Teen uses family's struggles as motivation to land $29K in scholarships

After a workplace injury and a vehicle accident involving a drunk driver left her father unable to work, Kayla Beals's desire for academic success only grew and now it's paying off.

The Eastern Passage, N.S., teen is off to Dalhousie University in the fall and she's going there armed with $29,000 in scholarships to help fuel her goal of becoming a doctor.

"I see how my parents struggle," said Beals, 17. "I want to do better for myself and I want to do better for them. I want to help them retire comfortably."

She received a $5,000 scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association and $24,000 ($6,000 per year) from Dalhousie's Bissett Scholarship, which is open to applicants who go to high school in Cole Harbour.

The teen grew up in a small home with her parents and seven other family members.

"It was quite the packed house. It was only a small house. I think there were two bedrooms at the time. We had to modify it, but it worked," said Beals.

It's only Beals and her parents at home now. Because of the injuries her father sustained, Beals's mother is the only breadwinner.

Award-winning student

Beals is a Grade 12 student at Cole Harbour District High School. She's been on the principal's list since Grade 7 and has maintained a 90-plus average on her grades since then.

In 2016, she received the Lieutenant-Governor's Education Medal from the province. The award honours Grade 11 students "based on academic performance and qualities of leadership and service demonstrated in their school and community," says the lieutenant-governor's website.

Some of the courses Beals is taking at school will translate into university credits through the challenging International Baccalaureate program she's enrolled in.

Tough exam schedule

"I have seven classes and ... between May 1 and May 19, I'm going to have 15 exams, so it's really demanding. I don't really have time to have a job," said Beals.

She plans on getting a job after exams and to continue applying for more scholarships.

Beals has been accepted into Dalhousie's science and nursing programs and has applied for the school's medical sciences program. She's already preparing for university by volunteering at the Dartmouth General Hospital.

Despite the challenges Beals has faced, she hasn't let them stand in the way of her success.

"No matter what I went through, I never let go of that value that I had for education both inside and out of the classroom," she said.