Four Surrey high school students are celebrating after receiving $40,000-scholarships from the Cmolik Foundation.
The recipients are Charlize Abban and Chelsea Michalik from Guildford Park Secondary, Mekdim Dereje from North Surrey Secondary and Sarah Sohail from L.A. Matheson Secondary.
Charlize is “no stranger to Cmolik,” says the district, as she went to the foundation’s summer camps grades 5 through 7.
“I got the call in another room,” said Charlize who was at a family dinner. “I was pacing back and forth because I was super nervous, and once she said I got accepted, I started jumping up and down in the hall.”
She plans to become a psychiatrist.
“I’ve never had a stable home life, my parents separated when I was younger,” Charlize said, noting she matured faster as a result. “I found that my sister and I were always caught in the middle and I had to take on a responsibility role.”
The scholarship will allow Abban to start her first semester at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, then transfer to SFU to study behavioural neuroscience for her bachelor’s degree, followed by medical school.
Meantime, Chelsea almost didn’t apply for the Cmolik scholarship, the district says, “but a last-minute paragraph written in less than 45 minutes earned Chelsea Michalik $40,000.”
Chelsea has maintained a 4.0 GPA with a science-heavy course load while working two part-time jobs, volunteering with the YMCA and tutoring others. She said her passion for helping children and homeless stems from her family’s experience with a relative’s addiction and its effects.
“You don’t really know what’s going on with everyone else,” she said. “That was one of the reasons I was involved with other things. I wanted to distract myself while helping other people in all the ways I could. If I was suffering, I didn’t want others to suffer too.”
Chelsea will be starting her Bachelor of Science at University of British Columbia in the fall, with further plans to attend medical school to become a pediatrician.
For Mekdim, like many people, the pandemic has impacted his family, who owns a small business.
“My parents own a small business and it’s their main source of income, and when COVID-19 hit, it was just starting up,” he said. “It was their first year when COVID-19 hit and sales went down super fast.”
Because of that, Mekdim said he understood post-secondary would be difficult for his family to afford so he put all his focus and energy into preparing for his Cmolik scholarship submission.
“When I got the call, I was shocked – I didn’t expect it. I thanked them profusely, it took a whole five minutes to let it out and tell them how grateful I was,” he said. ”The pandemic caused a lot of financial strain, but this scholarship is really going to help relieve that stress.”
Mekdim has been accepted into Simon Fraser University and is pursuing a degree in software systems in the computer sciences field.
And for Sarah, she’s managed to maintain an A average despite being involved in a number of mentoring and volunteer initiatives and taking care of her siblings while her parents worked long hours.
“If I wanted to attend post-secondary, I knew I needed this scholarship,” said Sohail. “It was just so overwhelming to hear that, wow, I did it. I called my dad at work and he shouted with excitement – he said, ‘I think my whole office heard me.’”
Sarah will be pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at either UBC or B.C. Institute of Technology, but she’ll start with her prerequisite courses at Langara College in the fall.
The Cmolik Foundation, founded in 2008, provides “opportunities for youth who have experienced adversity in their lives,” according to its website.