'Absolute elation': Beaufort Delta student wins prestigious scholarship

Kyran Alikamik and 28 other students across Canada were named Loran Scholars Thursday, which comes with an award of up to $100,000 for post-secondary education.

Kyran Alikamik and 28 other students named Loran Scholars Thursday

Kyran Alikamik is the first student in Inuvik to be named a Loran Scholar, and the fourth student in all of the N.W.T. to ever receive the award, according to the Loran Scholars Foundation. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Kyran Alikamik just made history as the first student from the Beaufort Delta to be chosen for The Loran, one of Canada's most prestigious undergraduate scholarships. 

The Inuvialuk student said being named as a Loran Scholar "was just absolute elation."

"It was a level of justified pride that I'm not used to feeling. It makes me even more sure of my capabilities in the future for ... what I can do."

The 18-year-old student from Ulukhaktok has come a long way since starting high school, when graduation felt like an "abstract" idea.

Alikamik was one of 29 scholars announced Thursday. The foundation said it received 6,084 applications this year, and carried out interviews with 72 finalists in what it calls "the most comprehensive and thorough scholarship selection process in Canada."

The scholarship is valued at about $100,000 per recipient, and includes both a $10,000 annual stipend for four years and one-on-one mentorship opportunities. 

Alikamik is the fourth student from the N.W.T. to ever receive the scholarship, and the seventh in all of the territories, according the Loran Scholars Foundation. He is also the only scholar from the territories this year. 

"Being a Loran award winner means it's a lifetime commitment to their principles and your own," said Alikamik, who heard about the program through Richard McKinnon, who was his principal in Ulukhaktok.

Alikamik now lives with McKinnon in Inuvik. He made the move there to focus on school and be closer to the teachers he is learning from. 

The newly named Loran Scholar has already been accepted into the University of British Columbia, where he plans to pursue a Bachelor of Arts and eventually return North to become an English teacher.

"That's kind of been an underlying passion of mine: the English language [and] the pursuit of excellence in that field," he said. "I see myself coming back up North and teaching others and introducing a new cycle in the North — a cycle where the students here in the North realize there are so many paths available for them to take." 

'Ready for the world'

Lisa Alikamik has been one of her son's biggest cheerleaders. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

One of Alikamik's biggest cheerleaders is his own mother, Lisa Alikamik.

She said it wasn't until she googled the Loran scholarship that she realized how impressive it was.

"I'm like 'Son, you're in the top 72!'" she exclaimed with pride, after he was named a finalist.

"He had a lot of support to help him get to where he is today. He's really headstrong and he's so ready for the world," she said. 

Alikamik's mother said she wasn't surprised he became a finalist for the award because "he's always been a go-getter."

"I knew he was gonna go somewhere and always give his 110 per cent."

Hopes to inspire others

It wasn't until after he started the Northern Distance Learning program, which allows students in smaller communities to take classes needed for university, that Alikamik said he began to take school seriously.

Gene Jenks, a teacher at East Three Secondary School, helped launch the program about 11 years ago, and taught the young man this year. 

"He is never satisfied with the current state of where he's at," said Jenks.

"He wants to always better himself. So that's a true student and a true learner," he said, calling him a teacher's dream. 

Jenks said knowing that Alikamik's goal is to return to the North and be an educator makes him burst with pride.

Gene Jenks, who taught Kyran Alikamik this year, described the newly named Loran Scholar as "true student and a true learner." (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

"We've seen his growth as a student now and if he is to come back and serve the region as a teacher, we are all better for it," said Jenks. "He's excited by life. He's excited by learning. He's excited about having these deep discussions of his favourite philosophers [and] then he'll go off and talk about his latest run."

Alikamik said he's excited for the next four years of university and to be the best version of himself for others. He also hopes he can inspire other people in small Northern communities. 

"When I think of students looking up to me it makes me very happy," he said. "That's one of the only chances that I want to get, is to have a student look at me as a positive role model and gain inspiration from what I've done."