Friday, January 6, 2017


Waterloo, ONT. -- SHAD’s two newest Rhodes Scholars say they can’t help but reflect back to the past as they look ahead to a future at Oxford in 2017.

In a vote among the 15,500 SHAD Fellows, Neria Aylward of St. John’s, Newfoundland, SHAD ’12 and Maike van Niekerk of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, SHAD ’12, were chosen as one of the top SHAD stories of 2016.


The two were named Rhodes Scholars making it 32 SHADs who have now been given the prestigious honour – that’s almost one for every year SHAD has been in existence since 1980.


“I think it shows the type of people that go into SHAD (while in high school) and how the program can cultivate the individuals like it did for me to help reach their full potential,” van Niekerk says.


van Niekerk cycling across Newfoundland


She adds, “SHAD cultivated the self-belief that I could make a difference and that I could take on projects that some people would think were a little beyond my reach.  SHAD taught me to make the impossible possible and that’s what you need to become a Rhodes Scholar.”


Van Niekerk’s mother Katrin passed away from breast cancer when she was just 15, a year before she attended the unique Canadian summer enrichment program after grade 11.  When she told other SHAD Fellows about her fundraising efforts in memory of her mother, the Fellows told her that her story was inspirational and encouraged her to share it with others.


So at 18, she started her own charity, Katrin’s Karepackage, cycling across hilly Newfoundland and training to run seven marathons in seven days proving many, who said she couldn’t do that, wrong.  The charity has raised more than $110,000 to offset the travel costs of cancer patients living in rural communities.


“SHAD was one of the first times I had mentors and other individuals who were telling me to defy the odds and go for it.  And if I fail, it’s okay, learn from it and try again,” van Niekerk says.


She took that mindset into her nursing and oncology studies at Dalhousie University where she worked alongside a professor to produce leading research that found higher psychological distress levels for people who have had a family history in Indian residential schools in Canada. 


She has presented her findings at several international conferences.  She says it is crucial to help change government policies and to find culturally appropriate ways to treat indigenous Canadians.


She hopes to get her PhD in psychiatry at Oxford to develop novel psychiatric treatment tools and bring that back to Canada for indigenous Canadians diagnosed with cancer.  


“There are other people in the healthcare system who should be receiving the same sort of support my mother did and they are sort of  being missed."


Aylward, the other SHAD announced as a Rhodes Scholar has her sights on Canada’s north and helping the Inuit people in the Arctic.  She says SHAD played a major part in getting her to where she is now.


Aylward went to SHAD in 2012 just after finishing grade 10.  That year, the students were challenged to come up with an original product or service that could solve that year’s theme:  childhood obesity.  Her group designed a co-op food program for communities in Arctic Canada and they were named the innovators of the year winning the SHAD – John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup.


“While designing this project, we had to do the research and that’s where I realized for the first time just how staggering the inequalities are in northern and southern Canada.  They are absolutely reprehensible,” Aylward says.


Aylward in the Arctic 


Now studying politics and social anthropology at the University of Cambridge, she spent this past summer doing field work in Iqaluit in Nunavut where she is looking at the impact that animal rights activists have had on the seal hunt.  Aylward interviewed many of the most prominent Inuit activists who happen to be women.


“The Inuit don’t appreciate and understand the way the Europeans who have never been to the Arctic are telling them what to do when it comes to seal hunting.  The Europeans call it barbaric when really it’s an Inuit way of life that stretches back millennia and it’s actually incredibly respectful.”


At Oxford, she is hoping to examine resource development in Arctic Canada. 


“There is so much resource development going on right now especially because of global warming.  Resources are becoming accessible because the ice is melting,” Aylward says. “It’s a very emergent industry but I think it’s going to be a really important one.”


Alyward volunteering at an Inuit games workshop in Iqaluit this summer (courtesy of Alianait Arts Festival)


She is thankful SHAD set her on this path and says its crucial SHAD becomes more of a household name in the country because of the impact it is having.


