Passion for STEM Earns Student $100,000 Scholarship

Dina Orucevic, a Grade 12 student at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School (KCI), wasn’t expecting to find anything out of the ordinary when she checked her email. What she found was life-changing. 

“I was in shock. No words,” said Orucevic. “I had my sister pinch me, I had to check if it was in my junk mail, I had to check if the email was addressed to another person. But, no. It was all mine.” 

The unexpected email informed her that she’d been selected to receive a Schulich Leader Scholarship, valued at $100,000. These entrance scholarships are awarded to high school graduates each year, enrolling in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at 20 partner universities in Canada.

The feeling of shock hadn’t worn off yet for Orucevic, even as she turned her focus towards her next challenge. She’ll be studying Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo – continuing to pursue her passion for STEM at the post-secondary level. Orucevic is excited for what lies ahead, although her interests were not always focused in the engineering field. 

“I was all over the place. From French Immersion studies to business management, to tech,” Orucevic said of her time in secondary school. 

It was volunteering at a KCI STEM competition that first got her involved in these subjects, and drove her desire to learn more. This journey led her to win both the gold and bronze medals at a province-wide STEM competition for the creation of an app that helps drivers reduce their emissions while searching for an available parking spot.

For Orucevic, it wasn’t about winning, but instead the new skills and knowledge of her own ability to learn and grow. To help equip herself for this competition, she set about learning javascript, HTML and CSS. 

“Winning wasn’t the most important part,” said Orucevic. “It’s the journey.” 

It was exactly this kind of self-motivation that made Orucevic stand out to the committee of KCI guidance staff who select nominees, explained Rhonda Gauthier, head of the guidance department. As part of her application to be considered for the scholarship, “…she wrote about when she first saw that advertisement for the STEM competition,” said Gauthier. Orucevic described her feeling of intimidation looking at the work other students put forward, and her lack of coding experience. Undeterred, she focused on building her skill toolbox and “…just dug in and decided she was going to do it.” 

It goes beyond just one subject area. Orucevic’s involvement in a wide variety of subjects, sports and extracurricular activities at KCI was an important part of helping her stand out. 

“She has involvement in leadership, in sports, in community, and piano,” said Gauthier.

Orucevic is especially interested in promoting the representation of women in STEM. She recalled the first tech course she took in secondary school, in which female students were few in number. Orucevic is focused on creating more opportunities for students like herself. With this in mind, she volunteered at Technica, the world’s largest all-women and non-binary hackathon. 

As she prepared to take on her next adventure, Orucevic shared some words of wisdom for future students who are looking to follow their interests and build a foundation for success. 

“I would just say…stay positive, stay motivated, stay passionate,” said Orucevic. “Whatever you put your mind to, you’ll be able to do.”

About Schulich Leader Scholarships Canada

Recognizing the increasing importance and impact that STEM disciplines will have on the prosperity of future generations, businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich established this $100+ million scholarship fund in 2012 to encourage our best and brightest students to become Schulich Leader Scholars: the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators.

Through The Schulich Foundation, these prestigious entrance scholarships are awarded to 100 high school graduates this year, enrolling in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at 20 partner universities in Canada. Every high school in Canada can submit one Schulich Leader Nominee per academic year based on academic excellence in STEM, entrepreneurial leadership and financial need. 

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