CANMORE – Jenna Murphy was in the middle of online studies when her mom interrupted to tell her she had an important phone call.
It was already an unusual year for the 18-year-old after in-school classes were cancelled mid-March and studies continued online for the remainder of the semester.
It was also around this time, Murphy had come to terms with the realization that she probably would not have a traditional graduation ceremony with all her friends and fellow classmates.
But that unexpected phone call had a $100,000 silver-lining.
During the brief phone call, amid a global pandemic, Jenna Murphy from Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy found out she was the recipient of the $100,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship, one of the most coveted across the country.
“It’s super exciting,” Murphy said.
“When I first got the call I was so surprised and so excited – I just couldn’t believe it.”
Related to STEM studies – science, technology, engineering and math – Murphy is the third Canmore student from OLS to win the award in four years – and she will be taking the funds to the University of Calgary this fall as she gears up to study engineering.
“I’m looking into going into mechanical engineering, but I’m excited to learn about all the different types [and] I’m hopeful to start my own company after graduating university,” she said.
It is this type of big thinking that got the OLS student nominated for the scholarship in the first place.
“Evidence of her entrepreneurial spirit to experience and grow through diverse interactions includes presentation skills as a contributing team member of our iGem Synthetic Biology team in Boston, lead creation of the iGem team Poster for professional judges and the ultrasound-guided insertion of radioactive seeds into a gelatin phantom prostate as instructed by medical physicists at Tom Baker Cancer Centre here in Calgary,” wrote senior math and science teacher Luc Arvisais in a statement.
Murphy was also praised for her hard work ethic and resilience.
“She displays resilience in her world-class highland dancing, recovering from injury to give back to the community by supporting the next generation of young dancers with her teaching certification,” Arvisais said.
In addition to having a less than traditional final high school year, Murphy also underwent leg surgery months before she went on to represent Alberta for a highland dancing competition earlier this season. Dancing for years and competing all over the world, Murphy was meant to be in Scotland this summer for a competition, but due to pandemic travel restrictions, she will be staying close to home and preparing for post-secondary.
So how does this Gen Z keep an upbeat spirit during an unprecedented time?
“I think that we’re doing the best we can to stay connected and are getting lots of support from family and friends," she said.
"[I think] people are still making the best of this time and using time in quarantine to learn new things and pursue personal goals and I think everyone is doing a really great job of staying positive and supportive throughout his challenge."
It is this type of positive thinking and genuine qualities that made Murphy stand out among other nominees.
“Jenna possesses all of the astounding characteristics that Schulich Scholarship recipients possess and more. She strives for, and attains, academic excellence, demonstrates ingenuity, sportsmanship and leadership all while being the epitome of integrity and humility,” principal of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy Jamie Landry said in a statement.
While she is sad to miss out on some of the traditional final high school year activities, Murphy was excited to recently graduate with a convoy parade and is more excited to be able to go to post-secondary without the worry of student loans or debt.
“It made my whole year."