When a Grade 12 student Magalie Durepos-Létourneau learned she won a prestigious national award, she says she couldn't believe it.
Durepos-Létourneau, 17, who attends École secondaire catholique Thériault, has earned the Schulich Leaders Scholarship worth $100,000 to study engineering at McMaster University.
Schulich Leaders Scholarship is awarded to outstanding high school students enrolling in a science, engineering or math program at 20 universities across Canada.
Every high school in Canada is able to nominate one graduating student for the scholarship. With over 300,000 high school candidates and 1,500 nominees, only 100 students receive the award.
When Durepos-Létourneau received an email and a call informing her she won, she was in shock.
“I was so excited and incredibly grateful,” she recalled. “I feel very fortunate and it’s a very humbling experience.”
In addition to the national award, Durepos-Létourneau has previously received three awards from McMaster University: a $6,000 Engineering Summer Research Award, a $7,500 Engineering Dean’s Excellence Award and a $5,000 SHAD Alumni Scholarship.
In total, she received $118,500 in scholarships to help her pursue undergraduate studies.
She said her achievements wouldn’t be possible without contributions from her family, her guidance counsellor, her music and computer science teachers, Science Timmins and the Canadian Space Agency, all of whom she thanked for providing her support throughout the years.
“There are so many people that have influenced me all my life. The person I am today is because of them,” she said. “I think this scholarship I got because of hard work and determination but also because of the many people who supported me all my life to get me where I am today.”
Ever since she was little, Durepos-Létourneau has been interested in science.
Growing up in a family where her grandfather is a biology teacher and her father and mother teach physics and French, respectively, she said there’s always been a strong focus on learning. She also praised her secondary school teachers and staff for providing quality education through their science and math classes.
Durepos-Létourneau chose to attend McMaster because of the many research opportunities and design teams available for undergraduate students to get involved with.
She says a lot of the problems in society can be solved with the help of technology and science and that’s why she’s excited to attend McMaster to do more research about that.
At Thériault, Durepos-Létourneau has been actively involved in many community projects and initiatives.
She's passionate about the environment, so she started a Recycle and Share School Supply program to solve environmental waste problems and meet the financial needs of students. At the end of last school year, she asked students to donate old school material such as binders and papers which was then provided to those who needed it for free.
“We had close to 300 binders, we had 6,000 rolls of sheet paper. We’ve got so much school material from the community, students at our school and staff,” she says.
Her other passion is mental health, so she was involved with the local New Mentality group working to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues and helping organize activities throughout the year. The group also distributed informational pamphlets with numbers and apps on them that students could use if they needed help.
Last summer, Durepos-Létourneau was also a part of the SHAD Canada program at Queen’s University. It is an annual science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) and entrepreneurship program that runs for a month at 19 university campuses across Canada and is open to excelling high school students.
“I’ve met incredible people from all across Canada and it’s just been a month filled with learning about things that I find so interesting,” she says. “We got to visit different labs and facilities at the university, I got to really meet new friends that have the same interests.”
Last September, she built a Cosmic Ray Detector which was launched on a stratospheric balloon in the stratosphere to detect cosmic rays and measure levels of radiation in high altitudes. The student-driven project was created in partnership with Science Timmins and the Canadian Space Agency.
For more than a year, Durepos-Létourneau was also an executive committee member of the l'Alliance de la francophonie jeunesse Timmins promoting rights and needs of the francophone community.
Besides science, music plays a big part in her life. She’s been playing piano since she was four and has won several scholarship awards at the Porcupine Music Festival de Musique.
Thanks to one high school music group, which pushed her out of her comfort zone, she said she also learned how to play the basics on guitar, a bass, djembe and a box drum.
Before the pandemic, she also taught music to nine students out of a studio which she rented.
Being actively involved in various initiatives taught her how to manage her time while prioritizing her studies at school. In her spare time, she likes playing instruments, reading science magazines and spending time with her family.
“There are so many people behind me that got me to where I am," Durepos-Létourneau says. "I just feel incredibly grateful for that.”