Hazelton’s Tait Chandler, a 17-year-old Hazelton Secondary School student cleared the hurdles and is ready to soar after he was awarded the highly coveted, W. Garfield Weston Loran award, valued at more than $75,000 last week.
The Hazelton-born and raised young scholar, is an exemplary student with a passion and dedication to his community according to teachers, family and friends.
He was instrumental in the creation of the New Hazelton Skate and Bike Park, has volunteered with Kispiox Music Festival for three years as the youth coordinator, he served on the yearbook designing committee, volunteers at Wrinch Memorial Hospital, has participated in the unique Shad Valley, coaches basketball, is a member of the cross-country team, plays in a band as a drummer and still finds time to ace his education.
After being told he didn’t make the original finals months ago, then finding out there was a spot that had opened up and he was in the running again, Chandler said he went in to the interview positive and optimistic but did not expect to turn around and win. In the end he was one of 76 students chosen for a final interview.
“When I found out I was driving down the highway with my grandparents and we were about to go through a tunnel so we had to pull over,” he explained. “So I was standing on the side of the freeway when it hit me all at once and I just burst out in tears of happiness.”
While Chandler has had his sights set on university for several years it’s safe to say winning the Loran scholarship has changed his future, he said.
“It has opened all the doors for me, the deadlines are off, they want me to reapply to as many universities as possible and… I am really, really happy, it’s still hard to comprehend,” he shared. “I knew I was going to go to university but without the grant it was going to be really hard. I would have to work all summers, get a part-time job and I still would have been coming out in debt because of student loans.”
The Loran Award is currently the largest undergraduate merit scholarship in Canada and is based on character, service and leadership potential and is offered to up to 30 high school graduates or CEGEP students a year.
“It is not a reward for past achievements but an investment in the future,” Director of Communications and Development Jesse Helmer said. “Renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study at one of our 24 partner universities, it comprises an $8,000 annual stipend and a matching tuition waiver (unique in Canada), a summer program with funding up to $7,500, a week-long orientation expedition in Algonquin Park, one-on-one mentorship and participation in the community of Loran scholars, in total worth up to $75,000.”
With new endless opportunities, Chandler is even considering new directions for his future education.
“I was planning on looking at International Development at Waterloo but now I have three I am thinking of,” he said. “I am also looking at cognitive science at UBC as well as environmental engineering at Queens. If I went for International Development you can work for the government or non-government like Red Cross which I would definitely do. I really want to do something to help people and this way I think I can make a bigger difference.”
In addition to winning the Loran, Chandler was flown back to Toronto for another interview for an even bigger scholarship last week which would allow him to attend the University of North Carolina he shared and being called to interview for that one was another welcome surprise.
Regardless of the outcome of the recent trip, Chandler said he owes a lot to the new Social Justice club at HSS and to a teacher, Neil Erickson who helped to guide him through the lengthy process of grant applications.
“There were five of us who applied for the Loran this year and he got two of us sponsored,” he said. “When he found out I was going to the finals we even did a mock interview and he was really supportive. I owe a lot to him. The Social Justice club also really pushed me towards this and opened my eyes to all the great things you can do in the world.”
All in all, Chandler said he is still whirling from the reality of the award but wanted to share some advice to fellow students he said proved to be true.
“I was told over and over again that the most important thing in this process was to be yourself,” he said. “It’s not about how big the tasks are that you have done, it’s about the passion you have for what you did and do. They wanted to get to know the real you and get to know someone they can support.”
To learn more about the Loran visit www.loranaward.ca.