One young Naujaat high-school student couldn't be more pleased after receiving a Horatio Alger Scholarship.
Among 85 scholarship recipients across Canada, Rosalie Ijjangiaq is the only recipient in the North – that's all three territories.
"It's pretty unbelievable," said Ijjangiaq. "I thought I wouldn't be able to get it."
Ashley Buckle is Tuugaalik High School's student support teacher. She keeps an eye out for potential awards and scholarships for the students.
"What I found interesting about this award is no-one in Nunavut had ever applied or received it. I thought, let's change that," she said.
"We approached some students and Rosalie in particular was very interested. She's very interested in going to school."
Members of the Horatio Alger Association of Canada are part of a select group of exceptional Canadians who have triumphed over adversity and who encourage young people to pursue their dreams through higher education, according to its website. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is an example of a Member with humble beginnings.
The association and scholarship is named after a 19th-century American writer who "was a prolific author … whose books inspired readers to work hard and persevere through adversity. Alger’s books – 128 in all – recount how a 'can-do spirit' and individual initiative can allow anyone to achieve their dreams, regardless of circumstances."
Ijjangiaq and Buckle worked on the application together.
"There's definitely some tough questions, and she was diligent with it," said Buckle.
"Part of the process is they profile other Horatio Alger Association members, for example, Wayne Gretzky. So they were told to look at profiles of members and try to identify a member or recipient who they feel they identify with the most, and basically looked at comparisons between her life and the life of the member."
Ijjangiaq said her choice was based on the fact "they barely had any money getting through growing up." She chose Rebecca MacDonald, the first Canadian woman to take a company public.
"Rosalie said that she felt the living in poverty resonated with her, as well Rebecca moving to a new place where she did not speak English was brave. Also, the fact that this was a female member, and that she faced tragedy such as the death of her husband. Rosalie said she knows of loss as well and how hard it can be but Rebecca was resilient," said Buckle.
Buckle said the process of reading through personal stories was inspiring, especially seeing the stories resonate with Ijjangiaq.
"It was a lot of fun, holing ourselves up in my office, applying for it," said Buckle.
"I'm so appreciative of my teacher," said Ijjangiaq.
Ijjangiaq plans on using the $5,000 scholarship to help her out as she heads off to Nunavut Arctic College's college foundation program in Rankin Inlet. From there, she intends to pursue more schooling. Ideas for her future include the Nunavut Teacher Education Program, the University of Manitoba, and the Toronto Film School. She's also interested in starting her own business.
Buckle says Ijjangiaq is mature.
"She's definitely persevered – she's had barriers in her life. She's very focused on going to school. She has big dreams and aspirations. She definitely wants to push through and break through those barriers, which is why she was so persistent about getting this scholarship. We're very proud of her."
Ijjangiaq encourages other Nunavut students to go for it.