He was working out in his bedroom when the call came.
Nelson teenager Kozmo Sammartino graduated from L.V. Rogers last year, and aspires to study engineering. After applying at multiple post-secondary institutions, he received competing scholarship offers — though his first choice was UBC, which had initially offered him a $5,000 entrance scholarship.
He hadn’t decided which offer to accept yet, and had forgotten about a Centennial Award scholarship he’d applied for, but everything was about to change.
“I was using my phone as a timer, then I realized I had a voicemail from UBC,” Sammartino told the Star.
“I listened to it, and it was this guy Josh telling me to call him back. Then he told me he was impressed with my application and he wanted to offer me $100,000. I was pretty speechless, obviously, and overwhelmed with joy.”
The first person he told was his mother, Toinya, who had homeschooled him for a decade. She was upstairs when she heard him scream happily.
“She reacted even bigger than I did when she found out,” he said.
Sammartino lives in Nelson with his mother, his father Dan, and his siblings Angello, Marot, Daniel and Cetonaya — and he credits them for supporting his passions. He thanked former principal Tim Huttemann as well as teachers Mrs. McTague, Mrs. McGregor, Mr. McComb and Mrs. Martin.
“And Rita Deane, she’s a tremendous friend of mine, she really helped me with my application and I couldn’t have done it without her.”
The reason Sammartino wants to study engineering is that math and science have intrigued him since he was a kid — he used to play with a pocket calculator for fun — and over the years he’s realized “engineers can create a lot of meaningful and necessary technological change in our world.”
“I really feel like I can use my passions and talents and logic to help us all be technologically innovative. Climate change is the most important thing to me — it’s more than just a political topic, it’s about protecting the world we live on.”
He aims to help create a world that helps humans create a “peaceful coexistence” with the environment.
“The technology, solar and wind, are big, and engineers will have a big role in being a part of that transition. I don’t know if that specifically is what I’m going to do, but I’d like to pursue something like that.”
Sammartino is well known in town for singing in the youth choir Corazón, performing in the Capitol Theatre pantomime and engaging in a number of local artistic pursuits. And though his educational ambitions are academic, that will remain an important part of his life — this year he’s playing Granpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
“It’s going to be a completely new experience, going to university for my first year — I’ve never done something like that before, and it’s going to be a lot of work. But I’m also going to hope to continue with my piano and doing some kind of singing as a kind of extracurricular outlet.”
He can’t wait to head to Vancouver in September.
“I really appreciated growing up in Nelson and living amongst such a rich community, and being a part of it, and I’ve always wanted to help out or volunteer — I want to find a community and help build it, because sustainable communities are wonderful things in our world.”