Mira Buckle, Mehak Dhaliwal, and Jaden Lawen are 2021 recipients of the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership, for their outstanding commitment to making a meaningful difference in their communities. These three Shad alumni have been awarded with $70,000, summer job opportunities at TD, and entrance into TD’s Alumni Network to recognize their contributions to make a positive impact.

Mira Buckle, Shad2019 from Corner Brook, NL, started the first Youth Council in her city to empower young voices to create social change. Mehak Dhaliwal, Shad2019 from Caledon, ON, founded Spark – a non-profit organization that hosts hackathons and coding lessons to underrepresented students. Jaden Lawen, Shad2020 from Halifax, NS, started a fundraiser called “From Halifax to Beirut with Love” for his home country of Lebanon after the explosion in Beirut.

Keep reading to hear from these outstanding high school graduates as they share their experiences with Shad and TD, and how they hope to continue influencing change in the future.


Mira Buckle

Shad2019

Q: How did you feel when you received the news? 

A: I don’t think anything can prepare you for the feeling of winning a major scholarship… I was completely shocked. I remember re-reading the email at least 20 times, calling out to my parents and then there were a lot of excited squeals, jumps and hugs. I still thought that it wasn’t real until we had our first virtual meeting with all the TD Scholars and team. 

Q: How does receiving the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership impact your future? 

A: It is life-changing. I am now able to pursue my education freely and relieve financial stress from my family. In addition, and more importantly to me, I now have 19 inspiring friends who are also TD Scholars, and I have met so many amazing individuals because of this opportunity. This scholarship provides an incredible amount of support for the Scholars and it really does feel like a big family! 

Q: What’s coming next for you – for your education, and the kind of change you’d like to influence? 

A: I will be heading to Ottawa in the fall to begin my studies at the University of Ottawa. I will be studying Political Science in French Immersion. I am extremely excited as this topic area really interests me. When I think about my future plans they are still a little uncertain, but I know that I want to continue my volunteer work that focuses on youth leadership and engagement. 

Q: How did your Shad experience impact your leadership style and interactions with your community? 

A: My Shad experience definitely helped me become a better leader. I was never a part of a solid team beforehand; Shad changed that for me. I worked with a super talented group of eight Shads that all led in their own way. It was neat to see different types of leadership styles and how they worked together collectively. Also, having mentors like the Program Assistants influenced the development of my leadership style. I had the chance to lead in areas I wasn’t super comfortable with too; this helped me grow and taught me how to deal with tough situations. After Shad, I felt confident in my abilities and more ready to tackle projects I always wanted to do. I decided to start the first Youth Council in my city, after talking about the idea to a Shad who was a part of their city’s Youth Committee. Shad inspired me to create social change and truly be myself.

The Shad McGill campus in 2019.

Q: What advice would you give a Grade 10 or 11 student considering applying for Shad 2022?

A: I would say do it! The Shad program is a life-changing opportunity for youth that exposes you to multiple career paths and life skills. You learn a lot about yourself and what type of person you want to become as a lifelong learner and citizen of the world. I truly made friends for life, ones that I still talk to two years later. The Shad journey taught me, as a 15 year-old student from Newfoundland and Labrador, that there are many like-minded youth who share a vision to follow their passions and create positive change in their communities. I think every student should apply for Shad, it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Mira and friends from Shad2019.

Mehak Dhaliwal

Shad2019

Q: How did you feel when you received the news?  

A: I honestly didn’t know how to feel. At first I didn’t believe it at all. We got the email pretty late in the evening, at around 10 pm. I was studying for my math exam the next day, so when I did see the email I was completely in shock. I felt like they sent it to me by mistake, so I waited a couple days to get a confirmation email, making sure that, yes, it was me. It was so surreal. All I could imagine was just how things are going to change moving forward, and how awesome it is to go to university without any financial burden. 

Q: How does receiving the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership impact your future? 

A: In multiple ways, starting with the financial assistance you receive with the scholarship. I know that the financial assistance is going to help me be more independent and not have to rely on my parents or external grants and bursaries to pay for university, so I’m really grateful for that. Also I’m super excited to be joining the TD Alumni Network. I know they have a lot of awesome past alumni who have done some really cool things, so I’m hoping that I can leverage that network and really use it to expand the impact that I’ve made in my community. My vision is engaging more women and people of colour in STEM and really allowing underrepresented communities to be a part of STEM initiatives and activities. 

Q: What’s coming next for you – for your education, and the kind of change you’d like to influence? 

