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Saanich's St. Michael's University school lures top students with unique competition

Santiago Mazoy in the common room of his residence at St. Michaels University School, where he
Santiago Mazoy in the common room of his residence at St. Michaels University School, where he's a Grade 11 student. Mazoy, from Los Cabos, Mexico, won SMUS' Best School Year Ever contest with an impressive video. In three months he's already helped the school win the senior boys AA provincial soccer championship and finished 80th at the cross-country provincials.
— image credit: Travis Paterson/News staff

Like many of his classmates, Grade 11 newcomer Santiago Mazoy’s path to studying and living at St. Michaels University School has an inspiring story.

But the 17-year-old, from Los Cabos, Mexico, is unique as the first to win SMUS’ Best School Year Ever contest, which earned him a $50,000, two-year scholarship that began in September.

“I was actually (visiting) here five years ago and saw the campus when we picked up a friend who studied (at SMUS)," Mazoy recalls. "I knew then that I wanted to come back and study, so when I heard about the contest, I couldn’t wait to enter."

Entrants are judged on a video and the contest is open to Canadian and American high school students (locals included). Mazoy qualified as he was studying at a private school in San Diego, Calif. last year; this year's runner-up winners, Silke Kuhn and Alessandra Massa, hail from Abbotsford and Texas respectively and both received $10,000 scholarships.

Mazoy’s video backs up his passion for movie editing by splicing together catchy, engaging clips that represent his life to date, which he narrates from a chair in his room. He waited until the day before the March deadline to submit his application.

“I wanted to see what others were doing," he says. "But … I didn’t make any additional changes.”

SMUS is now launching the same contest for its upcoming 2015-16 school year for Grades 8 through 12, and the program is already off to a successful start, says SMUS head of school Bob Snowden.

“All of the (contest) candidates under consideration (this year) had very good academic results, and were all fully committed in extra-curricular areas of school life," Snowden says. "Another key element in the process was identifying the student’s capacity to be creative and to communicate well, both in writing and in person.”

Judging was extremely close, he says, and while Mazoy and his fellow winners did initially stand out, many candidates who presented themselves as sincere and articulate shone through.

The contest whittles applicants down to 30 semifinalists, with three finalists then earning a paid visit to SMUS with their parents. Those three finalists will undergo in-person interviews before a final decision is made.

As a promotion, the contest is going extremely well and helps SMUS’ brand extend its reach, Snowden says.

“We are pleased with the results, and pleased with the response in our target market. The students fit well into SMUS, and I believe they feel they have landed in the right place,” he says.

Mazoy enthusiastically admits the experience is indeed shaping up to be his best school year ever. Academically, he can’t get over the diverse number of advanced placement (collegiate level) courses available to him at SMUS. He’s currently enrolled in government and politics, and environmental sciences. Athletically, he finished second among his SMUS teammates at the cross-country provincials earlier this month (80th overall) and played right back for the Blue Jaguars soccer team as they won the senior boys provincial AA soccer championships last week.

“I usually get really nervous and somehow, I was totally focused in the provincial final (soccer game),” he said. “Last year this time, I’d never imagined that I’d be moving from (San Diego) to a boarding school in Canada where I didn’t know anyone. I’m having so much fun.”

Winning students who wish to continue attending SMUS but don’t have the means to pay for tuition after their winning year can enter the school’s financial aid pool, as SMUS awards more than $2 million annually to its students.

SMUS' Best School Year Ever contest closes Jan. 12 at midnight. For more information, visit bestschoolyearever.ca. See Mazoy’s winning entry from this year below.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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