“SHAD takes high achieving kids from all over the country and puts them in touch with one another and makes them better.  It introduces you to so many different ideas.  The program itself is really hard.  It challenges you.  But it really does open up this kind of spectrum of possibilities that a lot of times kids don’t even know exists,” Aylward says.


Other top SHAD stories for 2016 include visit to Buckingham Palace and two SHADs speaking at WE Day


Devyani Ambwani, SHAD ’14, was also singled out by many SHAD Fellows for her part in another top story for 2016.


Ambwani, of Fredericton, was invited to Buckingham Palace for the 60th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Ceremony to share her experiences with the award’s founder Prince Phillip.


Ambwani, an engineering student at the University of New Brunswick won a gold medal.  The award recognizes youth who are giving back to their communities, learning new skills, involved in sports, going on adventurous journeys which in Ambwani’s case included a trip down the St. Croix River.  Her experience at SHAD McMaster was also recognized.


“SHAD strengthened my values and provided an exemplary environment that allowed me to flourish,” she says.


Other SHADs recognized for their achievements closer to home in 2016 included Vishal Vijay of Oakville, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2016 and Mila Solaja of Toronto, Ontario SHAD Fellow 2016.  The two spoke at WE Day Toronto to thousands of students and educators about making a difference in their communities. 


Vijay raised more than $30,000 to fund local and international development projects aimed at lifting children out of poverty.  One of the projects he is funding is a computer lab in northern India for street children.   He also launched his own internship program that included SHAD Fellows to give teenagers hand-on experience.


In addition to participating in WE Day, Mila Solaja won awards at the Toronto Science Fair, is a provincially ranked volleyball player, international folk dancer, and was in a special feature about SHAD in July in the Globe and Mail.


She also recently found out she has been accepted to Harvard.


“From We Day to the Globe and Mail, SHAD helped to share some of my accomplishments with the world.  SHAD was a truly transformative experience,” Solaja says.


She adds, “It was an experience that familiarized me with a new way of thinking and questioning, creating and innovating.



Solaja as WE Day Change Maker (left) & at SHAD (right)


A full list of nominees for top 16 SHAD stories for 2016 is available below.





SHAD is a Canadian charitable non-profit organization that helps exceptional high school students recognize and envision their full potential as tomorrow’s leaders and change makers. Each year, the SHAD program provides the opportunity for 750 students from across Canada and internationally to attend a transformational month-long summer enrichment program at one of 13 Canadian host universities focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). There are currently 15,500 SHAD Fellows all sharing the Uncommon Purpose of the SHAD experience and able to leverage their SHAD network for life.   


For more information or to set up an interview, please contact:

Teddy Katz

Vice President, Media Relations | SHAD  | mobile (647) 505-8095


Here is a list of all the other nominees for top 16 SHAD stories of 2016


Robert Adragna of Toronto, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015 is named Top 30 Under 30 by North American Association for Environmental Education. He helped write the initial Ross Sea Declaration which governments signed in 2016 creating one of the biggest marine protection areas in the world.


Alex Bouchard of Haines Junction, Yukon, SHAD Fellow 2009 is selected as one of 15 young Canadians to join The Prime Minister’s Youth Council. This council is made up of Canadians aged 16-24 who advise the Prime Minister on national issues such as employment, access to education, building stronger communities, climate change and clean growth. Bouchard is a proud francophone who was involved with Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française. 



Bouchard hiking in the north


Emily Cross of Thunder Bay, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2016 wins the 2016 Sigma Xi High School Geoscience Medal for her research on softening ironstone for paleontological research and mining purposes. She discovered geochemical treatments that help breakdown and soften the ironstone without damaging the specimens.


Arjun Pandey of Waterloo, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015 presents his high school science fair research at American Heart Association’s Scientific Session and is featured in Livescience Journal: Probiotics May Help Reduce Blood Sugar Levels. His research suggests that adding probiotics to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet could be used in the future to help protect against diabetes.


