The Cowichan Valley can say without any exaggeration that one of the brightest young minds in the country comes from right here at home.
Sixteen-year-old Francis Kelsey Secondary School student Wynn Rederburg, who will be graduating high school one year early this June, was recently honoured with a Loran Scholars Award valued at up to $100,000 over four years.
“I was expecting the phone call but I was so, so nervous that at first I didn’t believe it,” Rederburg said, adding her best subjects are social sciences, English and law.
Rederburg said she’s received an offer of admission from McGill University in Montreal and plans to attend this coming fall for a bachelor of political science with a minor in French.
With a total maximum value of $100,000, the Loran Award funds up to $9,000 annually matched in funding up to $9,000 by any one of their 25 partner universities, of which McGill is one. Remaining funding is also given for summer internships, flights, one-on-one mentorship, retreats and scholar gatherings.
“These 31 young Canadians were selected from an initial pool of 4,273 applicants based on evidence of character, service and leadership potential,” says Loran’s website.
Rederburg applied for the award in the fall of 2015, and progressed through the regional and finalist stages. A lengthy interview process with the 80 finalists took place in Toronto over the weekend of Feb. 6-7.
Rederburg was announced this past weekend as one of 31 winners across the country.
“It was a lot of stuff based on what we had done in the community and character-based stuff,” Rederburg said of the interview process which included six one-on-one interviews followed by a seventh interview by all the interviewers.
“We’re just really, really proud of her,” said Rederburg’s mother Lorrie.
Rederburg is passionate about making school and society a better place. For one, she started and leads an anti-bullying campaign at FKSS called Compassion Week, developed through her position as chair of the School District 79 Student Advisory Council.
“Each day has a different theme during the school week, so there’s five days, five themes,” Rederburg explained, adding that bullying has strongly impacted several of her friends in the past. “I would really like to formulate some kind of cohesive policy that eliminates bullying.”
Rederburg also leads FKSS student council as prime minister and regional youth parliament as premier.
“It’s built kind of like Canadian Parliament. There are MPs from every region of the school, five from each grade with five grades,” Rederburg explained, adding that serving as premier of the region for the youth parliament is also exciting.
“We rotate where we meet on the island. Last year I was just a cabinet minister but this year I’m premier, and it’s a provincial mock-parliament, which is really cool.”
One of the issues Rederburg is most passionate about is the environment and climate change. Her inspiration to get involved started in Grade 4 at Bench Elementary School, where her teacher Debbie Smith encouraged her and nine classmates in the Make a Difference Club to take action when they expressed concern about plastic bags.
“She said to us: ‘Okay, what do you want to do about it?’ And we made a PowerPoint, we took it to city council, we took it to the provincial legislature, that was really exciting,” Rederburg recalled. “If you’ve ever been to Thrifty Foods in Duncan or Mill Bay, there aren’t plastic bags there anymore. That’s because of us. So every time you can’t hold your bags because the paper ones don’t have handles think of me,” she added with a laugh.
Rederburg also said she’s very thankful to former superintendent Joe Rhodes for his encouragement and inspiration.
In addition to her numerous leadership positions, Rederburg volunteers with the Cowichan Intercultural Society, does hip hop and jazz dance, and plays volleyball, basketball, rugby and tennis. She said finding the time to do everything is often about prioritizing.
“When I’m planning an event such as Compassion Week or Vancouver Island Regional Parliament or any of these things, stuff like dance and things will sacrifice in those times. I’ll skip a rugby practice if I have to plan an event,” Rederburg said. “I’m also not super-competitive in sports, I play them because I like to play, not because I’m super into winning.”
As she heads to McGill, Rederburg is excited about the future, and is looking even further down the road.
“After undergrad I kind of want to attend grad school. I’ll see what I really like during my undergrad years. Right now I’m leaning towards law school,” Rederburg said, adding she’s most interested in foreign policy and international law, particularly in the recent Paris Climate Conference. “I really want to know more about international relations and Canada’s involvement.”
To find out more about the Loran Scholars Foundation visit www. loranscholar.ca.