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Academics, leadership and creativity drive top scholars

By Antoinette Mercurio

Azra Jessa

Computer science student, sports fan and President’s National Entrance Scholarship winner Azra Jessa is excited about her first year at Ryerson.

It’s been one month since school started and Azra Jessa didn’t waste any time getting involved.

Jessa is a first-year computer science student and one of six 2013 President’s National Entrance Scholarship recipients. The President’s National Entrance Scholarship is a prestigious, renewable grant for academic excellence that provides up to $40,000 over four years. Recipients have to attain a final average of 90 per cent in six Grade 12 courses, demonstrate leadership qualities and creative ability.

Since starting Ryerson, Jessa has already joined for the Muslim Students' Association and the Computer Science Course Union.

Jessa's high school career was split between studying, sports and her Muslim community. In addition to maintaining a high GPA, Jessa was the athletic minister on student council, captain of the varsity basketball and softball teams, a softball umpire for the Unionville Markham Softball Association, and she volunteered at the Jaffari Community Centre and for the Young Muslims Athletic Association. She says sports help her prioritize and improve her time management skills.

Currently, Jessa remains active by playing on a rep softball team year-round and her mosque hosts pick-up sports on the weekends. 

"The main thing is they're [sports] fun," Jessa said. "You get to stay active without having to think about exercising. It's good team building, team work. And I like that game pressure; the excitement and energy of the game. It helps release endorphins and I feel more awake. I can get work done faster after practice."

One of few females in the computer science program, Jessa chose Ryerson because of its co-op education option. She took computer science in high school and "felt I had a knack for it so I decided to go into something that I enjoy."

Jessa's parents encouraged her to go to university. Even though her older sister, brother and father all attended the University of Toronto, Jessa chose to attend Ryerson.

"I love it. I love the campus, how it's central and surrounded by downtown," she said. "I love the people here, making new friends and the professors are helpful. They want you to succeed and are very open and receptive to your needs."

While high school is very different from university, Jessa has been handling the transition with a level-head. She appreciates how fast-paced lessons are and is learning how to prioritize and the different ways to study. Academics continue to be a top goal for her but she also wants to take on leadership roles in the clubs she's joined. 

"In university people are more focused on studying. It motivates me to study," she said. "What I like about university is that I can focus on what I want to do. It's humbling. You're just like everyone else and starting out the same way. I like the leadership opportunities and clubs available. I know I can find something and there's opportunity to start your own club."

Below is a list of the other 2013 President’s National Entrance Scholarship recipients:

-          Gelila Ephrem, international economics and finance – secretary of the Student Athletic Council; retreat leader for Grade 9 students; executive on Student Environmental Club and anti-bullying club; school representative at WE Day and Free the Children Conferences/Rallies; won the Award of Excellence at the Sears Drama Festival.

-          Bailey Bradshaw, urban and regional planning – member and co-president of Arts Council; leader for International Outreach Club; trumpet player and leader for concert and jazz band; volunteer for Hearthmakers Energy Cooperative; member of Environmental Club and Ecoschools Team; volunteer for Queen’s Development Initiatives Alliance.

-          Michaela St. Pierre, performance dance – student representative on Extremely Moving Youth Society board of directors; teacher at Leaping Feats Studio; grad class fashion show choreographer; tutor; Be the Change Movement mentor and ambassador.

-          Alessandro Profenna, architectural science – student leader for Grade 10 science class; member of Art Club; yearbook photographer for school trip to New York City.

-          Reva Arieli, business management – poster director for Earth Club; prom committee decoration team; competed in a York University Schulich School of Business case competition; volunteer at Angels in the Night; fundraiser volunteer for SickKids.