Quebec City teen who created black history teaching materials wins $100K scholarship
Laura Doyle Péan is an activist, an educator, a poet — and refuses to be helpless
Laura Doyle Péan was a 16-year-old high school student in Quebec City when they learned a cousin had been shot by an off-duty police officer in Dallas, Texas.
"He survived, luckily, but he was in a coma for a few weeks. I felt really powerless when I heard the news," Doyle Péan told CBC's Breakaway last week.
Doyle Péan, whose father is originally from Haiti, joined the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the shooting.
Now a 19-year-old communications and cinema student at Québec City's CEGEP Limoilou, Doyle Péan helps organize events for Black History Month.
"As a biracial person, I've grown up being concerned by these issues because I was seeing my dad get stopped in his daily life and at the airport," said Doyle Péan, who uses they instead of gender-specific pronouns.
"I really, really hate feeling helpless and feeling like I can't act on issues that are dear to my heart."
This is part of a pattern in Doyle Péan's life. Whenever an important issue crosses their path, they act, whether it's raising money to sponsor refugees or creating tools for teachers to help teach black history.
That drive to take action was recognized recently when Doyle Péan became one of only four Quebecers to win a prestigious $100,000 scholarship.
'An intense moment'
The Loran Scholars Foundation gives out 35 such scholarships across Canada each year to students about to begin their undergraduate studies, and who demonstrate integrity, courage, compassion, determination and leadership. More than 5,000 apply each year.
On the train ride home from the final interview, Doyle Péan's friend and seatmate — Gaëlle Mével — learned she had won a Loran for her own activist work.
Five minutes, Doyle Péan's phone also rang. It was the Loran foundation with more good news to share.
"I wanted to scream. It was really an intense moment," said Doyle Péan.
Doyle Péan is hoping to go straight into law school at McGill University next year.
"I am not sure if I want to be a lawyer, but I see law as a tool that can help me to bring projects to have a deeper impact and bring my engagements to a more global impact," said Doyle Péan.
Black history teaching guide
Doyle Péan's inspiration for creating black-history teaching guides came from the feeling that Quebec's current high school curriculum had little to say on the topic.
The curriculum Doyle Péan created tackles six topics, ranging from the origins of Black Lives Matter to profiles of Trayvon Martin and mass incarceration. There is also a list of project suggestions for teachers in different disciplines.
"I hope that black history is understood as part of the general history," said Doyle Péan.
"I think it's really important for young kids to be able to see themselves in the history they're studying and to see that they're part of the country, to see that they matter."
After graduating from high school and entering CEGEP, Doyle Péan got involved with World University Service of Canada (WUSC), an international development agency that, among other initiatives, raises money to sponsor refugees and helps them settle in Canada.
Doyle Péan is the spokesperson for CEGEP Limoilou's WUSC committee, which raised enough funds to sponsor a Congolese student.
He came to Quebec City from a refugee camp in Malawi and has already started tutoring math at the CEGEP.
"It's amazing seeing him being able to study, which he wanted to do for so many years," Doyle Péan said.
Along with activism, Doyle Péan is also an avid writer, having compiled a collection of poems, entitled Valoir la Peine, which deals with heartbreak, insecurity and self-worth.
After getting Doyle Péan's father, a journalist, to read the collection, they decided to send it out to publishers. The second publisher responded enthusiastically, offering to publish it.
Doyle Péan doesn't take these opportunities for granted.
"I want to use all of those privileges to help people" said Doyle Péan. "I feel like I've been really lucky in life."
With files from CBC's Breakaway