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Saskatoon teens vying for a prestigious national scholarship

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Three Saskatoon high school students are in the running for a national award for giving back to their communities and leading by example.

Zainab Heayati is one of 90 finalists in the prestigious Loran Scholarship competition for grade 12 students across Canada.

“This award is all about the students who are engaging in their community and the students who are leaders and will be in the future leaders,” Hedayati told CTV News.

She goes to Bedford Road Collegiate now, but she’s originally from Afghanistan — having fled after the Taliban took over in 2021.

Before she left, when she was just sixteen, Heyati was doing impressive things.

“I started a library. It was the first public library in the city that I was living,” she said.

Hedayati joins another fellow Bedford Road student vying for the award, beating out 5,200 others across Canada.

Thirty-two winners across Canada will receive about $100,000 each for their post-secondary education.

“I think this is a great opportunity, and I really look forward to it and meeting all the other youth as well. I’ve been in contact with some of them as well, they’re just amazing people and I hope to learn some stuff from them as well,” Bedford student and Loran finalist, Mahrukh Hassan said.

She is hoping to pursue a career in medicine in the future.

Mahrukh Hassan is one of 90 finalists for the Loran Scholarship. (Carla Shynkaruk / CTV News)

Marion Graham student, Liam McKay-Aryriou finishes out Saskatoon’s contingent of elite students up for the prize.

“I have a wide range of different activities that have allowed me to have a positive impact on my community and also on myself, which really, really helped me grow as a person, which they look for as well,” he said.

While McKay-Aryriou has a 99 per cent average in school, it’s not just grades that qualify him for this award. Among other things, he started an innovative podcast at his school, which caught the eye of judges.

“It’s built to improve student mental, physical and emotional health and also create more connection with the school. So we’ve a lot of different guests from inside the school and outside. Recently I had an opportunity to interview mayor Charlie Clark, which was a cool experience,” he says.

Liam McKay-Aryriou is one of 90 finalists for the Loran Scholarship. (Carla Shynkaruk / CTV News)

This high school senior is looking at a career in communications and is eying up Simon Fraser University or the University of Ottawa.

Meanwhile a career in international affairs is in the cards for Hedayati. She hopes to work in her home country in some capacity to continue helping girls, who are marginalized under the Taliban regime.

She’s currently helping from here in Canada — through an online language class teaching English. Her hope is to give them a strong foundation for their future because they are forbidden from attending school.

“I started this online English program where we have meetings every Saturday and more than 20 students and I also paired them with Canadian mentors.”

The students leave Saskatoon for Toronto next week for the finals.

Finalists not selected as Loran Scholars are eligible to receive a one-time $6,000 award that they may use at any Canadian university. 

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