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STM students receive $40K Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarships

STM alumnus/NHL hockey superstar gives back to his community

A scholarship program for graduating St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School students created by hockey superstar and STM alumnus Darnell Nurse is inspiring a new generation of leaders.

On June 15, Nurse Zoom’ed into an awards celebration at his former high school to present two students – Thélia Badoana and Lorena Morcone – with a post-secondary scholarship set up in his name.

The Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship Program was established by Nurse in 2021 as a way “to give back to the community.” Two scholarships of up to $40K are awarded each year on the basis of student achievement, leadership, school involvement, and financial need.

Interested candidates were invited to submit an essay which showed, among other criteria, how they’ve demonstrated leadership and overcome challenges, and how their involvement has helped them grow.

Picking just two recipients from the many qualified applicants was one of the hardest things he’s had to do all year, said Nurse. “Going through all the essays and reference letters is very inspiring because the students are all so special but it makes this process super hard.”

Thanking the two recipients for “what you’re doing for the STM community and community at large,” the Edmonton Oiler defenceman added that both individuals have made an impact on their community despite significant challenges in their lives.

Badoana from a young age was forced to make tough choices, especially when it came to her education. When her family decided to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018, Badoana – in grade 9 at the time – choose to remain behind with an aunt.

“As a teacher, I can see that the magnitude of this decision is something Thélia thinks about daily, as she puts forth unprecedented effort in all she does,” said Teacher Stefanie West.

At STM, Badona was co-president of the school’s anti-racism group, executive member of Halloween for Hunger, member of the STM Diversity Committee, yearbook editor, and member of the Athletic Council.

“Her commitment to the school community and social justice issues are second to none – all the while maintaining over a 90% school average every year in all her courses and 96% average in her Grade 12 year,” lauded Teacher Stefano Giovannangeli.

While her school involvements are many, it is her leadership in the establishment of UKnighted Against Racism, an anti-racism committee, that has had the greatest influence on her school community.

“I took it upon myself to create this group, which is a safe and accepting environment for BIPOC students to feel heard, to fight against racism and discrimination by spreading awareness to our school community,” said Badoana.

Formed in 2020, the committee has grown to over 65 members.

“I have learned through this experience that developing others’ potential is the ultimate goal of leadership.”

Badoana, who also volunteers in youth ministry at her church and has a part-time job at a local nursing home, will be plying those lessons in her next journey: a degree in clinical psychology at McGill University.

Emphasizing the enormity of her sacrifices and decisions at such a young age, Nurse called her an example for many: “You made such a change in your community and for me, that’s truly inspiring. On top of that, there’s the work you’ve put into the classroom. We’re fortunate to call you an STM Knight.”

Badoana expressed her great honour at receiving the prestigious scholarship: “It’s very special to me to be recognized for work on something as important as breaking down systemic barriers and I’m glad this scholarship will enable me to continue influencing others by showing them that fighting for justice and fostering change in our society is a continuous process.”

“I am committed to making sure this scholarship is used wisely,” she pledged to Nurse. “Perhaps one day I will be able to impact someone’s life as much as you’ve impacted mine.”

“People like you make the world a better place and truly make a difference.”

The second scholarship was awarded to Lorena Morcone, who led the singing of the national anthem at the start of the awards celebration. Morcone, an aspiring musician, has been at the center of the school’s music program, leading sectionals in the grade 9 instrumental class, helping students, singing O Canada at all home football games, and performing at various retirement and long-term care home and public events.

Her leadership, however, has extended far beyond the music classroom, stressed Teacher Connie Couture. Morcone plays volleyball, has been on the senior girls’ soccer team since grade 9, plays rep soccer, is a peer mentor, participated in the Christmas Miracle and Halloween for Hunger campaigns, and has been at the top of the honour roll roster for the past three years.

“One of the most honourable things about Lorena is how she is constantly using her gifts to help others.”

Morena, who is passionate about two things – music and health – is working to set up a music program called Music Connect at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

“Lorena has learned that music can be the best outlet for stress, especially during a pandemic and she would like to share that with children who are receiving in/outpatient treatment at McMaster and because of socio-economic factors, cannot afford music lessons,” said Couture.

“I think it is remarkable for an 18-year-old to develop this program without guidance and offer to share her gifts with those who are struggling.”

Kieran Doyle-Davis, who has coached Morcone in League1Ontario, described her as “a true touchstone of her community.”

“Her leadership experience across academics, athletics and her community is invaluable and she will be impactful wherever her next steps may take her.”

Those next steps will take her to McMaster University in September for Life Sciences.

The Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship has opened up so many opportunities to not only further her education but continue to make an impact, said Morcone, in words of thanks.

“You have really changed my life and I couldn’t be more thankful. This award will motivate me to push for more, to be my best self and to never settle. I hope to one day be able to give back as well and change someone’s life just as you’ve changed mine.”

Nurse, who knows all too well the commitment needed to excel both in sports and at school, said Morcone was the exactly the type of student he envisioned when he created the award.

“You’re a true example of having been a leader in sports and also having been a leader as a person and in the community.”

“You’re so deserving of the opportunity to have some help in post-secondary and you’re the perfect example of what this scholarship was built for.”

Thanking Nurse for his generosity – financial and in terms of time and commitment – Principal Brian Daly noted that while many graduates go on to successful futures, few give back.

“We, like every school, have a lot of alumni who go on to bigger and better things. Every school has these people but it’s rare – too rare – that they remember from where they came and give back.”

“I hope that we all remember this and take Darnell’s example and give back – not necessarily to STM but just back in some form,” Daly encouraged those at the awards ceremony. “It doesn’t have to be financial, it can be with your energy or with your talent. But give back to make the next generation a better place.”















Thélia Badoana, left, and Lorena Morcone each received a $40K Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship toward their post-secondary studies. The scholarship programs was established by Darnell Nurse, a hockey player with the Edmonton Oilers and a STM alumnus, to recognize academic excellence, co-curricular involvement and leadership.
Thélia Badoana, left, and Lorena Morcone each received a $40K Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship toward their post-secondary studies. The scholarship programs was established by Darnell Nurse, a hockey player with the Edmonton Oilers and a STM alumnus, to recognize academic excellence, co-curricular involvement and leadership.

On June 15, Darnell Nurse Zoom’ed into an awards celebration at his former high school to present two students – Thélia Badoana and Lorena Morcone –with a post-secondary scholarship set up in his name.
On June 15, Darnell Nurse Zoom’ed into an awards celebration at his former high school to present two students – Thélia Badoana and Lorena Morcone –with a post-secondary scholarship set up in his name.