Canada’s largest STEM scholarship goes to Elphi grad

It took her three times to read the email announcing she had won the scholarship after arriving home on the last ferry from a track meet on the Lower Mainland.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes – I still don’t think it has quite sunk in yet,” Sacha Stipec told Coast Reporter.

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“In any case, my mom came out to ask me about it, because she was confused about why I was dancing around the yard at 12:30 in the morning.”

The Elphinstone Secondary School graduate had reason to dance. The Schulich Leader Scholarship for engineering is worth $100,000, the largest scholarship in Canada for students enrolling in a science, technology or math (STEM) program.

Every Canadian high school can select one student. From that pool of approximately 300,000 candidates, 1,500 students are nominated. Fifty students receive the award.

Core to the scholarship requirements are academic and extracurricular achievements. Stipec was the captain of Elphinstone’s cross country and track and field teams, is an active jazz musician and has helped organize industrial waste and dumpsite cleanups, daycare fence painting, and a collaborative project at the Chapman Creek Hatchery. She is also a volunteer at the Gibsons Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Stipec plans to pursue mechanical engineering at the University of Victoria in September with a focus on researching and developing sustainable energy technology.

“My dream is to design sustainable infrastructure, including resource and renewable energy systems. One area of focus that I would like to study is the incorporation of natural assets into our infrastructure, which greatly reduces excessive development and disruption of local ecosystems,” Stipec said.

She learned about the concept and became interested in pursuing it in her studies during her tenure as one of the youth councillors at the Town of Gibsons. She and fellow Elphinstone grad Jason Lewis were the Town’s first youth councillors. Their terms ended in June.

“Another area that I am interested in pursuing through engineering is renewable energy. As our transportation systems, and nearly our entire way of life, are dependent on natural gas assets, it is clear that Canada needs to make a major shift towards electric and renewable energy,” Stipec said. “This will be a massive undertaking, and I am very keen to help implement and develop new strategies that shift our reliance away from the current carbon-based approach.”

School District No. 46 announced Stipec’s achievement in June, congratulating her on the award. “We are so proud and thrilled that you were selected,” read the release.

In the intervening months, Stipec said she has been opting to spend “as much time as possible enjoying the outdoors here on the Sunshine Coast.” She also participated in a French immersion camp in Quebec.

“I will admit to finally sorting out my last class waiting list and cracking open my sister’s old Calculus I textbook, as well as my Grade 12 physics notes for review. In the weeks to come, I will be applying myself a bit more to my studies,” she said.

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