The sky’s the limit for Jessica Blatta.
The Nelson McIntyre Collegiate student, who turned 18 on May 5, has been selected to receive an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship to study sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland in the fall.
Blatta, who lives in Norwood Flats, was chosen as a candidate for the prestigious scholarship by staff at the school based on her outstanding academic, extra-curricular and volunteering accomplishments. The scholarships are awarded annually to high school graduates enrolling in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at participating universities across Canada and Israel, officials say.
Talking to The Lance days after finding out about her success, the teen was still processing the life-changing news.
"When I found out, I got home from school, sat down in the living room and my mom gave me a letter," Blatta said.
"I read the first line, which said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve won…’ and I sat there for a few minutes staring at it, making sure it was real. I think I was a little bit in shock and I had to read it about 10 times before I could believe it. I’m just so grateful for this opportunity."
Blatta said one of the benefits of the scholarship is that it will help her focus on her academic priorities.
"It’s going to make it a lot easier for me to focus 100 per cent on science. Before this, I was thinking about the reality of getting a part-time job and worrying about money, so this is a huge thing. And, of course, with going out of province, this will help me enjoy and appreciate the overall university experience and allow me be to be more financially independent," she said.
Blatta’s extensive resume gives some insight into her scholarship selection. Her achievements include earning a spot at Shad Valley, a summer program for gifted math and science students. She has also been part of NMC’s hovercraft team and is a member of the school’s concert and jazz bands. A dedicated pianist, Blatta also teaches young kids piano lessons.
On the sporting side, her athletic pursuits include track and field and cross-country skiing. Blatta has also been involved with the "Special Olympics Spiders Club" multi-sport initiative.
"The club is about giving back and we work a lot with special needs children. A key thing is that all they really want is to be treated like normal kids, so we help provide nurturing environments to help them develop skills to socialize."
Blatta is also thankful for the support she receives from the school.
"In terms of it being a relatively small school, the teachers know you, what you’re interested in and what activities you like and they push you the extra mile," she said. "Also, the programs available here are amazing and there are so many opportunities to try different things."
Blatta is still thinking about exactly what she wants to study at Memorial, with biochemistry and marine biology at the top of her list.
Community journalist — The Lance
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7111