These past two months have been the best months of my life, and for my life. I have been given two opportunities of a lifetime, one to spend a month at the University of Calgary with 63 other unique individuals through the SHAD program, and another to get some real-world experience with RBC’s digital technology team. SHAD and the RBC Foundation have been working together for years to help youth flourish in the 21st century, and as I head into grade 12, I feel lucky I have been able to experience both first hand. 


The SHAD program is such a unique experience because it gives high school students a chance to see what university life feels like by living in residence, attending lectures from university professors, and being pushed in new ways. I was able to attend workshops on numerous topics in STEM, such as soldering, nanotechnology, and coding to name but a few.  SHAD gives students like me a platform for growth and galvanizes us to take action and propose solutions to complex global issues; something you just don’t experience in high school.


The people at SHAD are such creative, innovative and amazing individuals – some have started businesses in high school- some have won science fairs—and all are driven to make a difference. These people start out as complete strangers but yet become your family in only one month. This is a network I plan to tap into for years to come.


During my time at SHAD Calgary, I was exposed to so many different career paths, and it helped me realize that I want to go into medicine to help others because of the inequalities I witness around the world. Every day, people die from treatable conditions because of factors like their socioeconomic status. I hope to change the world one day by providing healthcare in 3rd world countries where people may lack access to technology or education. SHAD helped encourage me to start working towards this goal now.


Aleeza Qayyum (right) and SHAD fellow Isha Verma (left) practicing after a soldering workshop, at the Schulich School of Engineering.


Working at RBC in August after returning from SHAD, it felt surreal walking from Union Station to a tall glass building with 31 floors right by the Harbourfront in Toronto – it almost felt like a dream. RBC has been working actively for the past two years to provide youth more opportunities through RBC’s Future Launch, a 10-year plan to unlock the potential of young people in Canada by addressing the issues of lack of experience, skills and networking. It has provided many youth like me with opportunities. Working at RBC, I never felt alienated because I was the youngest person there; it was a professional environment where my lack of experience and skills compared to everyone else was never an issue. My mentor, Lindsay, was very welcoming and made sure I was always comfortable, and I am truly grateful to have been able to work with such innovative, kind-hearted and intelligent individuals. This wasn’t one of those boring offices you see in movies - I didn’t just sit at a desk all day and type furiously on my keyboard - I was working with RBC’s Feel in Control team, who are working towards adding more features on the RBC mobile app and website so clients are less dependent on bank tellers and are more in control of their banking experience. At RBC, I was able to code in different languages, and I was truly able to apply the skills that I learned with SHAD in a real workplace environment.


Aleeza and part of the RBC Digital Technology OMNI-channel Feel In Control team she worked with.


But it wasn’t just all work and no play. When we weren’t coding or running tests, we played Mario Cart, shot each other with nerf guns, ate a whole lot of candy, and enjoyed the beautiful Harbourfront right in front of us. Leaving RBC, I was encouraged to stay in touch and come back for a co-op placement when in university, and I am so glad to have joined this network of highly skilled people.



Aleeza and one of her coworkers running an end to end test together.


Within these past two months at SHAD and then RBC, I learned how to network, how to be professional in a work environment, how to code, how to run end-to-end tests, and most important of all  how to  prosper and succeed in the future. I have gained countless life essential skills and experiences this summer, and I cannot thank SHAD and RBC enough for providing youth these opportunities. I am leaving this summer feeling more confident and inspired to reach my goals and take on any obstacles, and I have truly become a better version of myself.



Aleeza Qayyum, SHAD UCalgary 2018

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