Kiara Mavalwala, left, is one of the 100 high school students across Canada who won a Schulich Leader Scholarship. The graduate of St. Augustine Catholic High School in Markham, Ont., will attend the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University. Also joining the Schulich Foundation scholars from the York Catholic District School Board is Aimee Petrea Chirlpuci, right, of Father Bressani Catholic High School in Woodbridge, who will major in science at Western University. Photos courtesy the Schulich Foundation

Prestigious Schulich Scholarship awarded to two Catholic grads

By 
  • August 27, 2021

Kiara Mavalwala is heading to York University this fall to study engineering in hopes of one day being able to ensure all people living in Canada have access to clean drinking water.

A graduate of St. Augustine Catholic High School in Markham, Ont., this past spring, Mavalwala was awarded a Schulich Leader Scholarship winner for demonstrating academic excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The prestigious award — only 100 were awarded across Canada this year — is worth $100,000.

Mavalwala will use her scholarship to attend the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, a professional engineering school at the Toronto campus with a stated goal to create “renaissance” entrepreneurial engineers with a social conscience and a sense of global citizenship. With its motto, “a school for people who want to create a better world,” Mavalwala thought it fit well with her personal mantra, “Be limitless and enable others to do the same,” which she has written on her wall.

“To me, it sounds like a fantastic fit,” said Mavalwala. “I’m excited for the years ahead.”

Mavalwala’s passion for engineering was sparked during her Grade 11 Indigenous-focused English class which she says opened her eyes to the dark history of residential schools and the inequalities that exist across the nation. Despite being one of the most water-rich nations in the world, many living in Indigenous communities in Canada lack clean drinking water. Wary of crumbling infrastructure and waterborne illness, the communities have relied on shipments of bottled water.

“On the first day, I was shocked about what I learned,” said Mavalwala. “However, as the teacher delved deeper into the course, I realized I had only begun to scratch the surface with this horrific chapter of Canadian history. I intend to leverage my engineering degree along with my passion for helping others to eradicate the water advisories in Indigenous communities across Canada and beyond.”

Her course offers the building blocks to create sustainable solutions to achieve change, across the country and beyond.

Mavalwala has had a passion for math and science since she was a young child and has always been fascinated by how they are connected to the world around her. Now that the reality of winning the scholarship has sunk in, she is ready and determined to use it to make the world a better place.

“Engineering teaches you to solve problems,” she said. “I will be able to apply those skills throughout my career and my life.”

Mavalwala was a student in St. Augustine’s STEM+ Focused Laptop Program and was the manager of her high school’s Best Buddies club, vice president of the Eco Team and a leader for the school’s Grade 9 orientation program.

She was also a member of several sports teams, including field hockey, snowboarding, ultimate Frisbee, soccer and volleyball. She was nominated for the Schulich Leader Scholarship by principal Phyllis Vander Doelen.

“Kiara is an excellent, very committed and conscientious young person who exhibits much care and concern for others in all that she does,” said Vander Doelen. “She has many excellent leadership qualities and her dealings with both students and staff are always thoughtful, courteous, co-operative and collaborative.”

The active teen credits her family support for helping get her through high school by driving her to sports practices, supporting her through challenges and encouraging her to do the best she can. St. Augustine’s laid a strong foundation that gave her the confidence to apply to the Schulich Leader Scholarship. From her religion teacher to her physics teacher to her principal, staff guided her throughout the scholarship process.

Recognizing the increasing importance and impact that STEM disciplines will have on the prosperity of future generations, businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich established this $100+ million scholarship fund in 2012 to encourage the best and brightest students to become Schulich Leader Scholars: the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators. Joining Mavalwala from the York Catholic District School Board as a Schulich recipient is Aimee Petrea Chiripuci of Father Bressani Catholic High School in Woodbridge. She begins her studies at Western University this fall, majoring in science.

Through the Schulich Foundation, these prestigious entrance scholarships are awarded to high school graduates enrolling in a STEM undergraduate program at 20 partner universities in Canada.

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