Aidan Aird of Markham, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015 is The Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2016 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy. Two years ago, he became involved with 360° Kids and spent a cold winter night on the streets of York Region to experience what life for a homeless youth would be like. After spending a night chilled to the bone after failing to find food and shelter, Aird devoted himself to raising money to support at-risk youth, rallying students from 15 schools to raise $23,000 earlier this year.


Darian Zigante of Mississauga, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2013 is on a team at University of Waterloo called Waterloop set to transform travel. Waterloop is the only Canadian team remaining in an international competition created by SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk to design and build a functioning prototype pod to carry people at high speeds inside vacuum tubes. They showcased what they believed is the world’s only functioning pneumatic hyperloop air levitation system.


Toronto Life features five SHAD Fellows as Toronto’s 20 most brilliant tech innovators: Ted Livingston, SHAD Fellow 2004 (his company, Kik, has 150 employees and 300 million registered users ), Michele Romanow, SHAD Fellow 2003 (has already created five blockbuster businesses) Kunal Gupta, SHAD Fellow 2002 (his company, Polar, is a top dog in the online custom content scene), James Sun, SHAD Fellow 2011 (his competitive video gaming platform, Revlo, lets gamers measure and reward their fans) and Joshua Liu, SHAD Fellow 2005 (his app, SeamlessMD allows patients to send their post-surgery reports to their doctors, reducing the number of ER visits and giving patients a support system between appointments) 


Kayley Noelle Ting of Richmond Hill, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2016 wins second prize & €5,000 at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) in Brussels, Belgium. It is hoped that her findings from her research titled, Analysis of Electrodermal Activity to Quantify Stress Levels in Autism, will lead to the development of a wearable device and app to assist individuals with autism.


Austin Wang of Vancouver, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2014 discusses his method to turn waste water into electricity on CBC's The National.


Dr. Chad Harvey of Hamilton, Ontario, Associate Program Director of SHAD McMaster receives The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Excellence Award. The award recognizes educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people – the very essence of what Harvey and other amazing educators do during their time at SHAD.


Bruce Gao of Calgary, Alberta, SHAD Fellow 2012 is among an impressive group of speakers, (which included Margaret Trudeau!), to give a talk at Walrus Magazine’s The Walrus Talks Health.


Patrick Crawford of Vancouver, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2008 was named among BCBusiness’ 30 Under 30, honouring young guns in their 20s who are excelling professionally, innovating their industry and making competitors nervous.


Dylan Jones of Edmonton, Alberta, SHAD Fellow 1987, is appointed as Deputy Minister of Western Economic Diversification by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


Seven SHAD Fellows have been chosen as 2016 Loran Scholars: Bilal Ayyache of Winnipeg, Manitoba, SHAD Fellow 2015, Nitish Bhatt of St. John’s, Newfoundland, SHAD Fellow 2014, Taylor Lynn Curtis of Peterborough, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, Émélie Gagnon of DSL de Grand Sault, New Brunswick, SHAD Fellow 2015, Alex Gillis of Halifax, Nova Scotia, SHAD Fellow 2014, Aditi Sriram of Toronto, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, and Vicky Xu of Toronto, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2014. Selected from over 4,000 applications from across the country, our SHAD-Lorans will each receive Canada’s largest undergraduate merit award valued at up to $100,000, over four years. To date, SHAD counts 78 alumni as Loran Scholars.



Alex Gillis of Halifax, Nova Scotia, SHAD Fellow 2014 secures an investment from the Dragons' Den online series, Next Gen Den, for his company Bitness. Bitness uses smart phone technology to collect real time information for retailers. Gillis also was invited to speak later in the year at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley. He also met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, advising on the future of youth education in Canada.


Gillis takes a selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Nitish Bhatt of St. John’s, Newfoundland, SHAD Fellow 2014 is named one of St. John’s Youth of the Year, an award honouring community service and development, personal and academic achievement, and depth of extra-curricular and co-curricular involvements.


Joseph Fung, of Waterloo, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 1998, wins the City builder award recognizing his work as role model for youth in Kitchener Waterloo.


