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Julia Gaidychuk, Whitby

Julia’s application immediately captured the attention of EKO’s Scholarship Review Committee with her opening statement, “I’ve worked hard to get where I am today.”

She began her studies in the applied program at Henry Street High School in Whitby. Julia realized that having physical restrictions didn’t mean she needed educational limits, too. In Grade 11 she developed a plan that would take her where she wants to go: attending McMaster University to study English and Philosophy, and then continuing on to teacher’s college. Julia set her sights on a career in education because teachers have been a huge influence in her own success. She wants to give back the same way.

Transitioning to the school’s academic stream was not easy. Mary Pucknell, Julia’s Grade 9 English teacher, says there wasn’t a great deal of support for her decision to change streams; Julia had to become her own advocate. She notes that while Julia is an exceptional student, it is her journey that makes her exceptional.

Julia took extra courses to prove she was capable of achieving at the new level, worked extremely hard to maintain her average and consistently produced thoughtful and well-organized assignments. She completed all of her required volunteer hours and then some. Julia helped out at the Durham Regional Police Games, and has given hundreds of hours to her school’s theatre program—as an actor, stage manager and a member of the tech crew—always making sure others can shine. Henry High School Teacher Dave McKay worked with Julia on several theatrical productions and notes that Julia was nearly always the first to arrive and the last to leave even though she rarely received any applause for her efforts. She continues to volunteer, assisting students with exceptional needs participate in a welcoming environment.

She completed her studies as an award-winning university stream graduate, finished the year on the Honour Roll, and received acceptances from several university programs including her first choice: McMaster University.

Julia’s physical and learning challenges make her success even more impressive. Born with bilateral club feet, Julia had numerous surgeries to maintain what is considered a “normally’ positioned foot. Physiotherapists at Grandview Children’s Centre assisted Julia with leg braces and orthotics that help stabilize her balance and keep her from falling. Julia has struggled with depression and anxiety, and while she says she still has bad days, she receives help and feels supported by everyone at school and at home. “At the end of the day, all these barriers and experiences added to my success because it allowed me to grow as a student and a person.”

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