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This article was published 22/2/2016 (2039 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Bilal Ayyache has at least 100,000 reasons to be excited about the future.
The 17-year-old Nelson McIntyre Collegiate student is one of 31 young Canadians this year who will receive a highly-prestigious Loran Award through the Loran Scholarship Foundation. The Grade 12 student will receive a scholarship of up to $100,000 over four years for his undergraduate studies in Canada.
The St. Boniface resident is the only winner from Manitoba this year, and according to the school’s vice-principal Charlene Smallwood, the first winner from the school in its 102-year history.
Nominated by the school’s student services department, Ayyache had to undergo several rounds of interviewing and a trip to Toronto for the final interviews. According to loranscholar.ca, Loran Scholars are chosen for their character, commitment to service leadership potential through a rigorous selection process designed to ascertain character traits such as integrity, courage, compassion, grit and a high level of personal autonomy.
"It’s an amazing honour," Ayyache told The Lance days after receiving the life-changing phone call, noting his gratitude to the school for "investing" in him and giving him the opportunities to excel.
"It makes all the people I know happy — the school, my friends, my parents and my whole family. Basically, everyone that has supported me on this journey."
"When they told me I was shaking because I couldn’t believe it. I realized then that my life had changed and that I now have so many more opportunities. It’s the best feeling ever. It makes me realize that people believe in me, which motivates me even more going forward."
Ayyache attributes his win to a number of opportunities, which include his experience at SHAD — a summer program focused on science, technology, engineering and math; his work on the school division’s hovercraft competition under LRSD’s student engagement co-ordinator and Lance community correspondent Adriano Magnifico; and his work with Junior Achievement Manitoba. He has also done community service at St. Boniface Hospital; volunteered as a peer tutor at school; taught younger students how to write resumes; and edited the yearbook. He is also a barista at a local Starbucks.
"The SHAD program, for example, taught me a lot. The scholarship is not just about getting good grades, but also these other activities such as career development. In some ways, it’s about giving back what the community gave to me," Ayyache said.
Originally a Palestinian refugee, the teen lived in Nigeria before moving to Canada three years ago: "My dad gave up a lot for his family to make sure me and my brother have a bright future. We moved here for a better future and a better life."
After graduating from NMC, Ayyache hopes to be accepted into the faculty of science at the University of British Columbia and he eventually wants to attend medical school and become a surgeon, which is an ambition of his since early childhood.
"When I was a kid, I was playing on a swing and fell off and hit my face on a rock. I still have a scar on my face. I can still remember being comforted by the doctor saying ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to be alright.’ From that day, I have been motivated to become a doctor," he said.
Smallwood said Ayyache’s achievements to date can’t be overstated.
"In my experience in high schools, this is the biggest scholarship. There are others, but this one is huge, as it opens up Bilal’s world quite dramatically," Smallwood said, noting the foundation garnered more than 4,250 scholarship applications this year.
"And he’s very humble. When he first told us he’d won, he said the reason is the opportunities he’s had at the school. He seems to understand that a connection to the community is important."
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.