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Chosen as a leader of tomorrow

Annie Russell of MRSS is a well-rounded straight-A  student, but likes math and physics best. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Annie Russell of MRSS is a well-rounded straight-A student, but likes math and physics best.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

It wasn’t by mistake that Annie Russell has become a Loran Scholar.

The Maple Ridge secondary student will receive up to $80,000 over four years for an undergraduate award that is billed as “Canada’s largest and most unconventional.”

“These students have shown integrity, determination, and an entrepreneurial spirit through the breadth and depth of their extracurricular activities,” said Franca Gucciardi, executive director of the foundation.

“These are traits that Canada’s future leaders need to succeed and contribute to a thriving society.”

The students were selected on the basis of character, service and leadership potential through the most rigorous and personalized scholarship selection process in Canada.

They also had to put up some outstanding grades, and Russell is a straight-A student.

“I love a lot of different subjects,” she said. “I have a lot of fun in a lot of my classes.”

Math and physics are her favourites.

“It’s fun exploring calculus this year,” she said. “It’s a little bit more abstract.”

Russell is getting 98 per cent in calculus, said her teacher, Liz Williams.

“She’s just a great student ... she just accepts a challenge, and it’s game on.

“Annie delves into questions. She not only wants to know the formula, she wants to know how it works. She thinks a question from all angles.”

English teacher Ian King thinks as much of her, as both a student, and a member of the Hope group, which organizes the 30-hour famine and other fundraisers.

“I’ve rarely met anyone who is always so positive,” he said. “We love having her around. We’re going to miss her.”

Russell is the kind of student who is looking forward to a rigorous academic challenge in university, and she plans to become an electrical engineer.

“I’ve always wanted to get into renewable energy research,” she said.

Russell has a passion for the environment, has been part of the school’s environmental group since Grade 8.

Renewable energy isn’t just a new job sector, she says, it’s a new realm of human endeavor that simply has to succeed.

“I think we will have to head that way.”

She was one of three people from MRSS to write the scholarship application. Canada-wide there were 3,500 applicants.

Eventually, she was among 73 students from across Canada to be interviewed in Toronto, in February.

The interviewing process was intense. Loran scholars are intended to be future leaders. A four-member panel considered the final applications, and Russell had a 15-minute interview with each one of the panelists, then another interview with all the panel members at once.

Any student who padded their application with impressive-sounding but fudged facts would be caught. For example, Russell considers herself an environmentalist, so she faced questions about the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

“I said in my application that I like reading [Charles] Dickens, and they all wanted to know why that was,” she said.

So, why does she enjoy the novelist most famous for A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities? One of the interviewers was an English professor from York University, so she had to know her stuff.

“I told them that I love his characters. They all have their quirks, and they always come back later, as part of the plot.”

Russell is a well-rounded character herself.

She’s a math whiz who also enjoys Victorian novels, an environmentalist and member of the school leadership club.

She also plays the fiddle, loves folk music, and writes her own songs, inspired by artists including Natalie MacMaster.

And she’s an athlete – once one of the top young speedskaters in B.C., and in the 10th grade qualified for the western Canadian championships. Now she is an assistant coach in the sport, but has given up competing.

Russell has applied for admission at the University of Ottawa, the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University. All are great schools, and she is looking at the extra-curricular activities and research opportunities as important determining factors.

The foundation, which she has now joined, encourages students to spread their wings, and go out of province.

Loran scholarships are unique in the selection process, and also offer funding for summer internships and mentorship opportunities.

Over the course of their undergraduate studies, scholars are expected to gain work experience in the private and public sectors in Canada and abroad. Staff members support the students by establishing partnerships with leading companies and organizations in Canada and abroad. For example, in 2012 one Loran scholar interned with the Canadian Consulate to Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City.

They can access up to $8,500 in funding for three unique summer experiences, which is part of what makes the scholarship so valuable.

Russell just earned another scholarship, worth $10,000, for a French essay she wrote.

With an exciting future ahead of her, Russell wanted to say a public thanks to the people at MRSS.

“It’s been great to have the support I’ve had at this school,” she said. “I’ve had many teachers who have helped me a lot.”

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