All the doors are wide open for a self-described farm girl from small town Central Alberta.
Maryellen Gibson, 18, says her rural roots set her apart from 3,600 applicants and earned her a prestigious Loran Award, a $75,000 scholarship from the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation.
“A lot of the other applicants are usually from big cities like Toronto and Vancouver and Edmonton,” said Gibson, Lacombe Composite High School student council president. “I was from a farm. I am a farm kid.”
Gibson has run her own sheep operation through 4-H on her parents’ farm near Tees since she was nine years old. Each spring, she has about 100 lambs under her care. Gibson said it’s a lot of work and it takes up a lot of her time but it something that is a part of her.
“I’ve been working in an entrepreneurial situation all my life and I am very grounded from that,” said Gibson. “I think that’s something that was very different and something that they didn’t see in as many people.”
Gibson is one of this year’s 30 Loran scholars from across Canada and one of four Albertans given the nod earlier this month. The $75,000 award will cover her university tuition and accommodation and provide access to summer programs, internship and mentorship opportunities.
“I see myself as a humanitarian,” said Gibson. “I always want to help out whenever I can and get involved as much as I can.”
After graduating from Lacombe Composite High School this year, Gibson will enrol in an international development program at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Gibson said her focus will be on medical and agricultural development in developing countries.
“I would really like to work in public health and sexual education in Third World countries,” said Gibson.
“That’s kinda my dream. So wherever that takes me and wherever they need me the most. I’d love to come home though. I am a Canadian girl through and through.”
Gibson said her parents, Lorna and Bill Gibson, are thrilled there will be no hefty tuition bills in her future.
“They are excited,” said Gibson. “I am a only child so it’s going to be a big change for my entire family.”
Gibson started the application process in September and learned the good news in early February. While she said the process was a lot of work — essays, one-on-one and panel interviews — Gibson said result was well worth the effort.
“I didn’t think this was any way impossible for me to achieve,” said Gibson. “Now all the doors in my life have completely opened and I have so many chances to pursue my dreams.”
It’s the fourth time in recent years that a Central Alberta student has received the scholarship.
Kolby Olsen won it in 2008 and his brother Brady Olsen in 2010. Both were also Lacombe Composite students. Red Deer’s Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School student Meagan McLavish won it in 2009.
The Loran Awards are granted annually to university applicants based on character, service and leadership potential.