Making Giant Strides

Chidiebere Okarah was getting ready to take a biology test when she found out she’d be selected as one of the 2021 Loran Scholars.

Chidiebere, a Grade 12 student at Panorama Ridge Secondary, said she found out on the very last day before spring break, and then there was a two-week embargo before she could publicly announce that she’s received the award.

“It didn’t feel real if I’m being very honest because I got the call right before a bio test. Throughout the whole thing I was shaking and I couldn’t concentrate on anything. It was unreal.”

The Loran Award, presented by the Loran Scholars Foundation, is valued at $100,000 over four years of undergraduate studies. It includes annual stipends, tuition waivers, mentorship, funding for summer work experiences as well as annual retreats and forums.

Chidiebere is one of 30 students selected for the 2021 class of Loran Scholar, which saw more than 6,000 students apply this year.

READ ALSO: North Delta student chosen as 2021 Loran Scholar, April 14, 2021

According to her biography on the Loran website, Chidiebere is the environmental co-ordinator on the BC Youth Council, “working to reduce single-use plastics in her community,” while also initiating various Model United Nations conferences. She’s also served as drumming leader at African Stages Association of BC for four years.

Chidiebere said the news was starting to set in “a little bit” during an interview with the Now-Leader on April 17.

“I still feel like it won’t properly, properly sink in until the first year of uni. I’m just so excited to finally be part of the ‘Loramily,’” she said, referring to what the recipients and alumni call the “Loran family.”

When she first started researching scholarships between the end of Grade 11 and the start of her grad year, Chidiebere said the Loran Award was new to her.

“I had always kind of figured that I would need scholarships to help me get through university,” she noted.

“They always say, ‘Don’t forget about the small ones because those are the ones you’re going to win.’ So when I applied to Loran, I didn’t even think I was going to win because it just felt like a fever dream. I didn’t think it would ever happen.”

Looking to post-secondary, Chidiebere said she’s applied to “quite a few” institutions, but her hope is to attend McMaster University in Ontario.

“They have a great health sciences program. I’m interested in it, firstly, because they’re inquiry-based which is something that I found really interesting. It’s not lecture-based, it’s very interactive and asking questions and self-guided learning.

“Academically, I’ve always just been a very curious kid. My mom would not stop telling me I never stopped asking questions. In high school, that really translated to me liking science because science is all about finding out how things work and why does this do this.”

But Chidiebere said she’s also interested in music.

“It’s been super awesome getting to go to school at Panorama Ridge because they have a really, really good music department. Over the years I’ve been here, I’ve had the chance to play sax, trombone, vocal jazz choir, and just get to really have fun with music.”

While the two subjects are “completely different,” Chidiebere said she’s “hoping to do some research on the relationship between health sciences and music, and fitting it somehow into my university degree.”

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