Incoming student Brent Davison has always been driven to succeed.
Whether he’s in the classroom, in the pool or running his small business, “I like to be at the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “I like to win.”
Last year, Davison achieved a 96.4 per cent average at St. Maximillian Kolbe high school in Aurora, Ont., and he broke the school’s triathlon record by 12 minutes, all while managing his company Dive In Swim School, which saw revenues of $27,000 in 2021-22, topping every internet search for “swimming” in the area.
Davison joins Western this fall as one of the school’s six new Schulich Leaders. The national competitive swimmer was selected out of a pool of 350,000 potential candidates and from 1400 nominated students, to be named among the 100 recipients across Canada.
The prestigious award celebrates some of the country’s top achieving students, awarding $100,000 scholarships to students in engineering and $80,000 for students in science, technology or math.
In the pool most mornings by 5:30 a.m., Davison credits his sport for installing a discipline that’s served him well in achieving his goals.
“The only way to get good at swimming is to train hard. It’s as simple as that. It’s been a good life lesson.”
He’s looking forward to merging his entrepreneurial spirit and his aptitude in science and math pursuing a combined degree in engineering and business. He plans to spend his spare time training and representing Western on the Mustangs varsity swimming team.
“I’ve met a lot of great people through the sport, and I feel there’s a lot more swimming can teach me,” he said.
With an eye on his future goals, he hopes to one day start an engineering company focused on emerging technologies in the energy field.
“Energy is something everyone needs and has become a big issue in our society, especially with its impact on the environment,” he said. “This is an area where I’d like to help create something that could have a positive impact in this industry throughout the world.”
Supporting future innovators
For more than 10 years, the Schulich Leaders program has awarded scholarships to outstanding students choosing to study science, technology, engineering or math at one of 20 partner universities in Canada.
“This group of 100 outstanding students will represent the best and brightest Canada has to offer and will make great contributions to society, both on a national and global scale,” program founder and philanthropist Seymour Schulich said.
“With their university expenses covered, they can focus their time on their studies, research projects, extracurriculars, and entrepreneurial ventures. They are the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators.”
The other 2022 Western Schulich Leaders are:
Xander Chin, Toronto, Ont. (engineering)
Chin discovered his passion for applying math and science to real-world issues as a member and technical advisor in the Advanced Computer Engineering School program at his high school (Royal St. George’s College). He shared his expertise in hardware and software design as a mentor to younger students.
As a volunteer research assistant for the University Health Network, Chin collaborated with a Toronto anesthesiologist to help produce a low-cost 3D-printed infusion syringe pump for developing countries.
He hopes to one day lead innovative engineering projects to enhance human capabilities and quality of life through brain-computer interface devices.
Eric Hout, London, Ont. (science)
As a student at Westminster Secondary School, Hout led the school’s robotics team, holding in-depth coding sessions to help others develop and improve their skills. He also brought out the competitive drive in his volleyball teammates, helping capture the 2021 Thames Valley regional athletics championship. In addition to acting as an assistant coach for the girls’ volleyball teams, he managed activities to help newcomer youth develop logical and systematic thinking skills.
Hout aspires to create his own startup, combining the skills he will gain completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and a minor in business.
Holly Morton, Belleville, Ont. (science)
Morton takes pride in achieving academic excellence, maintaining a mid-to-high 90s average throughout her time at Eastside Secondary School. She has overcome physical challenges recovering from a major spinal injury and, with perseverance and resilience, returned to school much earlier than expected, without any drop in her grades.
She loves the concept of designing and implementing new ideas and hopes to one day lead the design, build and launch of new satellites and other types of technology.
Marianna Speranza, King City, Ont. (science)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Speranza and her sister started The Business Casual podcast to ensure young women could continue to learn from accomplished mentors. The show features interviews with female trailblazers in tech and business and streams in more than 50 countries. Speranza also founded the first tech club at her high school (The Country Day School), developing a weekly curriculum for 30 students.
A former Ontario provincial officer for DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), she hopes to advance the field of computer science by starting her own business and spearheading an artificial intelligence program that mimics the framework of the human neural cortex.
Tina Xu, Waterloo, Ont. (engineering)
Xu is the founder and president of Supportive Teens, a COVID-19 relief fundraiser. Partnering with her local food bank and the Canadian Red Cross, her team raised more than $5,000 and provided more than 3,200 meals to people in need.
She also co-founded Sensify through the MIT LaunchX 2021 program, a company that aims to help the hard-of-hearing community overcome hearing barriers not addressed by current hearing aids.
The Laurel Heights Secondary School graduate hopes to continue and scale-up her work with Sensify, advancing and commercializing forefront technology to improve lives of hearing-impaired individuals.
*Shaelagh Stephan of Martensville, Sask., is also attending Western this fall on a Schulich Leaders scholarship. Stephan was part of the 2021 cohort, but deferred her attendance for a year.