St. Michaels grad earns prestigious scholarship

Saanich student will be heading to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ryan Totz stands outside St. Michael’s University School with Andy Rodford

Ryan Totz stands outside St. Michael’s University School with Andy Rodford

A passion for learning and a boundless energy for volunteering has opened up a world of opportunities for Saanich’s Ryan Totz. The graduating St. Michaels University School student is one of just three Canadian high school seniors to be selected for the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship.

Totz is among the 66 scholars selected out of the thousands of applicants from around the world. In addition to a full four-year scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Totz will have the opportunity to take part in summer experiences around the world in fields such as outdoor leadership, public service, in-depth research and private enterprise.

“The cool thing about the scholarship is that every summer they also have a fully paid-for summer enrichment program. This summer I’m going to go to Wyoming and do a wilderness emergency rescue course,” said Totz, who leaves for Wyoming at the end of June.

Totz selected the wildlife rescue course over other options that would have sent him backpacking in Alaska or kayaking in the Yukon, saying the wildlife rescue course fits in with his plans to study medicine in the future.

“These summer enrichment programs are supposed to give you an idea of what you might want to do after you graduate from school,” he said. “It might be something like teaching English in rural Cambodia, it can be something absolutely incredible. That’s one of the reasons I love the scholarship so much.”

Totz hopes to double-major while at North Carolina, considering a degree in medicine as well as economics and statistics. No matter which route Totz eventually does take, there’s no doubting the value of his education – the four-year scholarship to the University of North Carolina is worth more than $200,000 US.

“Probably the best thing about the scholarship isn’t even the financial flexibility of it, it’s the fact that you have an amazing alumni system,” said Totz, pointng to the more than 3,000 scholarship alumni. “One of the people who interviewed me, he is a past scholar and he’s the owner of X-Box. He just sent me an email after I learned about winning the scholarship. The networking is probably the most incredible part.”

That interview was the culmination of an extensive application process that Totz worked his way through over a several month period.

“The application was massive. It was two full essays and about three or four smaller paragraph responses and a whole bunch of different smaller sentences describing your community service, academics, leadership and athletics,” said Totz.

He was aided by his active involvement in the community. He volunteers for Community Living Victoria, working with the Victoria Opportunities for Community Youth Leadership as well as helping out at a Byte Camp teaching children with autism skills such as making computer games, music videos and claymation. He grew up playing hockey, before eventually switching over to focus on rowing with the Victoria City Rowing Club, recently being part of the varsity eight crew to bring the Brentwood Regatta title back to Canada after a decade’s absence. He still referees with minor hockey, and is the youngest lifeguard working at Saanich Commonwealth Pool.

“I couldn’t have completed the application without doing all the things I previously have done in my entire life,” he said.

Totz and the other scholarship finalists were invited to Chapel Hill for a tour of the school back in March. That visit happened to coincide with the UNC Tar Heels’ epic 76-72 win over Duke to lock up top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the March Madness tournament.

“Everybody stormed this street called Franklin Street, all the students and teachers and people living in Chapel Hill.”

About a week later Totz learned the status of his application. He was in the midst of a physics test during his final class before spring break.

“I was writing a physics test and about halfway through my test my phone kept on buzzing and ringing. I was trying to ignore it, I was kind of embarrassed I forgot to turn it off.”

Knowing the school was scheduled to call that day, Totz couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, picking up the phone and learning that he had been accepted for the scholarship.

“I jumped up in the air and left the class to talk to my academic advisor, Ms. McCallum, she’s helped me out so much throughout the year with everything,” said Totz, who then tracked down the teachers who had written recommendations for him and thanked them.

“Then after school was done I went back to the physics class and finished my test.”

Alison McCallum, director of university counselling at St. Michaels, isn’t surprised by the success achieved by Totz.

“When you look at the criteria for the scholarship and the qualities they’re looking for, he exemplifies them,” she said.

McCallum worked with Totz in putting together his application for the scholarship, calling it a demanding process. “But Ryan just methodically worked through every step along the way.”

She said it’s that persistence that has been a strength for Totz during his years at St. Michaels.

“He wants to do all these things and wants to do each of them really well, whether it’s athletics or service to his community or academics. Everything he does he puts his absolute best effort in.”

 

Just Posted

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The Victoria woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Anita Troop officially turns 100 on Sunday and cards are pouring in from around the world. (Courtesy Marina Miller)
Cards roll in from around the world for West Shore 100 year old

About 100 cards have come for the woman who turns 100 on Sunday

A cardboard man bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s royal cipher has been placed in a window at the Royal Theatre for at least several days. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Mysterious cardboard figure appears in Victoria’s Royal Theatre window

The identity of the figure, which was moved there amid cleaning, remains unknown

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Most Read