Jesalyn Tremblay was underslept and stuck in an airport when she received a life-changing phone call.
She’d just left Toronto after a weekend of rigorous interviews, but when Tremblay arrived in Calgary she found out the brakes had failed on her connecting flight and she’d be grounded in Alberta for nine hours.
It was during that wait she got a call from a co-ordinator with the Loran Scholars Foundation — Tremblay had won a $100,000 scholarship.
“I remember going completely white in the face and I started shaking,” she recalled. “Actually security came and checked on me.”
The Grade 12 student at Kaslo’s J.V. Humphries Secondary is one of just 34 people across Canada to receive the scholarship.
The scholarship comes with an annual stipend of $10,000, as well as access to up to $10,000 in funding for a summer internship that could take place either in Canada or abroad.
For an 18-year-old from Meadow Creek, a small town north of Kaslo, it’s a very, very big deal.
“My parents [Marlaine and Martin], they never had the chance to go to university officially,” said Tremblay. “They always said , ‘We don’t care if it takes three jobs to put you through university, we’re going to do it.’”
When she returned home the first thing she told her father was he would never need to pay for her university.
All it took was years of volunteering and a last-minute weekend of work to make it happen.
Tremblay’s extra-curricular duties including teaching and co-ordinating a junior golf program in Kaslo. She’s also on the Lardeau Valley Historical Society’s board of directors.
“I fell absolutely head over heels in love for what they stood for,” she said. I’m a total history geek so I knew I needed to be a part of it.”
She’s also made contributions to her school. Tremblay studies and teaches piano, is part of the school’s band and is credited with helping to revive its music program. And, if that wasn’t already enough work, she also created a journalism segment with Radio Free Kaslo that focuses on issues impacting rural youth.
J.V. Humphries principal Dan Rude called Tremblay a standout student.
“She’s a , committed, dedicated student who’s thoughtful, she’s articulate, she’s a great writer …,” said Rude. “She’s definitely someone who started years ago in volunteering, not just because you have to do 30 hours to graduate, because she really wants to be a good citizen.”
All of that wouldn’t have mattered however if Tremblay hadn’t received a late push by the school’s guidance counsellor Meleana Terlingen to apply for the scholarship. That meant writing four essays over a weekend.
“She said, ‘I really think you have a shot at this. Can you apply for it in time?’ I gave her a blank stare and said, ‘That’s two days away. I don’t have anything.’ But I got it together and really she’s the hero here.”
Once she’d applied, Tremblay did an interview over Skype and was then invited to Toronto where she was again grilled about her character, volunteer work and future.
She’s got the latter part figured out — Tremblay has applied to Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s to do a Bachelor of Law and Society degree. After that she intends to go onto law school with the intention of becoming a human rights lawyer focused on rural health care.
“I’ve had some family history with it and I also have heard so many stories about our health-care system and I really think I can make a difference in it.”