Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship makes ...

Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship makes undeniable impact on recipients
Posted on 06/30/2023
Darnell Nurse with othersHe may represent Edmonton on the ice, but he was formed in Hamilton. 

Giving back to the city – more specifically the school – that helped shape him, NHL star Darnell Nurse returned to St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School to help inspire the next generation of dreamers.  

Nurse, an honours graduate from the class of 2013, approached the school in late 2020 about creating a scholarship in his name for deserving students. Shortly after in 2021, the “Darnell Nurse Excellence Scholarship” was created, with the agreement that $40K would be awarded each year to 2 graduating students on the basis of student achievement, leadership, school involvement, and financial need. 

“I've been very fortunate to be a part of a community that has helped me achieve so many of my dreams,” he said at an awards presentation on June 14. “It's led me to try to find a way to get back to the most important places along the way.” 

“St. Thomas More has always been a second home for my family. For my father, my aunts and uncles, siblings, and cousins. These halls have always seen Nurses on a regular basis.” 

And while his career highlights show he excels on skates, he admitted that having to pick just two winners proved to be difficult for him.  

“There's so many who have tackled great challenges and shown excellence on a daily basis,” he said, acknowledging those applicants who applied but were not chosen. “They may not be receiving a scholarship today, but I look forward to seeing them achieve great things in the future.” 

After childhood adversity left him with attendance issues, learning gaps and a move to the foster system, the first recipient, Logan Gill-Johnson, is an example of what it means to defy the odds.  

Using his story to help other students in similar situations, Gill-Johnson has been an asset to the Prefect team at STM, a leadership group aimed at guiding Grade 9 students.  

Sharing his life’s motto, he said, “I was dealt a bad hand, but with enough dedication, I was able to reshuffle the cards.” 

In the fall, Logan Gill-Johnson will be heading to Mohawk College for the Computer Systems Technology - Software Development program. 

“I am so thankful for this life changing scholarship. It will support my efforts to become a software developer. I appreciate the chance to share some of my story.” 

The next recipient, and fellow Prefect Delina Mekonnen, also uses her time to give back to the school community. Throughout her high school career at St. Thomas More, Mekonnen committed herself to Halloween for Hunger, CMOR morning announcements, vocal ensemble, and the school’s Robotics team. Academically, she consistently has been one of the top ten highest achievers in her grade.  

Balancing extra-curricular activities with a part time job and her studies, Mekonnen also had to deal with the challenge of immigrating to Canada and hardship of losing her father.  

“Devoting my time to give back to the community has greatly strengthened my faith,” she said. “My ambition as a life-long learner and first-generation student is to become the first software engineer in my family and attend the University of Waterloo.” 

“By transforming sorrow into resilience, I will use my potential to reach greater heights and shine to illuminate generations to follow. As one chapter soon closes, there are thousands that lie ahead. I am motivated to continue writing the story of my life while carrying on the legacy of my father.” 

“This kind of generosity is breathtaking,” said Principal Brian Daly, thanking Nurse. “It's life changing. And it's very rare in 2023.” 

“I want you to know that on behalf of the entire school I want to thank you not only for the impact you're having on the recipients... it's undeniable... but for the impact you're having on our entire school.”