creating an elementary school girls group, volunteering at Mountainview Lodge, minor hockey and involvement in many other sports.

“After national selection, the Loran Scholars Foundation will grant up to 36 Loran Awards. The Loran Award includes annual stipends, tuition waivers from a partner university, mentorship, summer internship funding as well as annual retreats and forums. If not selected as a Loran Scholar, she is eligible to receive a $5,000 finalist award.”

Harrison flies to Toronto tomorrow.

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