There was a bit of a delayed reaction when Betty Wang won an RBC Students Leading Change Scholarship this past summer.
“I received an email and they told me I was a finalist. So, I assumed there was going to be another round. But a month later, I finally realized it meant I was already one of the winners; that’s when the excitement hit,” laughed Wang, a first-year Media, Information and Technoculture student.
The RBC Students Leading Change Scholarship recognizes students across Canada who invest in their communities by showing a passion to lead and inspire positive change. This year, 15 students nationwide were awarded the scholarship. In addition to Wang, Western Management and Organizational Studies student Jessica Bosman was selected as a winner.
Thanks to the scholarship, Wang and Bosman received $10,000 toward their education.
In addition, the 17-year-old Wang also will travel to Kenya next summer as part of a Me to We trip where she will volunteer with the international charity Free The Children. Of the 15 scholarship winners, only six were selected for the Me to We trip.
“I ran an Amnesty International club at my high school and was working on trying to get such a trip organized, but a teachers’ strike halted that,” said the Surrey, B.C., resident. “To be able to go on this trip is something I’ve wanted to do all through high school.”
Wang has been involved in humanitarian groups such as the Red Cross and Amnesty throughout secondary school. With an interest in the gender-equality movement, she co-founded a non-profit organization that seeks to spark dialogue about sexism while raising funds for a variety of girls’ causes around the word. She also recently organized Conference Ignite at the University of British Columbia where more than 100 high school girls were educated about inequality issues.
“When we talk about changing the world, or helping the world, we always relate it to ‘Third World countries,’ but we don’t really look at our local communities as much,” said Wang, who came to Canada from China when she was 5 years old.
“A lot of the time, people feel (world issues are) already being dealt with and that it’s not on the news bombarding you all the time. It’s really important for people to understand the global issues you talk about all the time are also happening in your own community as well.”
Wang would like to see humanitarian and community action become a family affair. “By educating parents first, everyone in the household can be inspired to do community works,” she said. “It was something I connected with.”
Wang’s mother was a personal inspiration, having been a strong activist for human rights around the world.
University life is a bit more challenging to balance schoolwork and community advocacy. However, Wang still expects to be involved with Amnesty at Western, as well as other University Students’ Council clubs.
She plans to pursue a Business degree at the Ivey Business School in her third year, hoping to one day work for a marketing company with a humanitarian aim, volunteer for the United Nations and, eventually, lead her own non-profit organization to bring solutions to human rights violations, both locally and globally.
“It’s very interesting to combine a business degree with humanitarian service,” Wang said. “I don’t want my work life and my volunteer life to be separate; I would love to be able to combine that.”