Two New Brunswick high school graduates are among this year's winners of Loran Scholarships, awarded for service and leadership potential.
Younseo Heo of Saint John High School and Madison Malloy of Chipman Forest Avenue School are among 25 students across the country who have each won $100,000 over four years, along with summer job and networking opportunities.
"It was very, very unbelievable," said Heo, describing the moment she found out she'd won.
"I was shaking and I think I fell to my knees. I still can't believe it."
"I was just over the moon," said Malloy.
"It was very, very exciting. I'm still trying to process the entire thing."
Both students had to file online applications, which included a few essays. They were interviewed via Zoom once during the semi-final round and many more times in the final round.
Those efforts have paid off in a big way.
"The money is of course fantastic," said Malloy. "It will relieve a large burden and stress. But it's so much more than that."
Heo said something similar.
"As much as financially it really helps me, I'm really excited about the connections it'll bring me."
"These are some of the brightest minds, the most driven youth of Canada. Just to have that connection, it's very inspiring and it pushes me to inspire others," Heo said.
Besides money, the Loran Scholarship also includes mentorship, funding for summer work experiences, a week-long orientation expedition, annual retreats and other scholar gatherings with alumni.
"It's a little community in itself," said Heo.
Strong community involvement is something both winners have in common.
Heo is co-president of Club H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Everywhere) at her school, co-founder of the math club, treasurer of the Key club (a leadership program sponsored by the Kiwanis Club), leads the altos in the school choir, is concertmaster for the district orchestra and volunteers at the hospital.
Malloy founded and leads The Backpack Program at her school, which sends food home weekly with students in need, is president of the student council, organizes annual food and clothing drives, volunteers at the community food and clothing bank and helps children learn to skate.
Heo said what drives her to be so involved is partly to do with moving to Canada from South Korea when she was eight years old.
"I know how it feels to somewhat be excluded because you're so unfamiliar with the new community. So I want to give everybody that feeling of inclusion and feeling of connectedness," she said.
She credits her violin teachers and high school English teacher with helping her develop her own sense of belonging.
Club H.O.P.E. does things like neighbourhood clean-ups, concerts and volunteering at community events.
Heo said she gets a lot out of helping others.
"That human to human warmth is a big part of why I do this volunteering. It's just so genuinely good to feel connected to your community."
Malloy said she's motivated by a desire to contribute to the community.
"I've wanted to do everything I can to give back to them. They've seen potential in me and they've helped me get to where I am today."
She's very proud of the backpack program she helped start this school year.
"You can definitely see the need for food — not just with students. And COVID made the situation more dire."
She saw similar programs in neighbouring communities and knew the Chipman area didn't have one.
She applied for and won a federal Rising Youth grant to buy food for the program.
And they now have a partnership with Chipman Community Care, said Malloy, that should see the program continue for at least the next few years.
Malloy has tried to "put herself out there as much as possible."
She admits she does struggle a bit with time management, but said she likes the challenge.
"I wouldn't have done it any other way," said Malloy. "It's definitely helped me, having all of these different experiences to learn from."
Heo's best advice to younger students is to "get out there," too.
"Help out the community as best as you can. Not only will the community grow from it, but you yourself."
"Realize that time is very precious. Be grateful for everything you have right now and make the most out of it."
Inspired by her mom, who is a nurse, Heo is thinking of studying to become a doctor. She's hoping to get into McMaster University.
"I really want to help others. It might be hard, but I feel like it is such a rewarding job. And I like the constant learning and the constant questioning, curiosity, that is involved with the field of medicine."
Malloy is hoping to study science at Memorial University.
She's thinking of pursuing a career in ocean sciences or marine biology.