Manhattan Leslie-Toogood likes being out of her comfort zone.
The Grade 12 Nelson McIntyre Collegiate student has been chosen to receive an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship — the largest STEM scholarship in Canada. This fall, the 18-year-old will attend Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., where she will study sciences.
Leslie-Toogood, who is commonly known as Mattie, told The Lance the scholarship will make a profound difference on not only her upcoming university experience, but also her educational and personal development as she starts to prepare to leave high school and embark on her next adventure.
"This scholarship will provide me with the opportunity to challenge myself through new experiences and get out my comfort zone," Leslie-Toogood said.
She said she’s excited about the element of the unknown that comes with not going to one of her hometown universities, and grateful for the freedom the scholarship will give her to foster her love of the sciences and explore her passions throughout her time at university without the added financial stress that goes with that.
When asked how she felt when she learned the news, which was delivered via Zoom, Leslie-Toogood said in some respects it’s still sinking in.
"If feels incredible. When I first got the news, I was mostly in shock. I’m really grateful, and really excited," Leslie-Toogood said, acknowledging her move to Dalhousie wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship.
The Norwood resident has been heavily involved with a number of academic, sporting and community-focused pursuits in her high school years, which include volunteering at the gift shop at St. Boniface Hospital, and being involved with Nelson McIntyre Collegiate’s United Way Youth Chapter — in Grade 11 she was in charge of the chapter’s social media accounts, and she’s currently its co-president. In the sporting arena, she was on the school’s volleyball team in Grade 9, and cross-country team in Grade 11, and outside of school she’s been a competitive gymnast and a soccer player for Bonivital Soccer Club for the best part of the last decade.
As she reflects on the closing of one chapter, and the opening of another, the teen said she’s grateful for her experiences at Nelson Mac.
"The school has given me so much, and I’ve loved my four years there," Leslie-Toogood said.
"It’s project-based learning programs, and smaller school population, have given me so many opportunities to explore my interests and develop as a leader."
"I’m now really excited about the future, and it will be the first time that I’ll be away from Winnipeg for this long. I’m really excited about exploring a new city, and meeting my fellow students, and my professors," she added, noting her mom was born in Halifax.
Leslie-Toogood was nominated by Jason McKechnie, a student services teacher at the school, because of her outstanding academic and extra-curricular achievements.
"While she does have stellar grades, it is her humble and caring personality that sets her apart. From the very beginning, Leslie-Toogood embraced NMC’s interdisciplinary project-based teaching model. I think younger students will look at her outstanding accomplishment and realize that a dedication to learning can result in great things," McKechnie said in a news release.
"Anyone who knows Leslie-Toogood would describe her as compassionate, hardworking, and very modest in her accomplishments. Everyone at NMC wishes her the best as she begins this new educational journey."
Leslie-Toogood is now the second Nelson McIntyre Collegiate student to be selected for a prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship. In 2017, Jessica Blatta, was also recognized with the award.
Go online at www.schulichleaders.com to learn more about the scholarship.
The Lance community journalist
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Canstar’s senior reporter, he joined the team in June 2009 to write for The Sou’wester, which was then the new paper in the Canstar family.