While most students are getting ready to head back to school, one Thunder Bay student is getting ready to help change the world.
Gurleen Chahal, a recent graduate of the International Baccalaureate program at Sir Winston Churchill high school, will be attending Western University this fall as a Schulich Leader, where she plans to continue cancer research that she began while still in the 10th grade.
“I always wanted to help other people,” Chahal said in an interview with the Chronicle-Journal. “Whenever I would see horrors on CBC or commercials with children that are impoverished, I always wanted to help, even from a young age.”
Chahal is one of 40 students across Canada to be chosen as a Schulich Leader. As such, Chalah will receive a four-year $60,000 scholarship and will be given the opportunity to work with a mentor and undertake research at the undergraduate level.
In order to receive the scholarship, Chahal was nominated in her school and placed into a pool with more than 900 other nominees from across the country, from which 20 designated Canadian universities selected two Schulich Leaders.
The Schulich Leader Scholarship rewards excellence in academics and community leadership, and is designed for students interested in studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
Throughout her high school years, it was clear that Chahal wanted to make a difference. She has served as co-president of the student council, year book editor, co-founder of the Youth for World Change group that raised money for Doctors Without Borders and co-president of the debate club, along with playing on several sports teams. And that’s just her in-school activities.
Outside of school, Chahal was president of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council, a youth representative on the city’s crime prevention council, a volunteer in the surgical daycare ward at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and a young blood for life representative for Canadian Blood Services.
The IB program at Churchill is demanding enough for any student, but Chahal said she doesn’t put in the extra effort for her own benefit: she said she does it to help others and because of that she is able to find the time and energy.
“I think I find time for it because I love everything I do,” she said. “Nothing I do is just to boost my resume or just to say that I did it. Everything I do I have a passion for and I want to be there, and I find that when you want to do something, you can always find time for it.”
Of the many things Chahal has been involved in, her time as president of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council provided her with some of the most inspirational moments.
“I think that was one of the most inspiring things for me because I got to hear stories from kids who have been through really tough situations, but they came out of it in the end through perseverance,” she said.
Chahal said she doesn’t look at herself as role model for others. In fact, she looks to her classmates and friends, and most importantly, her mother and father as the role models in her life. But seeing this young woman’s aspirations and accomplishments so far, it’s hard not to think she is destined for great things.
Even though she is just entering university, Chahal is already making waves in the field of medical research. She plans to study biological and medical sciences as she continues to try to change the world. She will be researching homeopathic treatments for cancer, which is continuing the research she conducted for her Grade 10 science fair project where she conducted breast cancer research with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
“That entire experience and going through that and working with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine was inspiring and I want to keep pursing something like that with more resources that I will have available to me in my undergraduate studies,” she said. “That’s why I am doing what I’m doing. I want to study cancer research just so I can help more people and potentially find a cure.”