Anya Forestell of Fredericton, New Brunswick, SHAD Fellow 2013, speaks at the second anniversary celebration of the UN Women’s HeForShe movement for gender equality in New York City. Anya spoke among some notable attendees, including UN Women Global Ambassador Emma Watson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Watch her speech.


Ten SHAD Fellows are 2016 Schulich Leaders: Amelia Carver of Mississauga, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, Mackenzie Collins of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, SHAD Fellow 2016, Linda Guo of London, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, Kevin Han of Burlington, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, Kaylie Lau of Toronto, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2014, Lovdeep Singh of Surrey, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2014, Bailey Tarrant of Lawn, Newfoundland, SHAD Fellow 2016, Lasya Vankayala of Burnaby, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2014, James Xu of Aurora, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, and Jennifer Yi of Surrey, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2015.  The ten are selected to receive the prestigious scholarships and pursue studies in STEM fields at top Canadian universities. As of 2016, SHAD counts 35 Schulich Leaders amongst its alumni network.



Lau (right) with another Schulich Leader at SLXONTARIO, an event to connect the Ontario scholarship recipients.


Neil Pasricha of Toronto, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 1998 publishes The Happiness Equation book, a #1 international bestseller, Toronto Star bestseller, and Globe and Mail bestseller. Pasricha was returning from his honeymoon in Asia when his wife took a pregnancy test in the airplane bathroom and told him on the plane that she was pregnant. Upon landing, he began writing a letter to his unborn 

child on how to live a happy life, which evolved into the book.


Darlene Lim, SHAD Fellow 1989, who works with the NASA Ames Research Center in California visits SHAD McMaster to talk about her groundbreaking research trying to help humans get to Mars. She also does a dozen interviews on CBC Radio stations from coast to coast exploring her research and how SHAD helped get her started on that path.


Gaurav Jain of San Francisco, California, SHAD Fellow 2002 has his piece on Big Software featured on the front page of Wired.


Justin Michaud of Sudbury, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015, Vicky Xu of Toronto, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2014, Lovdeep Singh of Surrey, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2014, Benjamin Bacic of Ameliasburg, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015 receive Horatio Alger Association Awards, a scholarship which awards demonstrated integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity and a desire to contribute to society.


Winnica Beltrano of Winnipeg, Manitoba, SHAD Fellow 2015 & Kathy Nodzynski of Pierrefonds, Quebec, SHAD Fellow 2015 are two of the four recipients of the 2016 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame / Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life Scholarship Award which honours high school students with academic excellence, extra-curricular activities and community service, and evidence of interest in pursuing an education and career in medical/health sciences at a Canadian University.


Sheliza Kassam of Calgary, Alberta, SHAD Fellow 2014 & Manpreet Deol of Vancouver, British Columbia, SHAD Fellow 2013 are recipients of the GE Foundation Scholar-Leaders Program, a unique program that provides financial support and skills development opportunities for accomplished first-year undergraduate students from recognized institutions who are pursuing degrees in the fields of engineering or business/management or computer science.


Jennifer Zhao of Oakville, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2015 is awarded the Leading Girls Building Communities Award this past summer for her contributions to her community as a peer tutor, member of the Oakville Public Library's Teen Advisory Group, and musician for Suite Melody Care.


Samantha Ling of Toronto, Ontario and Afif Bhimani of Oakville, Ontario, SHAD Fellows 2015, are among 20 finalists for the Young Entrepreneurs, Make Your Pitch! Competition out of over 200 entries. The competition is an annual Ontario-wide high-school entrepreneurship contest presented by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Finalists vie for up to $3,000 in start-up funds and entrepreneurial mentorship through the Ontario Summer Company program and other awards.


Aoife Pucchio of London, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2016 and Devanshi Shukla of Guelph, Ontario, SHAD Fellow 2014, receive $7,000 Manning Young Canadian Innovation Awards – an accolade that recognizes outstanding, self-nominated innovation projects, selected on the basis of ingenuity, originality, development and potential social and economic benefits.