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SDSS student thrives amid adversity to earn prestigious scholarship

Nyah Gentry will chase her dream of becoming a veterinarian with $40,000 Beddie Luminaries scholarship

Nyah Gentry can’t wait to pursue her childhood dream come September at UBC.

The Grade 12 student at South Delta Secondary is a recipient of the $40,000 Beedie Luminaries scholarship that she will apply towards her studies to become a veterinarian.

The Beedie Luminaries were created for promising British Columbia students who are facing financial adversity, are “resilient and gritty” and ready to make a “positive change” in their lives.

The application process was extensive.

“I had to make a one-minute ‘future focus’ video, explaining where I see myself and what I want to do with my future,” explained Gentry. “I also had to write an essay on my volunteer contributions and extracurriculars, and another about my personal life and the things I have gone through and what it has made me into.”

Raised by a single parent her entire life, Gentry and her mom Stacey lived in her grandparents’ basement in Surrey before moving to Tsawwassen prior to her Grade 8 school year. They also welcomed into their new home a soon-to-be 40-year-old with autism.

It was through her work at the Delta Community Living Society, Stacey got to know Roger Au. They developed such a bond through weekend outings and the occasional overnight stays that Stacey was hired by the Sources Society to home share with Roger.

“He was just a really great fit for us and he ended up needing a home, so we decided making that transition move as a family to Tsawwassen,” recalled Gentry. “He is the closest thing I have as a brother.”

The adjustment of attending SDSS proved to be a significant one for Nyah.

Being mixed race was never an issue in Surrey, a city loaded with multiculturalism in every school. South Delta was a much different environment and some kids can be cruel, she said.

“In Surrey I just never stood out. As soon as I came to Tsawwassen, I had my hair natural and I would get pointed at and laughed at, even by my friends, because my hair was big so I decided to straighten it permanently so I wouldn’t get laughed at,” said Gentry. “I have had people yell the ‘N’ word at me in the hallways and then just run away. I was asked a lot if I was adopted because my mom is white.”

Gentry has come out of it all a better and a more determined person, thriving in the classroom that led to her university opportunities.

“It has only made me a stronger person,” she continued. “It’s all guys to be honest and I have definitely put them in their place. (Laughing) There is a reason they run away.”

Gentry said she will let her hair go “natural” again when it comes time to begin her studies at Point Grey. She has wanted to be a vet for as long as she can remember and the French Immersion student describes herself as a “science nerd.”

“I’ve never been so sure of anything more in my life. There not a single doubt in my mind of what I am supposed to do in my life. Being a vet is my purpose. The way I feel in the presence of animals is indescribable,” she added.

“I always thought when I go university I will be able to grow out my hair naturally and be who I am rather than conform to what the society is. “I’m really looking forward to meeting people from different countries. Meeting students with same passion and drive I have.”

Three other students in the Delta School District also received Beedie Luminaries scholarships.

They include Naba Naqvi and Matthew Chan from North Delta's Seaquam Secondary and Beatrice Sebastian from North Delta's Burnsview Secondary.

Ryan Beedie, through his foundation, Beedie Luminaries, has awarded $5.1 million in scholarships to 112 B.C. Grade 12 students as well as 15 single parents looking to pursue further education.

This is the third year that Beedie Luminaries has given scholarships to high school students and the first year that it has awarded them to single parents.