U School is a program that introduces students in grades 4 though 9 to the University of Alberta.
Words: Lana Cuthbertson
When Kendra Fincaryk was in grade 10, she wanted to become student council president. The only problem was, her high school didn’t have an active student council.
So she decided to revitalize it.
“I’d go to different people in my classes who I knew were into giving back to the community, friends who wanted to get involved in the school, and I recruited them,” she said.
Fincaryk, a winner of the 2016 ATB Loran scholarship, is currently tackling her first year of a science degree at the University of Ottawa. She grew up in Calahoo, Alberta, a town of about 100 people. She attended high school St. Albert, where there were about 800 students.
She was very involved in her high school community: she was one of the captains of her basketball team, and she also played volleyball and soccer. The list of community organizations, festivals and events she’s volunteered at and organized is huge—school dances, school spirit events, volunteer day events.
“We organized the Remembrance Day ceremony, and it was kind of crazy because at our school, we’re right beside the Edmonton Garrison military base. So we had our Remembrance Day ceremony at the Garrison.
“It was so much coordination. When we were trying to get everyone from the school on buses, I had the principal and staff members asking me where everyone should be going,” she said.
At first, for Fincaryk, getting involved at her school and in the community was about meeting new people. But as she got more involved, she developed a philosophy about community involvement.
“It should be about more than just individual betterment, about good marks. It should be focused on helping those around you. People should be better off than they were before you met them. You can always find little ways to do that,” she said.
Fincaryk won a 2016 ATB Loran scholarship for her community involvement, her good marks and her athletic involvement. And while the money has made it possible for her to attend university in Ottawa and helps with a few plane rides home to Alberta to visit family, the 2016 ATB Loran scholarship community has been valuable as well.
“Being from a small community, you think you’re the only one who thinks the way you do. But going to those big Loran scholar events, you realize there are other people who are just like you,” she said.
Fincaryk wants to get her PhD in microcell biology and work in the stem cell and cancer research field. She said she’ll consider joining the science students’ association at the University of Ottawa, but for now, in her first semester of university, wants to take some time to adjust to a new school and a new city.
“I’m testing the waters here and seeing what different groups have to offer. So far, it’s been a lot easier to volunteer at local homeless shelters, because I can literally walk anywhere.
“A lot of the kids here complain a 10 block walk is too far. That’s not nearly as bad as it used to be for me, when it was a half hour drive to school, or an hour long bus ride. Everything feels very close here,” she said.
Finally, Fincaryk has some words of advice for students thinking about applying for an ATB Loran scholarship.
“Don’t sell yourself short.”
“I didn’t think anything I did was a big deal. I didn’t think revitalizing my council, getting involved in the community, was impressive. So put yourself out there. Nothing hurts,” she said.
“People are going to question you and what you do, but if you think that’s what’s right, you just have to follow through with what you want to do. Someone out there thinks the same was as you do.”