"Don't be afraid to get involved - if you keep waiting for someone else to do things, nothing will ever happen," says Yellowknife Grade 12 student Adithi Balaji.
A student at École St Patrick High School, Balaji said she spends around 20 hours a week volunteering her time in the city's youth environmental movement, at the Yellowknife food bank, and with the cadet program.
Amid her volunteerism, school, and work, Balaji is heading to Toronto at the end of January – and may return with an award said to be worth $100,000 toward her undergraduate studies.
From more than 5,000 candidates across Canada, Balaji is among 88 selected for consideration to receive a Loran award.
Given out each year by the Loran Scholars Foundation – a charity founded in Toronto in 1988 – the award includes stipends, tuition waivers, mentorship, summer internship funding, and annual retreats and forums. (The charity estimates the value of those benefits to be $100,000. Recipients do not simply receive a cheque for that amount.)
Balaji was one of hundreds of student protesters at Yellowknife's global climate in September 2019. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio
Candidates for Loran awards are chosen based on "evidence of character, commitment to service in the community, and leadership potential," a news release from the foundation stated.
Balaji was nominated by her school and has since gone through what she called an extensive process of essays, phone interviews and, now, flying to Toronto for the final selections.
She isn't the first Yellowknife high school student to reach this stage. Last year Emma Willoughby was a finalist and went on to receive one of the awards.
While she waits to hear from her top post-secondary choice – the University of British Columbia – Balaji has a clear view of her future. She plans to study oceanography and work in environmental conservation.
"We don't have much time left," she said.