Bettina Rillera is proof grades aren’t everything.
Even though the Chilliwack secondary school student finished Grade 11 with a respectable high B average, she was unsure she’d be accepted into Shad Valley. So much so, she left her application to the four-week summer enrichment program to the last minute.
With just one week before the deadline, at the urging of both her mother and sister, Rillera scrambled to write three essays, put together a resume, gather reference letters, and create a chart of all her extracurricular activities, employment and volunteering commitments.
“I wasn’t actually going to apply, I honestly thought I wasn’t capable of being accepted into something like this,” she said. “I just thought that other people would probably have way better marks, way better extracurriculars, way better self confidence. I just didn’t think I was good enough.”
Her family, her supporters, and Shad Valley all thought otherwise.
This Sunday Rillera is heading to the University of Saskatchewan for the Shad Valley program.
Out of more than 1,200 applicants, Rillera was one of 620 youth selected, and the only one from Chilliwack.
Shad Valley is a four-week, summer-enrichment program for hard-working, highly academic, driven high school students interested in areas of science, engineering, technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and mathematics.
It has campuses at 12 universities across Canada, and gives participants a first look into university life with daily workshops, lectures, projects and team-building exercises.
It’s an educational journey meant to push intellectual, creative, and leadership skills to the next level.
Rillera was surprised by her acceptance, but guessed her volunteer endeavours had something to do with it.
Since she was 11 or 12, Rillera has been volunteering for an assortment of agencies. Before being hired as a swim instructor, she volunteered at the YMCA with child-minding and as a helper with swim lessons; she’s ben a camp counsellor; volunteered for the Rotary Club; and for the last two years, has been vice president on student council at Chilliwack secondary. She’s also an active member in the CSS Envirothon Club, a competitive soccer player, and a budding artist.
“I think it was, honestly, my all-around volunteering,” she said. “Grades aren’t everything, they want to see a well-rounded person.
“I didn’t really think volunteering would help out in the end, I just did it because my mom thought it would be good for me.”
Shad Valley is recognized by universities across Canada and is considered for university admissions and scholarship decisions. Several universities have scholarships geared specifically for Shad Valley graduates.
Rillera, who’s looking at a career in forensics, hopes the experience will boost her confidence.
“I think it will help me push myself more into studying and thinking at a higher a level, a university level, for my grad year so that I’m better prepared for university,” she said.
Tuition for Shad is $4,100. The organization gave Rillera a $1,500 bursary. She covered the rest through the support of the community, with sponsorships from the Chilliwack Children’s Foundation, Chilliwack Optimist Club, Chilliwack secondary PAC, CSS principal Rick Jones and biology teacher Connie Williams.
Shad alumni include Rhodes scholars, Loran scholars, Top 20 Under 20 and Top 40 Under 40 honourees, Schulich leaders, patent holders, award-winning researchers, visionary entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders.