“The SHAD working with me this summer was absolutely outstanding - bright, articulate, hard-working, positive, thoughtful and mature. It's a treat having her with us. People in the office are stunned when they find out she is just 15 years old!”
- Lois Norris, Chief Financial Officer, InvestorCOM
When I heard those words, I knew we had made the right decision. SHAD provided my child all that I hoped it would, not only during her one month campus experience at Lakehead University but also during the month following, at her internship at InvestorCOM.
As parents, we want our children to learn, succeed, and develop the skills necessary to cope with whatever their future brings. Last year I took our kids to the University Fair in Toronto. I met up with an old friend who I know was involved with SHAD at the University of Waterloo. We chatted about the program and her current involvement, and discussed why the program was beneficial to participants. As a high schooler, I recalled the allure of SHAD; it was known as an enrichment program for only those fortunate enough to be selected to apply. As a parent, I conducted my own research and saw that the program had grown significantly. There were now 13 campuses across Canada (for 2018, there will be 16) offering a core curriculum that supported an immersive experience that sounded impressive. The program included university style lectures; project based group work; and problem solving focused on real life societal issues such as food supply, environment, and climate change. There was also the appeal of exposing my child to student residence living; the opportunity to apply for an internship after the program; and then belonging to a group of students that boasted Loran Scholars and Rhodes Scholars.
Within our family, we discussed the program and potential benefits. We have gravitated towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities to complement the athletics that our kids have always been involved in. I noted that the SHAD program emphasized STEAM, similar to STEM but with an added Arts component. I liked that there was recognition of the Arts given the creativity that often seems to accompany those types of activities and programs specifically. The world could certainly use more creativity.
As I looked into the program, the list of benefits and positives grew:
Independence – the idea of experiencing life in a university residence without the pressure of academics was appealing. As a parent, I know my children are going to leave home and I want them to be as prepared for it as possible.
New Perspectives – meeting a cohort of students who were selected based on their academics and extra-curricular involvement showed that the emphasis for selection into the program was multifactorial. The program appeared to promote being well rounded, ambitious, and driven. As a parent, I can only hope that my children learn to self-select their peers based on such positive traits.
Experiential Learning – no textbook or lecture is going to teach life lessons as well as actually living through an experience. Good or bad, experience teaches. As far as I could tell, the program had a long standing history and included the ongoing involvement of reputable, solid university institutions as host campuses.
Internships – as part of SHAD, students accepted into the program could also apply for a volunteer internship during August of their SHAD summer. As a former university co-op student whose placements changed the course of my career and life, I valued the inclusion of an internship opportunity. What better way to gain business experience than by being submersed in a corporate culture to gain first hand exposure to all that it entailed.
Investment – the cost to participate in SHAD was significant. Financial aid is available to those who are eligible, but what struck me as most compelling was that SHAD was also investing in my child because the program cost was subsidized for all participating students. If accepted, that meant that someone else was willing to invest in developing my child because they saw potential.
Post SHAD – there appeared to be a significant network available to my child after completion of the program. Access to a network of SHAD Fellows (those who have completed the program) and exclusive scholarship and internship opportunities were all listed on the website as post-program features.
Looking back, how did it all turn out? I knew my SHAD was having the experience of a lifetime when the texts stating that she did not want her month to end, started arriving. As much as I was excited to see her, I also knew that a transformation had occurred and her journey home would be bittersweet. On the positive, she shared her last night at SHAD Lakehead with her grandparents joining her at the end of program banquet, and had a SHAD internship to look forward to. It has been a fantastic summer of learning for her: she established a new network of peers and mentors, and gained insight into her strengths, weaknesses, and future career opportunities. The challenge moving forward is to ensure that she understands that this is just the beginning. As wonderful as her SHAD summer was, I hope she builds on that momentum to create even more possibilities for learning, growth, and success. For other parents considering the program, know that your child will leave SHAD with an invaluable set of skills and a solid foundation to build upon. Mine did, and that is why I thought it was important to share, from one parent to another.