Aug. 23, 2023

Schulich Leader Scholarship winners focus on positive changes and community

6 incoming students receive prestigious STEM scholarships
Top, from left: Kiana Urekar, Albert Kalayil, Ayden De Neve. Bottom, from left: Morteza Faraji, Silas Mertz, Tori Rose.

The University of Calgary is pleased to introduce the Schulich Leaders joining our community. We’re excited to have these six outstanding students join us in engineering and science this fall. Congratulations to Albert Kalayil, Ayden De Neve, Kiana Urekar, Morteza Faraji, Silas Mertz and Tori Rose.

Created in 2012 by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich, the Schulich Leader Scholarship encourages promising high school graduates to embrace STEM in their future careers. One hundred students in 20 partner universities across Canada receive the scholarship every year. These undergraduate scholarships of $120,000 or $100,000 each encourage high-achieving students to pursue a future in STEM.

Albert Kalayil

Albert Kalayil was heavily involved in his school as an ambassador to the World Affairs Conference, an awards board member in which he championed more inclusive award names, library volunteer, Chess Club co‐president, Grade 10 orientation leader and summer camp leader (under the Mental Health Capacity Building Initiative).

In his community, he volunteered as a leader‐in‐training for the YMCA and as a youth hockey coach while competitively playing hockey and soccer. He also attended the Western Canada Leadership Conference and (discussing mental health) and took on many leadership roles at the YMCA.

Kalayil’s commitment to learning and helping others has been recognized multiple times. In 2020, he received the Member of Parliament Youth Leadership Award, in which an MP recognized his leadership within the community. At his high school, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award, in part for being an ambassador at the World Affairs Conference and co-founding an initiative within his school which better connected students and community members during the pandemic.

Ayden De Neve

Ayden De Neve’s advocacy and leadership have resulted in positive change. In the 2022‐23 school year, he represented the Grade 12 class as the school's Student Voices Advocate for the school district, in which he became an advocate for change. He was also a peer tutor at his school, a role that enabled him to help younger students who struggle in math and science to succeed.

De Neve’s strong work ethic has enabled him to learn various programming languages on his own, which helped his team win the 2020 JunioTech Virtual Hackathon. He passed on his programming knowledge by creating video tutorials to help others learn programming.

He was awarded the Highest Academic Achievement Award (Grades 8 to 12) and qualified for Provincials in swimming in three individual events.

Kiana Urekar

With determination and hard work, Kiana Urekar has been a catalyst for change. She founded her school's tutoring club, where free academic help is provided to all students in any subject. She built this club from the ground up, acquiring tutors, teaching resources, and creating advertising to help promote the club.

She also organized and ran many events through her school's Student Union. She spearheaded spirit and community initiatives such as providing Christmas presents to kids whose parents could not afford them, and most recently, planned a school dance.

Urekar maintained excellent academic grades during high school, achieving honours with distinction.

Morteza Faraji

Morteza Faraji wants to inspire others to strive for positive change. In his community of Lethbridge, he tackled the issue of litter by founding the non-profit Lethbridge Cigarette Butt Initiative (LCBI). The LCBI created cigarette receptacles that have been placed around the city. The initiative received over $6,000 in funding from the City of Lethbridge and the Community Foundation.

He also founded his high school’s first student‐led math club. The club’s overall goal was to show students the fun and beauty of math and to develop interest in STEM subjects. Faraji was also part of his high school’s international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, a competition where teams use synthetic biology to solve real‐world problems. His team was the only Canadian high school team to win gold in Paris at the international conference in 2022-23.

Silas Mertz

Silas Mertz is motivated to make positive changes wherever he finds himself. He was elected the student president of his graduating class. As president, he organized multiple fundraisers including a bottle drive, dinner delivery, and a landfill clean up and wrote and recited a speech during his school’s Remembrance Day ceremony. Additionally, he introduced an intramural basketball league for all students at his school. The league provided a place for older grades to interact with younger students. Mertz captained many sports teams, including this year's soccer team, which won the league championship.

In his community, he volunteered and was student president for CNP 40 Assets, an organization that aims to provide engaging opportunities for teens in the community. They organized valuable events for teens including open gym sessions, movie nights, the Amazing Teen Race, and more. They also provided instructional programs such as cooking classes, ice fishing, and certification courses. 

His efforts and contributions were recognized through the Top Academic Student and Pursuit of Excellence awards he received multiple years during high school.

Tori Rose

Tori Rose’s passion for science and love of problem solving has led her to pursue a career in engineering.

Rose was one of only 47 individuals selected to participate in the 2022 WISEST Summer Research Program. Through this program, she gained first‐hand experience in a research lab at the University of Alberta, and had the opportunity to meet with professors, industry professionals, and other students in STEM, while also participating in professional development sessions. Upon program completion, she presented her research at the WISEST Summer Research Program Celebration of Research.

She is also a volunteer for Alberta Health Services’ Nutrition Youth Advisory Panel. In this role, she participated in monthly meetings with dieticians and other high-school students to find innovative and appealing ways to promote nutrition amongst youth.

As a competitive dancer, she was the recipient of the PRIDE award, representing personal achievement, respect for teachers and peers, inspiration to others, dedication to dance, and excellent attitude.

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