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How I Won the Loran Scholarship: A Conversation with Laura Doyle Péan of CEGEP Limoilou

Written by Alex McMurray

We here at Student Life Network recently congratulated the 2019 winners of the Loran Scholarship. A small group of extremely incredible students, these young people have proved that you can accomplish great things if you are genuine, confident, and put the work in. In an effort to help all of you, we’ve tried to get in contact with as many of the winners as possible. This series will help to tell their stories and give you some tips and tricks for scholarships. Hopefully, it will encourage you to take the first step towards your new future!

We had the opportunity to speak with Laura Doyle Péan from CEGEP Limoilou in Quebec City, QC. They are the secretary of the board of directors of TCMHNQ, which is responsible for the Black History Month in Québec. Plus, they’re in charge of communications for EUMC Linoilou. I had some specific questions for them, but I began by asking them to tell me about themselves and their decision to apply for the scholarship…

So, tell me about yourself. Who are you, and why did you apply for this scholarship?

I’m a 19-year-old non-binary student from Quebec. My dad was born in Haiti and my mom in Quebec from an Irish family. I’m currently studying communication and cinema in CEGEP and I’ll be going to law school next year.

One of the projects I’m most proud of is my participation in the creation of a WUSC local committee in my CEGEP. At the moment, I am the head of communication and spokesperson for that committee, which raised almost $44,000 to sponsor two refugee students and allow them to move to Canada, become permanent residents and continue their post-secondary education. We welcomed the first sponsored student last August and the next one will arrive this summer. We’re in charge of helping them navigate the different resources available in the community, find a job, etc. and raising awareness on forced migration. Currently, there are more than 80 local committees in post-secondary campuses across Canada, but our school was one of the first CEGEP (with Lévis-Lauzon) to sponsor a student. I aim to inspire other schools to join the movement as well, and students at my school to get involved.

Apart from this project, I also work, as a director and the secretary, for the board of directors of the Table de Concertation du Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs de Québec (TCMHNQ, or Concertation Table for the Black History Month in Quebec City). Black History Month takes place every year in February. Our work is to coordinate the various activities taking place during the month. This year, we’re celebrating the 390th anniversary of the arrival of Olivier LeJeune in Quebec City, the first black resident of Canada and one of the first students in our history.

I’m also the DG of my school newspaper and a member of the LGBT+, Women/feminist and politics/mobilization committees. Finally, I work as a librarian and I’m a dancer.

Some of the things that matter most to me are equality, social justice, and representation. I feel that every voice has to be represented and heard. Everyone should have access to a great education. No one should be discriminated against because of their race, religious beliefs, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, Gender expression, origins, physical limitations, etc.

I applied to the scholarship because I felt like it was a great tool to push my engagements further and have a greater impact on society. Furthermore, I was hoping that it would give visibility to the projects I’m working on and inspire other people to follow their passion and use their abilities to work for a world where everyone feels safe, represented, respected and listened.

What do you think students need to succeed? What needs to change in society, politics or elsewhere to improve the education system?

To answer that question I feel like it is important to first define success. For me, success doesn’t necessarily mean having good grades, but mostly loving what you do and feeling like you are doing the right thing. Once you get there, nothing will be able to stop you from reaching your goals, no matter what happens. If you’re doing what’s right, things will fall into place. It requires hard work, dedication, and patience. It’s not always going to be easy, but it’s going to work sooner or later.

As for what needs to change, first of all, I think that school should be more affordable. It’s not too bad in Quebec but it seems extremely expensive in other provinces. Everyone should have the opportunity to go and learn. Education is a great tool of empowerment. It gives people the power to act on issues they care about and influence policies. Second of all, I think that the school system should less be focused on performance and more on progress, thus allowing students to grow at their own pace. The Scandinavian and especially Norwegian system is a good model for us to emulate.

What advice do you have for other students applying to this or any other scholarship?

First of all, give yourself time! Look up the deadlines for the scholarships you want to apply to and start working on your application as soon as you can. Plus, asking for help is not cheating! Ask other people to read what you wrote and tell you if it makes sense. Be genuine. Then, if you fit the criteria, apply. You have nothing to lose.

Finally, it was said to us at least 200 times during the weekend in Toronto and almost became a running gag, but it’s still true: be yourself. It’s not a job interview nor a competition. The interviewers aren’t trying to trick you, they just want to get to know you. Try to get to know them and the other candidates as well and you’ll have way more fun.

How do you feel about the transition from high school to post-secondary? Do you have any advice for other students regarding that change?

For your readers in other provinces, let me explain: since I live in Quebec City, I’m currently a CEGEP student. I graduated from High school almost two years ago. Therefore, I’m already in post-secondary education.

The transition for me was pretty easy. I had known what I wanted to do for a long time since my engagement in society had allowed me to learn and reflect a lot about myself, my dreams, my aspirations. When I got to CEGEP, I knew 2 or 3 people in my new school, max. However, I got involved in 6 committees the next week and made lots of friends. Getting involved in activities that you like is always a good way to meet new people. You build a strong sense of community.

What I like to say to students who are graduating from High school and nervous about the future is this: I finished high school almost two years ago and I was very sad about leaving. I still miss it sometimes, but some of my teachers became really close friends and I still see my friends from high school on a regular basis even though we aren’t at the same school anymore. We spent new year’s eve together, and had brunch on new year, and celebrate each others birthdays.

It’s a new chapter of your lives starting and even though you might be sad about it, which I totally understand because I was too, cherish the beautiful memories you have and be excited for all the great things future holds for you all. Don’t be afraid to make some mistakes along your path as they are nothing but an opportunity to learn. You don’t have to know right now what you want to do in thirty years. It can change. It probably will and it’s totally fine. You’ll be able to go back, try new things, learn, grow. You don’t have to do only one thing, it is perfectly fine to have multiple interests.

Look at me, I did two years in communication and cinema and I’m going to law school. All of those interests are a part of you that you need to embrace and celebrate, but don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone and explore things that you had never thought about before either.

What do you hope to accomplish during or after post-secondary?

I want to publish my first book, and join the WUSC local committee at my university. I want to get my law degree and then work for an international ONG that works on issues concerning human rights, whether it is LGBT+ rights, refugee rights, women rights, or others. Then, I would like to offer my time to a local organization and work with victims of domestic violence or immigrants. That’s one of the many scenarios I have in mind, but I’m fully aware that it might change.

I’m also thinking of studying criminology and psychology, so we never know what the future might hold. Basically, I want to use my skills to keep doing what I have been doing for the last 7 years: defending human rights and working with marginalized communities in order to help them empower themselves and help them take control over their own narratives and stories.

That’s incredible! To finish, what’s one fun fact about yourself? Is there anything you want to plug?

  1. I’m currently working on a collection of poems in French, which is my first language that will be published soon. It’s an incredibly humbling and exciting experience and I am loving every single second of it.
  2. I’m currently learning Haitian Creole.
  3. Gaëlle Mével and I went to high school together and were in the same music harmony band.

Sounds great! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Laura. We really appreciate it. Once again, congratulations on being awesome!

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.