For the past month, high school students across Canada have pondered the concept of wellness, what it means to them, how it shapes their lives, and how best to access it.
It is part of a highly competitive, experiential month-long program hosted by universities across the country.
Each year, the Shad program receives approximately 2,000 applications. Half of those 10th and 11th grade students are accepted into the program for an opportunity to expand their science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) skills.
This year, the program, held in person at 18 campuses, began on July 2 and ends on Friday.
In Sudbury, Ont., Laurentian University first hosted the Shad program in 2021, but it was pretty much done because of the pandemic. This year marks the first time that the school has personally welcomed students.
Our idea was that we would buy office space that is not being used by companies due to the pandemic and convert it into apartment spaces.– Victoria ZhangLiu, 11th grade student from Waterloo, Ont.
“The goal of the program is to challenge these high-achieving high school students for a month,” said Thomas Merritt, co-director of the Shad Laurentian program.
According to the Shad Canada website, the program began in Aurora, Ontario, as Shad Valley. Shad Canada now offers a widespread STEAM and entrepreneurship program for grade 10 and 11 students. There is an annual selection process to determine the participants.
During this month, Merritt said, students have put their heads together to come up with business pitches centered on wellness.
“We have things like a urinalysis machine and we have an app to be less of a perfectionist. The spectrum is amazing,” he said.
Theo McTavish, 16, is a high school student from Mission Secondary School in BC. Their group pitched an app for their business idea.
“It’s for teens who struggle with perfectionism,” Theo said. “There was goal setting and a social feature where you could talk to people who had similar experiences to you.”
Theo noted that while it seemed daunting at first to start the program, the students were glad they made the leap to apply.
“It was really scary. You had to write about four essays. I honestly didn’t think I’d get into it.”
Victoria ZhangLiu is a Grade 11 student from Waterloo, Ont. Her group focused on improving the well-being of Canadians by addressing the Ontario housing crisis.
“Our idea was that we would buy office space that is not being used by companies because of the pandemic and convert it into apartment spaces where we would rent out people to live and buy them later if they wanted to.”
While the Shad program allows students to engage in hands-on learning and skill building, Merritt said the core of the initiative is the desire to bring students out of their shell and realize their potential.
“The most impressive thing is seeing these students open up and discover a little bit more about who they are, but also who the people around them are and that mutual growth over the course of the month.”
Victoria said completing the program has made her excited for the future.
“I feel better at what I want to do and I’m more confident that I can definitely achieve it,” said the teen.
In addition to university-level classes and STEAM workshops, students had the opportunity to build strong friendships and experience student life for the first time.
“I’ve met a lot of people who are similar to me and I’ve met a lot of different people, and it’s really given me a new outlook on life,” Theo said.
morning north7:17High school students across the country seek to improve Canadians’ access to wellness through STEAM education