Meet this year’s Schulich Leaders: Darlene Cuevas
An exceptional student who uses her skills and knowledge for the betterment of everyone around her, Darlene Cuevas is entering the Price Faculty of Engineering this fall as one of the two 2021 University of Manitoba Schulich Leader Scholarship recipients.
At only 16 years of age, she is looking forward to taking the first step towards her dream of pushing the limits of science.
“I tried my best in all subjects, but I found that it is easier for me to enjoy those in science and mathematics,” Cuevas says. “Once I came across engineering and specifically biosystems engineering, reading about the program helped me realize that this is a path for me.”
Cuevas is excited about the highly competitive program’s biological aspects and the challenge of merging them with engineering. She is also intrigued by the many real-world applications of the knowledge and experiences she hopes to gain in the field, such as using innovative technology to address global sustainability issues.
When Cuevas and her family immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in October 2019, she needed to adjust to major changes. Life in a new country was, in some ways, a daunting and unpredictable experience, and coupled with the pandemic, it was a momentous personal transition for Cuevas. Despite these challenges, her dedication to doing well in her studies remained unchanged.
After attending her first week of classes at St. John’s High School, Cuevas’s teachers were in immediate awe of her intelligence and work ethic. The school granted her an acceleration after she excelled at academic assessments, allowing her to complete her grade 10 and grade 11 years in less than half the usual time and graduate early. Nominating her as the school’s representative for this year’s Schulich Leader Scholarship was a clear choice.
“Darlene is a leader, an organizer, a thinker, a dreamer, an athlete and above all, an empathic connector who is able to bring people together in service for a greater cause,” Phoebe Proven, St. John’s High School guidance counsellor, says in her endorsement letter for Cuevas. “It takes a pretty incredible person to move to the other side of the world, start a new life in a new city and a new high school and still rise up to claim the top academic spot. Darlene inspires those around her to be the best version of themselves. This gifted and hard-working young woman will be one to lead us all.”
Cuevas’s achievements included serving as the co-chair of her high school’s Youth in Philanthropy Committee, an initiative that allowed Cuevas and the committee to support charitable organizations in Winnipeg through financial donations and volunteer work.
She was also a founding member and the Filipino representative in the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) Student Union at St. John’s, a student group whose objectives include raising awareness about historical events that are not included in regular history curricula. The group also provides opportunities for students to learn about other cultures – an even more special part for Cuevas. Not only did she take an active role in discussing issues that impact marginalized groups, but she also continued to learn about other cultures in Winnipeg and enriched her perspectives of the world.
Beyond receiving $100,000 to allow her to focus on her education, being named a Schulich Leader has an even greater meaning for Cuevas: “I see this opportunity as a responsibility to fulfill that end goal of making change. The Schulich Foundation awards these scholarships to fund young students who would contribute to innovation in the future, who would help our world be a better place for all who live in it.”
The Schulich Leader Scholarship is awarded every year to students enrolling in a STEM program at a Canadian university. Cuevas was selected for the entrance award based on her academic achievements, leadership, and community service. She is one of two UM students to receive the award this year. Read about the other student, Jordon Hong.