Azlan Naeem has big dreams for his future and thanks to an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship, he’s well on his way to achieving them.
As Canada’s most coveted undergraduate scholarships, the Schulich Leader Scholarships were established by Canadian philanthropist Seymour Schulich in 2012 for students entering Science, Technology, Engineering or Math undergraduate programs at participating universities across Canada. The program ensures that Canada’s top minds entering STEM disciplines will become the next generation of technology innovators.
Every high school in Canada can nominate one graduating student each year to apply for the scholarship. Only 100 are chosen from among 1,500 applications nationwide. Offers are based on four criteria: academics (90%+); leadership and creativity; entrepreneurship; and intent to pursue a career in tech, engineering, entrepreneurship and business enterprise, or applied scientific research.
In September, the grade 12 student from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School will be attending the University of Toronto, where his scholarship will be used towards a degree in computer science and “jump start his career right out the gates.”
“I truly could not believe it,” said Naeem, recalling the moment he found out he was the recipient of the award.
“It’s a surreal feeling... to be chosen out of so many applicants.”
His success, however, is no surprise to Teacher Stefanie West who attested to Naeem’s work ethic and can-do attitude, both inside and outside the classroom.
“As a founding member of UKnighted Against Racism, the programming club, and the robotics club, he has demonstrated an ability to lead beyond his years,” she said.
“He’s an incredible role model.”
Naaem also acted as Sponsorship Head on the school’s Halloween for Hunger Executive Committee, where he helped raise $4,600 in sponsors – the highest amount received in the 20+ years of the campaign.
In his spare time, Naaem has even created two software apps, and plans to publish them to generate advertisement revenue.
“Technology is so integrated into our lives,” said Naeem. “Being part of building and shaping our future and the technology we use is so captivating. That is why I decided to pursue STEM – knowing that I can create something that helps our day-to-day lives is very valuable to me.”
At the University of Toronto, Naeem is eager to take his passion for STEM to the next level and fully submerge himself in everything the school has to offer, academically and socially.
“I know I will be receiving some of the best education in the country. I know the faculty, researchers and networking I will receive at the University of Toronto is unparalleled.”
And while he still has a couple months to relax before hitting the books, Naeem has already set his goals for his post-secondary career.
“I want to build a deep understanding in the field of computer science and, specifically, artificial intelligence. I also wish to complete various internships across the country, and perhaps the continent.”
“I really hope to be part of finding new developments in computer science.”
“I am confident Azlan will continue to positively affect the lives of those around him well into and after his university years,” said West. “I look forward to seeing Azlan use his love of STEM and extraordinary leadership skills to change the world – something he has already begun to do.”
At an award celebration on June 14, Naeem thanked West for her encouragement and continuous support throughout high school.
“All the teachers and the administrators at STM have helped me grow into the person I am today,” he added.
Also playing an instrumental role in Naeem’s life journey have been his parents and siblings, he said.
“My parents came all the way from North Pakistan with no idea of the way of life in Canada and still managed to raise and create a great life for four children. My mother and father are truly the hardest workers I know. My father was working night shifts at fast food chains while completing his master's during the day, all with a family to support... and my mother has sacrificed everything to help us live a better life. I owe everything to these two people, and I am determined to give them what they have deserved their entire life.”
“Lastly, I’ve never really had a role model outside of my family except for the late, great Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant influenced my life in many ways from my work ethic to my mentality and how I compose myself.”
“As Kobe Bryant once said, ‘be legendary.’”
Naeem, we have no doubt you will be.