By Leslie McNab
Special to the Gazette
Memorial University's entrance-scholarship winners are more
than just students with good grades – they're people
committed to making a difference in their communities. And
to recognize their many achievements, the university honoured
its first-year internal scholarship recipients with a luncheon
on Thursday, Oct. 16, in the main dining hall of R. Gushue
Hall on the St. John’s campus.
The luncheon event was part of the two-week annual Celebrate
Memorial festival, which celebrates the university’s
significant connections and contributions to the community.
One of the students honoured at the event was 18-year-old
Niraj Shukla, who is in his first year of Memorial’s
nursing program. He is the recipient of the university's
John Lewis Paton Scholarship, as well as two external awards
– the Canada Merit Foundation Scholarship, Regional
Award; and the Canada Millenium Foundation, National Award.
Born in Rajkot, India, Mr. Shukla came to Canada at age
five. His family settled in St. John’s, where Mr.
Shukla quickly became an active member of his adopted community.
As a student at Gonzaga High School, Mr. Shukla was instrumental
in bringing partners together to create Students for Other
Students (SOS), a free tutoring program for less-fortunate
junior high students in St. John’s. As well, his awareness
of the community problems created by underage drinking and
drug use led to his work in creating the St. John’s
Safe Homes Program, which provides information to junior
high students and assists them in saying no to peer pressure.
This program is used in junior high schools throughout St.
John’s, and has gained the attention and support of
the Avalon East School Board and the Royal Newfoundland
Mr. Shukla said he is happy to be studying nursing at Memorial,
and feels honoured to be a scholarship recipient. He credits
his high-school guidance counsellor with helping him to
become aware of the various scholarship opportunities available,
and said his community involvement definitely played a role
in opening these opportunities up. “There are plenty
of ways people can become involved in giving back to the
community,” he said. “Scholarships are a nice
recognition that reward the person you are.”
The number of entrance scholarships at Memorial (awarded
to students whose admission average is 85 per cent or higher)
has grown steadily over the past six years, as a result
of the university’s successful Opportunity Fund campaign,
which has raised some $15 million for the scholarships and
fellowships program. In 1997-98, when the campaign began,
191 entrance scholarships were awarded for a total of $375,500;
by 1999-2000 – the conclusion of the campaign –
the number had almost tripled to 459 scholarships totalling
$933,350. This year, Memorial has awarded over 600 entrance
University president Dr. Axel Meisen said the growth in
Memorial’s scholarship program reflects the generosity
of its donors within the larger community, a group which
includes individuals, companies, associations and the provincial
government. “Their tangible and moral support for
university education is both heart-warming and appreciated,”