Author: Adiki Puplampu
Date: 20 July 2023
Peter Menghesha’s journey to a Schulich Leadership Award began in the second grade at the APEGA Science Olympics. In the auditorium of the venue, Peter discovered a passion for a field he couldn’t yet name. He remembers asking his parents how he could turn the energy he felt in that auditorium into a career and his future in engineering quickly became clear.
Years later, that future was affirmed and brightened when Peter was awarded a Schulich Leadership Scholarship in Engineering. The Schulich Leadership Scholarship is one of Canada’s most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarships. Every high school in Canada can nominate a student, making it a highly competitive award. Awarded to 100 high school students across the country, the scholarship provides $120,000 in funding to engineering students and $100,000 for science and math students.
After passing the initial hurdle of being selected as the nominee from Archbishop McDonald high school, Peter submitted his application. With support from his teachers, school counselors, scholarship advisors, and with reference to an application he developed for the ELITE Program for Black Youth, Peter submitted and began the long wait. He’d read that some past winners from the University of Alberta had received calls while others had received emails. So every missed call and new email was loaded with possibility, until one day in second block English he received the call that he’d been anxiously waiting for. Standing in the hallway of his high school, Peter learned that he was a member of the newest cohort of Schulich Leadership Scholarship recipients.
Just a year earlier, Peter could not have imagined winning an award like this. Previously, to him, awards like this were out of his reach. But seeing his friend and fellow ELITE Program intern and alumnus, Jonathan Afowork, now a biology student at Princeton University, win several scholarships, showed Peter that coveted scholarships were not out of reach for him. Participating in the ELITE Program also helped to further broaden Peter’s horizons. Last summer, Peter worked in Dr. André McDonald’s Advanced Heat Transfer and Surface Technologies laboratory testing and fabricating coatings for various surfaces. Returning as an ELITE Program intern this summer, Peter will again be working in Dr. McDonald’s lab, this time on developing novel high-strength high-entropy alloy coatings for hydrogen deterioration and damage resistance. Peter cites limited knowledge of the professional opportunities and scholarships available to him as the biggest challenge he’s faced in his academic and professional career so far. But his participation in the ELITE Program has exposed him to an ever growing world of academic and professional opportunities.
As he continues to expand his professional horizons, Peter is also dedicated to supporting his community through his initiative, “Pursuit to Wholeness”. Created for his church community in collaboration with a few of his colleagues, the program aims to equip parents and youth to deal with the challenges of the modern world. Peter and his colleagues created this program to address the gaps they saw in the lives of parents and youth in their community. Pursuit to Wholeness hosts quarterly events and biweekly tutoring sessions, spotlighting the voices of successful individuals within the community to provide inspiration and mentorship to others. Their events have reached attendance levels of 100+ people.
If asked, Peter’s family and friends would describe him as driven. When he wants something he goes after it. This drive is clear in Peter’s commitment to his projects, his studies, and his career. Peter has big dreams. After finishing his degree in mechanical engineering, he plans to pursue an MBA with the ultimate goal of launching a firm or start-up in the engineering field focused on addressing problems that impact people’s everyday lives. While this start-up could take many shapes, one thing Peter knows for sure is that he wants to build a company that has a positive impact on the world.
This fall Peter officially begins his journey in engineering at the University of Alberta. Winning the Schulich Leadership Scholarship means that he can dedicate his time in school toward initiatives, hobbies, and projects that combine his enthusiasm for engineering and love of community. Through his hard work and drive Peter has already begun to realize his dreams, and from everything he’s accomplished so far and his plans for the future it’s clear that he’s just getting started.