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Guelph student receives $100,000 engineering scholarship

Bishop Macdonell student Liyi Ma showed academic excellence, leadership and humility

A student from Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School is one of 50 from across Canada to receive a $100,000 STEM scholarship for engineering. 

Each year over 300,000 students across Canada apply for one of the 100 scholarships for science, technology and engineering and write an essay convincing the board why they deserve this prestigious award. 

The scholarship is awarded to students who can meet at least two of the three criteria which include academic excellence, leadership and financial need. All three requirements which Liyi Ma fit.

This fall, Ma will be pursuing an engineering degree at Queen’s University.

The vision of the Schulich Leaders Scholarship is to allow students to dedicate their time and energy to their education by covering their financial needs so they can grow to make game-changing contributions to society. 

“She’s a leader,” said teacher and school nominator Heather Yates, who nominated Ma to receive the award. 

Ma was born and raised in Guelph to a single immigrant mother from China. She said growing up, she had to learn a lot about Canadian customs and culture on her own, something that gave her independence but also support from her mom. 

“My mom was always there,” said Ma, who always saw her mom as her strength while her mom worked two minimum wage jobs to support her and her brother which furthered her understanding of the value of money. Ma also worked to help pay her school tuition.

With an absent father, she said she missed out on life advice.

She said the desire to spend her time in extracurricular activities and be a source of help in the community stem from values taught to her by her mother, Xiaoning Li.

“My mom is such a giving person,” said Ma while at a loss of words. 

Ma said she always saw her mom dedicating her time translating from English to Chinese and Chinese to English for organizations for free to help the community.

“As I grew up with that, I realized that you should be helping others. They will help you back but its always nice to know that if people are struggling, and you give them the time you would otherwise be spending to yourself, you’re making new connections, you’re making new friends,” said Ma. 

She said it’s important to develop skills outside of school because it allows you to widen your skill set, build confidence, help others and become a leader. 

“When you’re a leader, you’re able to make quick-paced decisions, really develop yourself as to how you want to lead people and how you want to distribute information or distribute or any kind of work,” said Ma. 

Yates said Ma has shown tremendous leadership skills throughout high school through various activities and achievements such as successfully enrolling in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, tutoring students for math and science, winning the principal award, playing the role of a student body president and a leader on a Peru mission trip where students helped build an orphanage.

“It goes on,” said Yates “so humble.”

“She’s so kind and she’s such a nice person like you can go to her for anything. And when she is doing everything else, you would never know.”

Yates said Ma once said something that stuck with her. 

“She once said leadership and service go hand in hand,” said Yates adding that Li would always do anything to help anybody and displayed leadership with humility. 

“I know that she is just going to excel at university and Queen’s is really lucky to get her,” said Yates.