Top row (left to right): Kaia Martin, Julia Seymour, Aidan Ryckman-Millman, Lucas Guimares Ganem Porto, Leo Li, Mikayla Astroff
Bottom row: Teresa Siby, Katelyn Weinstein, Aidan Gunning, Clara Dmytryshyn, Eva Gharabaghi, Ella McGuigan, Laura Legzdins, Romy Levy

Fourteen incoming undergraduate students at the University of Guelph have received top entrance awards this year.

Eleven students received President’s Scholarships, which recognize high school achievements, leadership abilities and citizenship activities.

Two students received the Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarship, named for former longtime chancellor Lincoln Alexander. The award recognizes top students who have made significant community contributions and who are Indigenous, a member of a visible minority or a person with a disability.

One student has received the Franco J. Vaccarino President’s Scholarship. Named for former president Franco Vaccarino, this award recognizes a top international student who has made significant contributions to school and community and who has demonstrated leadership potential.

U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates and Dr. Cate Dewey, associate vice-president (academic), recognized scholar recipients during an online celebration held Oct. 7.

“Your U of G education and experience will give you an opportunity to learn, to grow, and ultimately to improve life for yourself and the wider world,” said Yates.

“This virtual event is your first opportunity to begin cultivating relationships with mentors and key University leaders. I encourage you to work with them and take advantage of opportunities on campus and in the wider community.”

The scholarships are worth $42,500 over four years and include an opportunity for a summer research assistantship worth an additional $9,500. Recipients are teams with a faculty member in their academic discipline.

The scholarship program has recognized more than 400 students since the first President’s Scholarships were awarded in 1987. The awards are funded mostly through donations from alumni, friends, faculty and staff.

This year’s recipients are:

Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarship

Leo Li

Li helped organize student teams to prepare for health science and neuroscience competitions. Selected for the Shad 2020 program for future leaders, he was a peer tutor and organizer of his school chess club and received the Principal’s Award for leadership. He coached youth basketball, volunteered in a hospital, organized a community park cleanup during the pandemic and volunteered at the local multicultural festival.
Mentor: Dr. Pavneesh Madan, Department of Biomedical Sciences. 

Teresa Siby

A student council member, Silby was elected as a student trustee of her school board and became student well-being co-chair of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association and, ultimately, president of the Catholic Board Council. During the pandemic, Teresa launched Student Supports to stem anxiety in students and promote safe connectivity in the community. She worked with the youth-led organization BrainSpace to reduce mental health stigma.
Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Monk, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. 

Dr. Franco J. Vaccarino President’s Scholar

Lucas Porto

Porto served on student council and advocated for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ2S+ rights and gender equality. Lucas founded the Together Initiative to provide resources and supplies to vulnerable community populations in North Bay, including fundraising for a social services organization. They joined a program to support exchange students, took part in an invited leadership and ambassador course, and served as a lead mentor in a student support centre.
Mentor: Dr. Tarek Saleh, Department of Biomedical Sciences. 

President’s Scholars

Mikayla Astroff

Astroff furthered social justice and activism through the Giants Network Community, a platform for youth leadership opportunities. As a co-founder of Youth Voices of Ontario, Mikayla has promoted student discussion of mental health. She co-led the HOSA Future Health Professionals Club in planning for a student leadership conference and helped run a youth ambassador program on youth homelessness.
Mentor: Dr. Ryan Appleby, Department of Clinical Studies. 

Clara Dmytryshyn

As student government president, Dmytryshyn led virtual student events during the pandemic and created the Kindness Connects club to foster compassion among younger students. As a participant in FORUM for Young Canadians, she engaged with students across the country and learned to think critically about important national issues. Through a global one health hackathon, Clara learned about climate change, infectious diseases and environmental health. Mentor: Dr. Tami Martino, Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Eva Gharabaghi

As a member of HOSA Future Health Professionals, Gharabaghi earned first place in the veterinary science category at an international leadership conference. A leader of her school eco-team, she organized projects to reduce plastic pollution and to make her school community more sustainable. She participated in numerous events held by Sustainable Milton, a community environmental organization.
Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Simpson, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. 

Aidan Gunning

Gunning was a member of the Students as Researchers team, where he helped lead a successful grant application for a community-building event to reduce student stress. He led an anti-bullying week event to ensure safe and inclusive school space and to raise funds for local youth services and mental health. A social media shout-out campaign led by Aidan recognized students and staff for acts of compassion.
Mentor: Dr. Kevin Keener, School of Engineering. 

Laura Legzdins

Named Canada’s Third Next Top Sustainability Leader and a Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award recipient, Legzdins created an initiative cutting ties with plastic mercury cell disposables in elementary schools. As an Environmental Council outreach coordinator, she collaborated to achieve Platinum Eco School certification, helped construct gardens for multiple conservation areas and implemented organizational systems for a top environmental consulting firm.
Mentor: Dr. Neil Rooney, School of Environmental Sciences.  

Romy Levy

Founder of the Because I Am a Girl club at her school, Levy addressed school leaders on gender equality and rights of girls globally. She led a fundraiser for gender equality initiatives and a signature campaign for Plan International’s “Change the Birth Story” program on sexual and reproductive health. As co-president of the youth business group DECA Ontario, she ensured a student voice for 15,000 members.
Mentor: Dr. Jim Petrik, Department of Biomedical Sciences. 

Kaia Martin

A member of her school Youth Leadership in Sustainability program, Martin led student climate rallies, including lobbying successfully for city councillors to declare a climate emergency. She co-chaired a local youth-led non-profit advocating for local and global change, including lobbying the school board to reduce plastic use in school cafeterias. She spoke at a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing on local nuclear pelleting and uranium processing.
Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Silver, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics.

Ella McGuigan

McGuigan co-founded a D&D group to help foster an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ community members. Through her own tutoring service for youngsters with ADHD and learning difficulties, she helped children improve their academic grades and fluency in reading and mathematics. She has been an internationally competitive swimmer and a band member and mentor.
Mentor: Dr. Katie Clow, Department of Population Medicine

Aidan Ryckman-Millman

Ryckman-Millman’s interest in science and technology led to his selection for the Shad program. A competitive swimmer and football player, he was an all-star baseball player and has participated in school music and theatre. Aidan served as a French immersion ambassador for middle schoolers and led in organizing outdoor activities as a camp counsellor.
Mentor: Dr. Abdallah El-Sayed, School of Engineering

Julia Seymour

As head of the Youth Ambassador Committee for a local women’s shelter, Seymour co-hosted a youth podcast and spearheaded awareness of domestic violence prevention. She led mental health and mentorship committees and served as an executive member of the Best Buddies program. She was a Silver Award achiever for the Duke of Edinburgh Program. Mentor:
Dr. Clara Cho, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences

Katelyn Weinstein

Weinstein organized a fundraising campaign to help stem preventable deaths in rural Guatemala for women and newborns lacking health care access. She launched a school mental health team and social media campaign and was a member of the board’s mental health advisory committee. Katelyn was an advocate and speaker for the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada and a disability advocate and youth ambassador with the Learning Disabilities Association of Halton-Hamilton.
Mentor: Dr. Kaitlyn McLachlan, Department of Psychology