Saskatoon student awarded two $100,000 scholarships

Kai Chen was offered two Schulich Leader Scholarships.

Kai Chen graduated from Bishop James Mahoney High School with two $100,000 scholarships.

"I first heard back from the (University of Saskatchewan) in late March," Chen said. "They just kind of gave me a call and let me know that I won this incredible scholarship. So I accepted it.

"But two months later, I got an email from the (University of Toronto). And they basically told me that I had won the scholarship there as well, too."

Chen said he decided to take the Toronto offer.

"It was a pretty hard decision deciding to move away from home, which is Saskatoon for me. But I ended up changing my decision and accepting the U of T offer instead."

STEM SCHOLARSHIP

Chen was offered two Schulich Leader scholarships. The program's website bills it as Canada's "most coveted" Science, Technology, Engineering and Math scholarship.

The scholarship was started in 2012 by businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich.

There are 350,000 candidates across the country and 1,400 students nominated. From that list, 100 scholarships were awarded — each worth $100,000.

Chen was one of six Saskatchewan students to receive a scholarship. Other winners include Caleb Melin, Nikko Po, Hunaid Khan, and Sarah Ens.

LOVE OF FLIGHT

Chen will be studying mechanical engineering and thinks he may end up in aerospace or aviation.

"I've always loved aviation," Chen said.

"Growing up as a kid, I flew around quite a bit. I was a bit of a frequent flyer, I guess. And I started taking note of every little moving part and I found it absolutely fascinating."

He also participated in the Air Cadet program that fueled his love of aviation.

"I've learned all about aviation and the technology that goes into all these moving objects and parts on planes. So I really think that engineering is a good fit for me."

Tuition for the program is $14,180 per year, and while the scholarship won't cover all his expenses, Chen said it was still a big relief.

"Unfortunately, $100,000 isn't even going to be enough for my four years of undergrad. But it is just a massive, massive portion of it. And, you know, without it, I don't even know if I would be able to attend the U of T without having to go into quite a bit of debt. It's just a huge weight off of my shoulders."

OUTSTANDING STUDENT

Chen has spent the last several years preparing for his future. During the pandemic, he co-founded a not-for-profit organization that turns plastic bottles into material that can be used by 3D printers.

"We were able to become the first people in Canada and even North America to directly recycle 3D plastic bottles into 3D printing filament is pretty awesome," Chen said.

"Through that company, we were able to partner with a whole bunch of groups," he said, adding some of those working with him including the Saskatoon Catholic School Foundation, Canadian Wildlife Foundation's wild outside program, and some professors at U of S and U of R.

"Being able to partner with so many incredible groups, and to get that experience that we wouldn't have been able to gain, you know, in school or through other extracurricular activities."