A: I’m going into Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo this fall, and I’m really excited about that. I’m going to be continuing the outreach that I’ve started, and continuing the non-profit that I founded called Spark. We’re expanding this year and hopefully going nationwide in a couple years, and trying to reach as many communities as possible where there isn’t as much access to STEM education for elementary, middle, and high school students. Spark hosts hackathons in our community and have students solve real-world problems through STEM. I hope that can inspire more females to join STEM fields. I really hope that when I finish university and when I look back on these five years, I definitely see a difference both in my community that I’m from right now, and also see a visual difference in representation in these fields. 

A Spark meeting led by Mehak.

Q: How did your Shad experience impact your leadership style and interactions with your community?

A: Shad was such a pivotal part of how I define being a leader now. Going to Shad, the way I saw a leader was someone who was very controlling and the main focus of groups and teams. But everyone came from so many different experiences and parts of Canada I wasn’t familiar with. It was super eye-opening to see how their experiences shaped their perspectives on leadership but also on the way they interacted. At Shad we did a lot of community building, forming these connections that weren’t superficial. You got so close with everyone so fast, and connected on an emotional level which I found super unique. Even though it was just for a month, I still feel so connected to everyone from my campus and my friends there. I think that’s why empathy has been a really big part of my leadership style now; really understanding the people you work with, making sure everyone’s needs are met, and being as inclusive as possible. Shad helped change how I feel about leading with empathy and the community aspect of leadership that I’d never thought of before.

Q: What advice would you give a Grade 10 or 11 student considering applying for Shad2022? 

A: Definitely do it. I know there’s a lot of cheesy stuff about how it’s going to change your life, it’ll be the best month of your life – and it definitely is. As much as you won’t believe it in the beginning, coming out of Shad and reflecting after, it was the coolest experience and I still talk about it all the time. Even in some of my applications when I’m reflecting on what type of person I am, I owe a lot to the way that Shad basically transformed my perspective. My advice would be: step out of your comfort zone – if you’re feeling uncomfortable you’re doing something right – and you want to make sure you’re always growing. Shad was one of the best things that helped me step out of my comfort zone and grow as a person.

Mehak at Shad Mount Allison in 2019.

Jaden Lawen

Shad2020

Q: How did you feel when you received the news?  

A: When I first heard, I didn’t believe it was real. It was 10:30 at night and I was studying for a calculus midterm I had the next day, and I was freaking out. I ran, I woke up my parents, it was crazy. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was thinking about my calculus exam and the scholarship, but the exam went well so it was a win-win.

Q: How does receiving the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership impact your future? 

A: The biggest thing that I really love about this scholarship is that it’s almost like Shad – you join a family; even if we have nothing in common, we have in common we went to Shad. I just joined this massive community across Canada, a tight-knit group of people that are all like-minded. On top of that, I also get mentorship and summer jobs with TD; I’m big on learning and always learning new things. Because of this scholarship, I’ll be able to do jobs that I never would’ve had the opportunity to do before.

Q: What’s coming next for you – for your education, and the kind of change you’d like to influence? 

A: Next year I’m going to Dalhousie University to study engineering. I’ll probably end up doing civil engineering, because I’m interested in constructions and buildings. It’s a whole new jump, so I’ll be looking for ways I can get involved and be a leader in my community. As for change I’m looking forward to, I’m really passionate about building sustainable change in communities. I did a fundraiser for Lebanon, my home country, when there was an explosion, but that was a single event. What I want to start is a yearly fundraiser – where for one whole year, every year, I’ll raise money towards a certain cause. I’m from Nova Scotia, so maybe one year I could do a Feed Nova Scotia. I’m still brainstorming, but I learned a lot from my first fundraiser, so I’m looking to put that into something else. 

Q: How did your Shad experience impact your leadership style and interactions with your community?

A: Usually when I’m in groups, there’s very few people who are actually determined and hard-working, but at Shad, every single person there wanted to be successful. That let me realize that it’s amazing what we can do with these people. Also, most of the time I lead in the spotlight, but Shad gave me the opportunity to lead from behind, so it kind of allowed me to sit back and not be the loudest voice, because everyone there is a leader. We heard from Michele Romanow and Kenton Low, opportunities I never would have had before, and they changed my perception on leadership. As well, the big community of Shad was so impactful; I’m still in contact with a bunch of people I went to Shad with, and who knows, maybe one day we can meet up in person. We were online, but it didn’t matter because we were really able to get to know each other in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. 

Q: What advice would you give a Grade 10 or 11 student considering applying for Shad2022? 

A: 100% go for it. The things you learn and the people you meet, it’s life-changing. You do become part of this family, and it provides you with a network of people in every part of the working force. The people I’ve also connected with who’ve gone to Shad, the connection is insane. And on top of that, the things you learn, the exposure to STEM and business – if you’re in grade 10 or 11 and you have no idea what you want to do in university, this is a perfect opportunity because it shows you a little bit of everything. I think that if you are considering applying to Shad, I would 100% do it. It was honestly life-changing, and there’s only good things that could come out of it. 

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