Building community in a pandemic: How Rajan Minocha-McKenney learned to love learning online at Shad
Last summer, hundreds of students from all across Canada dove into the first ShadOnline program. While a month full of team calls, brainstorming sessions, and campus hang outs have a way of bringing people together, it was really curiosity, creativity and commitment to create impact that made last year’s Shads truly connect.
For Rajan Minocha-McKenney, connection and community were at the heart of his Shad experience. He immersed himself right from the start, sparking conversations, joining campus initiatives, and leading with compassion and curiosity above all.
“Every Shad campus can benefit from having a Rajan as part of their community. He is always the first to cheer others on and encourage them to participate in the program, helping to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone,” says Jess Tang, one of the Program Directors for the Canopus campus. “His big smile, infectious energy, and willingness to engage wholeheartedly in all aspects of Shad left a lasting impact on both Shads and staff.”
It’s for these reasons—and many more—that Rajan was recognized as Shad of the Year.
“Shad really made me love learning online,” says Rajan. “It didn’t feel like any type of work. It was so fun to be with everyone, try new things, and learn something you wouldn’t see on an ordinary basis.”
On top of discovering an interest in robotics and technology, Rajan brought his enthusiasm to campus initiatives like the run club, campus concert, month book, and so much more.
“I was just so grateful of my Program Directors, all the Shads in my campus because they all truly motivated me to do those things and were the true source behind all that.”
The first day of the program, he remembers being welcomed with Shawn Mendes music and contagious energy that jumped right through the screen. “As soon as I got on the call, since it was an online experience, I thought it would be hard to get that personal connection,” says Rajan. “But right off the bat, you felt welcomed and it truly was amazing people who set up a great program.”
Back in his hometown in rural Nova Scotia, Rajan is part of the Amherst Youth Council, where he’s working on an initiative to create a youth centre in his community.
Just like in the other endeavours he’s part of, he knew the only way to get the most out of his Shad experience was to completely immerse himself.
“I wanted to share that joy with other people. Every time I went on a meet, I took the initiative to smile, spark conversation, but not also overtake the group because I wanted to hear their insight and what everyone brought to the table.”
During the design project, he learned how to embrace failure and overcome challenges with his team.
“We kept changing our minds about what the plan was for the model we were going to do. We worked on it right until the submit date because we couldn’t all agree on initial plans because we thought they could all work in some way.”
But as they listened to one another, they were able to put their heads together and find a solution.
“Within our team, there were so many people with so many different skills. We all helped each other to learn new things you may not be good at or you may be an expert at.”
Rajan still keeps in touch with his Shad family, taking part in a gift exchange over the holidays.
“It’s truly some of the best friends you’ll meet… Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with who you meet at Shad.”
Right now, he’s considering a career in orthodontics. But wherever he goes, he says he will always bring an enthusiasm to improve the world around him.