Hemanya Sharma was tired from soccer practice and was ready for bed when she saw the email she had been waiting for.
She got it! Sharma was one of 20 people from across Canada selected for the $70,000 TD Scholarship for Community Leadership.
She quickly jumped out of bed and ran to tell her dad, Vishal.
Vishal recalled that moment. He was about to fall asleep when Hemanya burst into his room screaming with excitement, “Dad, I won the scholarship.” Vishal was initially speechless. He was so excited for his daughter. They called her mother, who was out of town, to tell her the news.
For her part, Sharma was ecstatic.
“I couldn’t believe that I’d actually achieved the award that I’ve actually been dreaming of for years because I’d been looking at applying for the scholarship when I was in grade 10,” Sharma said.
The scholarship is “insane,” she added.
Sharma can receive up to $10,000 for tuition and $7,500 for living expenses each year. She will also have opportunities for paid summer employment, peer networking and mentorship.
“It not only covers the financial burden of post-secondary, it also gives me a lot of time that I need to not only study for school, but to also expand my initiatives and work towards continuing to make a positive impact in my community.”
In 2021 Sharma started an after-school program in Surrey with the hopes of getting girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Sharma was first introduced to the world of STEM through robotics in fifth grade. Every week her dad would drive her to Science World in Vancouver for robotics classes.
Sharma knew that not every girl had the same access to robotics as she did. So she wanted to make STEM more accessible to elementary girls in the community. She also noticed that not many girls were taking STEM classes.
As a result, she started the We Can STEM program in January 2021. The free after-school program is for girls and provides them with the space to step out of their comfort zone and expose them to the world of coding and outer space. Sharma said the hope is that these girls will walk away knowing they, too can do STEM.
She will continue to be involved in the program while she is at UBC. The program has been run at Green Timbers school and Janice Churchill Elementary school.
Sharma hopes to expand the program to more schools in Surrey.