The Winkler Community Foundation (WCF) presented this year's Gordon Wiebe 'Make it a Reality' scholarship Tuesday in Winkler.
Friends, family, and other supporters gathered in the atrium of the Winkler Civic Centre to celebrate alongside Aiden Friesen, as he accepted the $25,000 award.
Friesen is a grade 12 student at Winkler's Northlands Parkway Collegiate (NPC) with plans to attend the University of Manitoba this fall, and eventually pursue a career in engineering.
“He started working when he was just out of Grade 8, and he continued this job, well several jobs actually," said Barb Neufeld, chair of WCF's scholarship committee. "So, we looked at that and went, okay, what 13 or 14-year-old stays that dedicated to a job? Volunteers at church? Does some work for the student council, as well as doing extremely well academically? And then in the interview process we were so impressed with his down-to-earth nature and humility. He’s a really lovely young man.”
In addition to the Make it a Reality scholarship, the WCF also disburses Ongoing Educational Support scholarships. Neufeld says with school being back to "more normal," there seem to be more students planning to pursue post-secondary education right out of high school. She says they received over 50 applications in total for all educational scholarships this year.
This year, Neufeld says WCF has awarded over $100,000 in scholarships.
Friesen said he actually knew four of the five other finalists for the Make it a Reality award, and the day before he found out he won, they all messaged him to say they received calls the day before that they had not received it. "So, I was frantically thinking I had put my phone number down wrong on the application. I was very worried about that," said Friesen.
"When I finally did receive the call, like 24 hours after everyone else had received their's, I was in shock." He said the first thing he recalls is running downstairs from his room to tell his parents.
Friesen says the scholarship has lifted a huge weight, as it's taken away any doubt in his mind about whether his post-secondary aspirations are financially viable.
That is advice Friesen has for other students if they hear of an opportunity like the 'Make it a Reality' scholarship.
"When the scholarship first came out, in my head, I was thinking there's like ten other applicants that I would think will apply, and they'll probably get it over me. And then I applied through a mixture of, I just wanted to start applying for scholarships, and my parents were 'Aiden, you should apply...And then, I'm here now. I did not expect this. I don't think anyone really does so. I mean, you just got to try. That's what I'll say."