For the second time since its beginnings in the late 1980s, a Nunavut student is up for a Loran Award, a post-secondary education package worth $100,000 over four years.

Director of programs and operation for the Loran Scholars Foundation Heather Spratt said the foundation would like to see more applicants from Nunavut.

Alex McDermott, right, of Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, is one of 88 finalists vying for 34 Loran awards, a post-secondary education package worth $100,000 over four years. He’s seen here receiving the Male Athlete of the Year award at the 2017 Sport and Recreation Awards from Olympian Adam van Koeverden in October.
photo courtesy Michel Albert

“We have had a smattering of applicants but not as many as we would like. We’re really trying to reach the students in the North more. That’s why we started a dedicated Northern regional committee this year,” Spratt said.

Inuksuk High School nominated Alexander McDermott, and so far he’s made it through three personal interviews conducted by the regional committee, one of which was with a panel. He is now set to travel to Toronto for the national selection process, scheduled to take place Feb. 2 and 3.

McDermott is one of 88 of the original 5,000-plus candidates up for 34 2018 Loran Awards.

“I’m extremely excited. It’s an amazing opportunity to have made it this far,” said McDermott, adding his parents, both teachers, push him to take every opportunity he can.

“They’re the backbone of my life,” he said.

He also says he’s organized in what his goals are, and breaks them down into small chunks to achieve them.

Loran stands for Long Range Aid to Navigation.

“It’s not some rich guy named Loran who died and left us lots of money. It’s a triangulation to navigate into the distance. It works perfectly for us because we use our three points of character, service and leadership to help us set a course for the future,” said Spratt.

She says the Loran is a “leadership development accelerator.”

“It’s not an award for what they’ve done, it’s an investment in who we think they can become,” Spratt said.

Along with four years of free university thanks to the partnering institutions themselves, the award includes a $10,000 annual living stipend, a mentor who is a community leader and works with the student over the four years, and three summer jobs – two in Canada and one in an international location – one each in public policy, the private sector, and community development.

“You have to have an 85 per cent minimum average,” explained McDermott. “After that it doesn’t matter if you have an 85 or a 90.”

McDermott is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo and a top-notch hockey goalie, as well as a soccer goalie and basketball player. He coaches Taekwondo and hockey goaltending.

“I like working with younger kids,” he said. “I pass on my experience when I can.”

He plans on studying kinesiology, and continuing to medical school in sports medicine or pediatrics.

Spratt said that’s just the sort of student the foundation is looking for – one who shows the potential to be a part of Canada’s next generation of leaders. Rather than focusing on the best grades, the foundation looks at character and commitment to community.

“We look forward to getting even more applicants from the North,” said Spratt, who adds the new regional committee called all high schools in the three territories.

“There’s lots of barriers that can get in the way before you can apply for (the award), but we know there’s great people that we’ve been missing. We will continue to put emphasis on the North.”

In 2005, Ashley Daley, also an Inuksuk High School graduate, became a Loran scholar. She is now with the RCMP in Nova Scotia.

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