HCI student earns $80,000 STEM scholarship

HUMBOLDT – Gabriel Rodriguez is not the type to answer his phone if he doesn’t know the number.

Yet one day, his phone rang, saying it was from Calgary. He decided to answer. It was from University of Calgary’s student services, asking him if he’d be available for a Zoom meeting about a scholarship opportunity.

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It was at the meeting that Rodriguez, a student at Humboldt Collegiate Institute, found out he won a $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship, one of the top STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) scholarship programs in Canada.

“I was speechless, because even though I kind of suspected it, I did not actually expect it because the odds of winning this scholarship was very low,” he said.

“It was really a shock. I still haven't gotten over it. I feel like it hasn't sunk in yet.”

There were 100 scholarships given out this year. For a student to even apply for it, they must be nominated by their high school. Each high school can only nominate one student each.

Students must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, charisma and creativity. They must be entrepreneurial-minded and intend to pursue a career in technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and business enterprise, or applied scientific research.

“Gabe has a tremendous desire to learn and understand,” said Cory Popoff, Humboldt Collegiate’s principal. “His focus, intelligence and passion for academia clearly align with his future goals. By becoming the third Schulich Leader recipient at Humboldt Collegiate, Gabe has again demonstrated the high level of academic excellence that is achievable at HCI.”

After that, the applicant must detail their top three achievements, write an essay to explain why they should win, must answer where they see themselves in 10 years and can write an optional essay to outline any extenuating circumstances.

“In my essay, I focused more on showing what I intend to do with the scholarship and why the scholarship is important to me rather than impressing the committee because the essay is about why you should win the scholarship,” he said, adding that he figured most people would probably write a lot of things about themselves that are very impressive

“I focused more on my motive of where I'm coming from and my story.”

Rodriguez will be going to the University of Calgary to study computer science, a topic he’s been interested in ever since he was young and he got his first computer.

“Back then in the Philippines, getting your own personal computer was kind of like a luxury because we were not that rich. When I got my own personal computer, I was so excited about it and I was just happy that I could do a lot of things with it.”

He kept tinkering with the device, taking them apart to see how they worked and even uninstalling the Windows operating system to install the Linux operating system.

Rodriguez said getting the scholarship means he doesn’t have to stress about paying for post-secondary education.

“This scholarship has really helped me in a way that I could focus more on actually studying and innovating and collaborating with people rather than stressing over bills and tuition.”

After graduating, Rodriguez said he’ll work with another company for a few years.

“After I get the experience, I am planning to launch a startup or a company on my own, that specializes in artificial intelligence and automation, especially automating the boring things, the boring tasks.”

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