When young, social entrepreneur Abygail Montague received news she’d been awarded a $100,000-scholarship from the Loran Scholars Foundation, she was speechless.
“I was taken aback,” said, Montague who, just a year before, launched an online platform that promotes Black-owned businesses. “I had a moment of imposter syndrome, and then I was very grateful, and I’m still grateful today. It was a big moment in the house. My mom was jumping up and down screaming and then my parents woke my brother up and he joined in the celebration.”
Montague, along with fellow first-year Western students, Megan Matlock and Stephanie Urena Rodriguez, was selected from a pool of 6,000 applicants and 72 finalists to receive the prestigious four-year Loran scholarship recognizing strength of character, commitment to service and entrepreneurial spirit.
Activist, innovator, social entrepreneur
The good news came as Montague finished her final semester of high school in Hamilton, Ont., where she was student council president, played and refereed lacrosse, and gave back to her community.
One of Montague’s biggest achievements is an online platform she created with her sisters to celebrate and support Black entrepreneurs in the Hamilton area. They started the project in response to the June 2020 resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement and COVID-19, using their voices and purchasing power to help local Black-owned businesses.
“My sisters and I started BLK OWNED HAMONT to create a thriving, sustainable environment that helps break down the systematic barriers Black entrepreneurs face in running their businesses,” Montague said. By the end of their first day, their Instagram account reached 2,000 followers. Today, the account draws more than 7,000 followers.
They’ve gone on to organize pop-up markets and are now working with a community advisory team to help Black youth grow their ideas “from just a post on Instagram to a legitimate business.”
“What I really like is the garnering of community and seeing the impact it makes, whether it is small or big,” Montague said. “That’s what keeps me going.”
Playing sports throughout her life brought Montague to Western to study kinesiology. She aspires to one day work as a physiotherapist in sports rehabilitation, with a desire to help Black youth and women. She also plans to continue her advocacy work.
“I don’t think my passion for that will ever die,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll make that my career.”
This fall, Western also welcomed two other new Loran scholars.
Stephanie Urena Rodriguez is studying finance and consumer behaviour through the DAN Department of Management and Organizational Studies in the Faculty of Social Science. Megan Matlock is studying medical sciences at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
Loran Scholarships are Canada’s largest and most comprehensive undergraduate merit-based awards. Selection supersedes grades and is based on strength of character, a deep commitment to service, evidence of courage, compassion and entrepreneurial spirit.
The scholars receive a renewable four-year award valued at up to $100,000, comprising an annual $10,000 living stipend, a matching tuition waiver up to $10,000 from Western, up to $14,000 in funding for tri-sectoral summer work experiences in Canada and abroad, one-on-one mentorship, and the opportunity to connect with other high-potential youth through scholar gatherings.
Of the past 733 past and present Loran scholars, 40 have attended Western, including Patrick Hickey, HBA’19, who became a Rhodes Scholar in 2019.