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Pandemic alters graduation for 2020 RAYS scholars

Four years ago, three young women graduating from local high schools were awarded $20,000 scholarships to study at a Canadian university. They all excelled in their various programs and are now planning for further studies. Here are their stories and plans for the future:

In September 2016, Valerie Binder enrolled at Ottawa University to study French and Biology. She wanted to be a teacher.
“Ottawa U turned out to be a great choice,” she says. “The school had a good reputation. I enjoyed the small classes and being able to connect, not only with other students, but with our professors.”
At the end of first year, her French program helped her land a bilingual position as a community (i.e. residence) advisor. She held the job for the next three years and says residence life with its supportive group of friends was, for her, the most memorable part of college life.
Her biggest challenge was, “not so much the work load, but recognizing my limits and boundaries.”
Binder finished up her classes online and without a traditional convocation. She celebrated the four years with her family.
For the second summer, she is working at Lake Superior Provincial Park as a backcountry ranger. This work will add an outdoor education component to her dream career as a teacher. Thanks to being trilingual, she is going to pursue study in this field at Olomouc University in the Czech Republic.
Receiving both mentoring and financial support for four years from RAYS meant, “so much less stress for me,” she says.
Our best wishes go with her to the Czech Republic.

When Rylee McGregor headed to the University of Guelph for the biological sciences program, she dreamed of being a veterinarian.
Along the way she became more interested in biomedical sciences and the human side of medicine. Her interest was piqued when she volunteered to shadow a naturopathic doctor at a Collingwood clinic – something she did on her day off in the summer while working at Chez Michel and Heirloom 142.
“It was a great experience,” she says and as a result, she applied to and has been accepted for the four-year degree course at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in North York.
U of G was not just about the classroom for McGregor – she was a member of the figure skating team for four years. This involved practicing from 6 a.m. 8 a.m., five days a week, as well as running a learn-to-skate program. Managing her time, finding a balance and what worked for her were among her biggest challenges.
Although graduation ceremonies are uncertain at this point, she feels certain that at some point, she and her classmates will be able to “walk across that stage.”
McGregor grew up in Creemore, graduating from Jean Vanier Catholic High School.
“I love this area,” she says and I could see myself working here. I am so grateful for the amazing support I have received from this community.”

Abby Ruppert always had a passion for health and wellness.
She was at CCI, planning to study kinesiology at an Ontario university until she attended a presentation by a recruiter from Acadia University who convinced her she should come to Nova Scotia.
“I was a home body,” she says, “but my parents persuaded me that going farther afield was a really great opportunity.”
One of the most difficult things for her at the outset – being that far away from her family and not knowing a single person – turned out to be an amazing, maturing opportunity.
Ruppert excelled scholastically, graduating with a Bachelor of Kinesiology, with Honours. The Honours degree involved a two-year research project studying the biomechanics of concussions in rugby players.
COVID-19 meant that she defended her thesis from home via Zoom and missed saying goodbye to friends and professors.
She looks forward to celebrating her university years and graduation, whenever that may be. She has applied to the two-year Physician Assistant program at McMaster – a relatively new program in Canada – with a goal of working in sports medicine. With this training, she hopes to one day give back to her community as the RAYS program has supported her.