Yellowknife’s Adithi Balaji will receive a Loran award, the second successive year in which a student from the city has been chosen to receive the prize valued at $100,000.
Balaji said she nearly burst into tears when she received the news by phone while at Edmonton Airport. She professed continuing disbelief when contacted by Cabin Radio on Tuesday.
Each year, the Loran Scholars Foundation – founded in Toronto three decades ago – provides a select number of applicants with an award. The $100,000 value is not a cash sum but is said to come from a combination of stipends, tuition waivers, mentorship, summer internship funding, and annual retreats and forums.
Candidates for the award are chosen based on “evidence of character, commitment to service in the community, and leadership potential,” a news release from the foundation stated.
A Grade 12 student at École St Patrick High School, Balaji was one of 88 finalists across Canada in the running for the award, chosen from more than 5,000 applicants.
She was nominated by her school and went through rounds of interviews and essays before flying to Toronto for a final selection process.
Her work in organizing Yellowknife-based climate strikes, leading her school’s green team, and “spearheading a composting program” was highlighted by the Loran Foundation. She also volunteers at the YK Food Bank and is a squadron commander with the Yellowknife Air Cadets.
With university in her sights, Balaji had planned to get a part-time job and supplement her income with student financial assistance. Now that she has a Loran award, she said she will instead continue to volunteer.
“You can’t do something just because you want to get a prize or because you want recognition,” she said. “For things like this or just in life overall … you’re doing something you’re passionate about.
“It’s about more than just a résumé builder.
“I can dedicate myself more to things that might not have financial value, and be able to make a difference in the community, wherever I move.”
Balaji hopes to study oceanography at either the University of Victoria or the University of British Columbia, then work in environmental conservation.
“We’re trying to create change … but there are so many things I don’t know. So I think working in a research field, that would really help,” she said.
Balaji is not the first Yellowknife student to become a Loran scholar. Emma Willoughby was a 2019 recipient.