Maria Duynisveld, a 17-year-old from Wallace Bridge, is off to Toronto at the beginning of February for National Selections for the Loran Award. She is one of 88 finalists for the prestigious award, for which 34 people will be chosen. Submitted photo


A 17-year-old has been named a finalist for the Loran Award.

Maria Duynisveld, a Grade 12 student at Pugwash District High School, was sponsored for the award by her school in October. Through an extensive online application, where Duynisveld had to detail her artistic, athletic, community service, and leadership activities, and attending the provincial semi-finals for the award in Halifax, the teenager learned she was moving on to National Selections.

Duynisveld is in the top 88 of 5,089 candidates, based on evidence of character, commitment to service in the community, and leadership potential.

“It’s pretty cool to know that I’m in the top 88 applicants,” said Duynisveld. “I think that the (Loran Scholars) foundation looks for applicants who are a ‘good fit’ for the program, so at this point I’m hopeful that I meet those requirements.”

As part of the application process, Duynisveld included such things as athletics (volleyball, basketball, track and field, cross country, and curling), being a four-time national science fair medalist, her roles with 4-H, and even community service through church. She had to write essays on some of her activities and leadership and service experience, as well as provide a reference.

A day-long interview process in Halifax saw Duynisveld meet people with similar interests from other parts of the province.

“We had a lot of downtime to socialize,” she said. “All of the people that I met at semi-finals were amazing. We all had a lot in common and I think that any of us would have been deserving of the award.”

Duynisveld said the four interviews over the course of the day were more about getting to know her personality than she expected.

“I mostly talked about my family’s farm, and I had some interesting conversations with the judges about sheep breeds and silvopastures.”

She said her plan is to eventually run her family’s free-range meet farm.

“It’s a really important part of my life,” she added.

By becoming a Loran finalist, Duynisveld is eligible for a $5,000 scholarship to whatever post-secondary education facility she wants. Loran Scholars, of which 34 will be selected following a two-day National Selections in Toronto on Feb. 1 and 2, receive $100,000 over four years for undergraduate studies in Canada. The Loran Award includes annual stipends, tuition waivers from a partner university, mentorship, summer internship funding, annual retreats, and forums.

“I’m quite nervous but also excited,” said Duynisveld about the National Selections with the other top 87 candidates.

If Duynisveld is chosen as a Loran Scholar, she will have to attend one of 25 universities.

“I have been planning to go to Dal’s Agricultural Campus for several years to study Plant and Animal Sciences,” she said. “While Dalhousie is one of the partner universities, the foundation encourages Loran Scholars to attend university out-of-province, so my second choice is Guelph.”

While she prefers to stay closer to her family’s farm, she will make that decision if it comes to it.

“The mentorship and internships through the program really appeal to me, and I think it would be a great way to experience different methods of agriculture, which I could potentially bring home to our farm,” she said.

Duynisveld admits she sometimes does get stressed out trying to keep her school and activities balanced, and it still working on organization and delegation.

“Sometimes it comes down to taking a break for a little bit and relaxing with my chickens or a book,” she said. “But I think that in life there are always going to be things going on, especially if I’m running a business…that’s something I’ll need to continue improving.”