Three local students have studied and innovated their way into an elite program for high schoolers. Elmira District Secondary School’s Heather Litwiller of Conestogo, Alexander MacLean of St. Jacobs and Sebastian Wetteskind of St. Clements were selected from more than 100 applicants across Canada to participate in the Shad Valley program. They left home on July 1 and are currently taking up residence at universities across the country and exploring their options for the future.
During the four-week program students who have already demonstrated their potential are exposed to interesting and dynamic academics they may never have thought of before.
“What am I learning? Well, it’s not really even clear to me yet,” said MacLean from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“The focus of the program is stated as science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship, but it’s also so much more than that. So far, I’ve had lectures on intellectual property and consumer needs, condensed matter physics and set theory in mathematics, and I’ve also participated in a seminar on drawing. There were many others that I could have done or will do in the coming weeks, ranging from cognitive behaviour to analyzing the mathematics of risk and even on creative writing. There isn’t really one thing I’m learning about, as we get a little bit of a taste of many different exciting fields.”
Barry Bisson, president of Shad Valley, said the program is focused on driving innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s not about curriculums or learning and mastering concepts: it’s a chance to expand horizons.
“Our program is all about exposing them to a wide range of potential fields of study that give them some insight into the choices they might make for their university education.”
The program brings in compelling university professors and role models from a number of fields.
“In a lot of cases they are alumni that are engaged in very interesting fields that are innovation driven” he explained.
For 30 days the students soak in topics or fields of study that they may have never heard of or thought to delve into.
“It’s not about mastering content, it’s more about opening your eyes to the possibilities,” Bisson said.
Since 1980 the Waterloo-based non-profit Shad Valley Centre for Creative Technology has focused on motivating promising youth to continue career paths in science engineering and innovation. The first Shad Valley program ran at St. Andrew’s College, a private high school in Aurora, Ontario in July 1981. This year about 600 students Canada-wide are participating in the program that involves 12 host universities, including the University of Waterloo, which is excepting about 50 high school students this year.
MacLean, who has always loved mathematics and has received recent honours for his work, hopes to gain a better understanding of the business world
“The most important thing that I expect to gain from Shad Valley is the network of individuals that I am becoming a part of. There are over 12,000 alumni of Shad … so I hope to be able to lean on the ring of support as I move throughout my future career,” MacLean wrote from his dorm this week.
“The first night, we had an activity of various icebreakers to try to introduce ourselves to each other, and it was amazing to see the ease at which it was done. We came here as 56 young people from across Canada and we are certainly going to leave as one giant family. This has been, and will be, the time of my life, and after this short exposure I would certainly encourage anyone interested to apply for this opportunity of a lifetime.”