Loretta Saunders's legacy continues to reverberate through Nova Scotia.

Danielle Root is one of four students who received a scholarship in Saunders's name last month. The award wasn't huge: $1,250.

"Realistically, it's already spent," says the Mount Saint Vincent master's student, who has a two-year-old daughter.

However, Root decided she wanted to pay some of it forward in Saunders's name, raising more along the way.

Saunders, 26, was writing her honours thesis at Saint Mary's University on missing and murdered indigenous women when she was murdered last winter.

Her friends and family set up the scholarship fund and watched it balloon. Within about a month, $25,000 had poured in from donations as small as $10 — an unusual level of small-scale support, said Allison Kouzovnikov of the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, which is now administering the fund.

Root was one of the four female indigenous students, all at Atlantic post-secondary schools, who received one of the inaugural scholarships. 

She is studying traditional aboriginal parenting and has spent more than a decade volunteering with young families at the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax.

On Wednesday, Root visited Halifax-area children's stores to buy gifts for the annual Christmas dinner at the friendship centre and asked business owners to match her gift with a donation. 

"I think that Loretta would be proud that I am doing something for my community, because she was doing so much for her community," she said as she stopped by the Clay Cafe on Quinpool Road to pick up a donated gift certificate.

"Because I'm a new mom, had it not been for the [friendship centre's] support, I think it would have been very difficult," said Root, who is from Restigouche, Que.

"I had no idea she was doing that, and I'm not surprised in the least," said Saunders's thesis advisor Darryl Leroux, when he heard about Root's decision to give away some of the money.

One of the other scholarship recipients is a Mi'kmaq education student at St. Francis Xavier. Two others are Inuit women from Nunatsiavut, Labrador, where Saunders was from, one of whom is studying to be a pilot.

The idea to create a scholarship came partly from Saunders's life story, said Leroux. She dropped out of high school, moved away from home and spent some time living on the streets before returning and enrolling at the College of the North Atlantic. She finished four grades of high school in mere months, the fastest the college had ever seen, her family told Maclean's magazine.

"It was really what moved, I think, a lot of people, when it came to Loretta's story, was how hard she worked and how determined she was to research a difficult topic," said Leroux. 

"We really wanted to focus on many students who are in a similar situation, who have had to overcome a lot of adversity to be a university student."