Three students at a Whalley high school won the “triple crown” of scholarships this year.
Grade 12 students, Emily Hernandez, Sarthak Tyagi and Tin Dao, at Queen Elizabeth Secondary were named as recipients for three major provincial and national scholarships: the $40,000 Cmolik Foundation scholarship, the $100,000 Schulich Foundation scholarship and the $100,000 Loran Scholars Foundation scholarship.
According to the school district, this “triple crown” marks “the first time in recent memory that three students from one Surrey secondary school have received the major scholarships in the same graduating year.”
For Hernandez, she said she couldn’t believe it when she got the call that she was one of the 2022 recipients for the Cmolik Foundation scholarship. Hernandez was one of nine students in the district and 20 throughout province to be selected for the 2022 scholarship.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Hernandez. “At first, I didn’t think I could go to UBC and now having won the scholarship, I have all these possibilities now.”
Hernandez is planning to go to the University of British Columbia in the fall for a bachelor of arts, with plans for a double major in political science and psychology.
If she didn’t get the scholarship, Hernandez said she planned on doing two years at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and then transferring to Simon Fraser University.
“Since I was little I always dreamed of going to UBC, that was always my dream school.”
But it’s not just about her.
“I’m really happy because of the reputation now that’s coming to the school … Not a lot of people had something good to say about the school, but now that we have these big scholarships I think it just proves that QE is a really good school.”
Hernandez said she even had some younger students come up and ask her for help with their scholarship applications next year.
“Being an inner-city school, there are a lot of kids that aren’t able to go onto post-secondary or haven’t even thought about post-secondary because their families or they themselves may not be able to afford it,” she explained.
“But now having won the big scholarships and spreading the news to the students in the school … we’re kind of showing them that your dreams can become possible.”
Dao, who was one of 35 students Canada-wide selected as a Loran Scholar, agreed.
“To me, winning was more important because it’s more than just myself because it shows the people around me that you don’t need to come from a wealthy school,” he explained.
“Because a lot of people have the idea that to do well in school I need to have a rich family so they can afford all these tutors and stuff and do all these things. You don’t need that. I think three kids from Queen Elizabeth accomplishing what we did, I think that really shows that it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you work hard.”
But for Dao, who will be attending McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. in the fall with the goal of law school in the future, it’s also about “being able to change the narrative” with wrestling.
Dao is an after-school tutor for at-risk youth and a wrestling coach, as well as one of the newest recruits for McMaster’s wrestling team.
It’s his wrestling coaches, teachers and other mentors that he credits his success.
“To me it doesn’t feel right that I’m the one being recognized for this award because, ultimately, I didn’t do any of this alone. I had a lot of coaches and teachers and people around me that would guide me in the right direction because without them I could’ve gone down a really bad path.
“Having people there to help you is very important.”
And for Tyagi, it feels “great to have people investing in my studies and they want me to do something good.”
Tyagi is just one of 100 STEM scholarship recipients through the Schulich Foundation, and plans to attend UBC in the fall for a computer engineering program.
“I want to make sure in the future I can give back what they invested in me and make a positive change.”
He added it felt “amazing” to have “a big graduating class that made such a big change, noting other classmates won other scholarships as well.
“It feels amazing. It hasn’t been done in the (district’s) history before, so it does feel amazing having three big scholarships.”
Meantime, QE counsellor Jeremy Lendvoy said this triple crown is “absolutely huge.”
“I think it speaks to a lot about our grad class and our school,” he noted.
“It speaks to our academic accomplishments, but also the resiliency of some of our lower-income inner-city students who are obviously being acknowledged at the provincial and national level.”
Lendvoy said Queen Elizabeth has the means to “provide some really awesome options to inner-city students,” but the “only real difference is the demographics of the school.”
“A lot of these kids are really, really intimidated about the financial cost of university. I think, for the three winners, they wouldn’t be able to pursue their dreams. We’re talking about UBC and huge, huge schools that are costly. I think all three of them wouldn’t have been able to pursue their first-choice dream if it wasn’t for these bursaries.
“Now it’s going to relieve a ton of pressure for them going forward.”