BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
For many students, getting a university education means working hard at a job during the summer and dealing with a mountain of debt when they graduate.
But Grade 12 Collège Notre Dame student Alain Dupuis, who recently won a Canadian Merit Scholarship National Award, no longer has to worry about either of these problems.
The prestigious scholarship covers tuition up to $8,000 per year at a number of Canadian universities, including the University of Ottawa, where Dupuis plans to study political science and communications in the fall.
Winners also get another $8,000 per year to cover living expenses, and the scholarship foundation finds them a mentor in the community where they are attending school to give them some direction about their future.
In the summers, they can take advantage of up to $7,500 over the course of their undergraduate degree to travel or work in public policy.
Dupuis, 17, won the award because of his good marks and volunteer work.
He is a board member of the Franco-Ontarian youth federation, captain of his school?s improvisation team and a DJ for the student radio station. He was a speech writer during the student elections and has also engaged in a criminal case simulation at the Ontario Superior Court.
?It feels good because I?ve worked hard, and it?s paid off now,? said Dupuis.
?But still, it?s not because there?s bursaries at the end that I?ve done everything. The scholarship is rewarding, but what I got out of my activities is more rewarding than this.?
To qualify for the scholarship, applicants must be in the graduating year of high school, have at least an 85 percent average and be a Canadian citizen.
The scholarships are funded by family foundations, corporations and individual donors.
The young man said he had to put in quite a bit of work before he secured the award. He beat out 3,500 applicants to become one of 30 winners.
The process started last fall when teachers at his school nominated him for the award, and he filled out an application form with several essay questions.
In early December, Dupuis attended regional interviews for the award at Laurentian University, where he was asked about his volunteer work.
He must have impressed the judges with his answers, because he was invited along with one other student from Northern Ontario to national
interviews in Toronto on Feb. 10 and 11.
The student has received a lot of attention at school since he found out about his win earlier this week because Collège Notre Dame principal Sister Rachelle Watier announced it over the PA system.
?It?s pretty overwhelming. I almost don?t still believe it, but I worked hard to get it. As I?ve told you, there were a lot of steps in between, so at every step I just re-focused,? says Dupuis.
?I wasn?t very nervous during the interviews. I basically just went and spoke from the heart and went from there. I hadn?t prepared any big explanation or anything like that.?
For more information about Canadian Merit Scholarships, go to www.cmsf.ca.