CCI student wins prestigious scholarship

By Cecilia Nasmith

Getting accepted into Queen's University is pretty prestigious in itself – but Cobourg Collegiate Institute student Mya Gillberry has upped the game somewhat by also winning the Chancellor's Scholarship as she begins her Life Sciences studies in the fall.

Mya Gillberry

This renewable $36,000 scholarship should cover her tuition, Mya estimates, and most of her books.

Only 50 such scholarships are offered to first-year students, and the application process is highly competitive.

For anyone trying out for a scholarship of this magnitude, Mya believes the key is being well rounded and trying a little bit of everything.

“There are three big questions – involvement in school and community, leadership and creativity, including the complete landscape of your experiences outside the class,” she listed.

“This is definitely very important. They want to make sure you are prepared for the courses they are going to offer.”

Mya looks upon her many interests and activities as having prepared her well.

Music is one of her passions. She plays piano (for herself and sometimes for others, like at a local retirement home), and once even won an organ scholarship.

She's a competitive swimmer, pursuing the sport both at school and on her own.

And she likes to help others. She's a volunteer at Northumberland Hills Hospital and, at school, has shown leadership in the Interact Club (the CCI version of the Rotary Club) and as a long-time member of the Link Crew (which each year helps Grade 9 students transition into high school).

She has participated in Relay For Life every year since it started at the school in 2016, to raise money for cancer research.

As for that element of creativity is desirable, she has found Halloween really inspiring. As well as supporting the Fare Share food bank through Halloween For Hunger for three years, she worked with her friends to create a Haunted House food drive. They worked hard on features and attractions to go under a big circus tent, and admission was a non-perishable item for the food bank.

She also organized friends and family members to help her with another project, weaving plastic sleeping mats out of discarded milk bags. They provide a bit of padding for those who must sleep on a dirt or concrete surface, and the plastic insulates somewhat against the damp. Her research has turned up another plus – since the milk bags are treated to repel bugs, this means the mats do that as well.

She approached nearby C.R. Gummow Public School to enlist their help in collecting bags, and they got more than 3,000 (which, she pointed out, will be diverted from going into landfill sites). Then she liaised with an organization called Helping Hands to distribute the finished mats to those who need them, both nationally and internationally.

Of course, academics are a part of the Chancellor's Scholarship qualifying process. Even to apply, a 90% average is required. Then they want a listing of academic awards, achievements and conferences attended, with 10 spaces they expect you will fill in. According to guidance department lead teacher Erin MacKenzie, this was no problem for Mya.

“She is an outstanding student, whose hard work and commitment to excellence in her academics and in her extra-curricular pursuits should not go unrecognized,” MacKenzie stated.

When Mya was a little girl deciding what to do when she grew up, she hit on the answer in Grade 6. As a result, she will work toward her bachelor-of-science degree with plans for medical school afterwards. No specialty has caught her eye as yet, but she's looking forward to exploring the options.

“Over the years, I have talked to some people in the field, met with many different specialists,” she recalled.
“With the opportunity to volunteer at the hospital, my interest grew and grew throughout high school. This is what I want to do for sure.”

It's not just the honour of the scholarship that means so much, she added. It's getting accepted into Queen's University, which has its pick of students from across the country. Their Life Sciences program is great preparation for medical school, she said. She came away from a meeting with one of the deans of the science department very positively impressed with the program and the people.

As she prepares for this new adventure, Mya is grateful for the support of her parents Linda and Stephen Gilberry, as well as that of CCI.

“They have great teachers, and the guidance department has some amazing people, especially Mrs. MacKenzie. She's been very helpful and supportive throughout this entire process.”

As a life-long Cobourg resident, Mya added that she would very much consider coming back to this community to practice eventually.

“We'll just see where the path leads – but it's always a possibility.”