Student wins major scholarship for extra-curricular activities

By Ian Foster
Bishops College
St. John's, Newfoundland

Jeff Baggs, a Grade 12 student at Bishops College in St. John's, has won the Canadian Merit Scholarship. The Garfield Weston Award includes full tuition, residence, and incidental costs towards an undergraduate degree at any Canadian University. This prestigious award is worth a total of up to $45,000. Jeff sat down with a SNN reporter recently to talk about his success.

SNN: Can you give us a little background information on yourself?

Jeff Baggs: I'm a level 3 student at Bishops College, and I do a lot of public speaking, I work in theatre and music. I like to stage-manage, and to produce shows; that's one of the things I do a lot of. I like to read, and write. Don't like the arithmetic so much <laugh>...and I'm a Newfoundlander.

SNN: Did you apply for this scholarship. How did you get involved in the CMSF?

J.B: I was actually presented with an application form, back earlier on in the Fall. Usually each June the Guidance Counselor will pick out several people who they believe to be able to handle the pressure. At first I wasn't considered, but I received the application after, and decided to fill it out, not expecting anything to come of it.

SNN: The CMSF consists of a couple of days of intensive interviews. What do those interviews consist of?

J.B: They take your application, and there are a certain number of provincial finalists. 10 of us. We had a day of interviews with teachers and university professors, who wanted to get a feel for who we were, and what we were interested in. Myself and Cathleen Simmons were selected to go Toronto for national interviews. Four over two days. Those were pretty much the same thing, except there were more people there, and a bit more stressful. It was still a lot of fun, though.

SNN: What did they ask you?

J.B: They really look for academics. They look for the numbers. They don't always examine everything else that makes up who we are as people. This is what the CMSfF does; they focus primarily on what your ambitions are, what particular qualities you possess. They look for leadership and...maybe a particular streak of Madness. They must of seen I was a little bit cracked. <smiles>

SNN: Did the public speaking you did at the Ravenscourt speak-offs help in preparing you for the CMSF interviews?

J.B: I think that having the public speaking background really did help me, and having the ability of articulate what you're thinking and carry yourself really helps.

SNN: What do you think gave you the edge over the other contestants? What do you think the committee was looking for?

J.B: I don't know if you'd really call it an edge. In Toronto it was really hard to tell what was going to happen. There were people from all across the country, and we'd all just met each other. We didn't know what each person had done. It was a sort of strange, but when you get into that type of situation, the ways people react under pressure is really amazing. Some people become very nervous, while others chronically complain, which crosses them off the list automatically. I just didn't let the pressure of the situation get to me.

Jeff talks about the
winning edge

I basically said to myself that there were "a bunch of people here who want to talk to me." I think that a lot of people built themselves up for almost an interrogation, and what they must realize is that that's not what the CMSF is looking for. I think being about to establish a comfortable mood in the interview really helped.

SNN: How did you prepare yourself?

J.B: Well, about two weeks prior to the interviews our mid-year exams started. I had more exams than usual; about six or seven, and so that was kind of stressful. I had a few days off at the end of the exam schedule, and on the last day I was on a plane to Winnipeg. I was there for five days; a really rigorous tournament out there. I came home on day five of that trip and stayed for about a day and a half. From that point I went to Toronto, so I never really had the chance to prepare, other than get used to the fact that I'd be running around an awful lot.

SNN: How long have you been involved in public speaking?

J.B: Well, I've done a lot of work in drama, stage management and acting. In regards to actual public speaking, I got involved in Junior High. I just felt that it was a great vehicle for being able to speak out about things I believe in; to persuade people and to convince people about my views. It's something that I really enjoy.

SNN: How does it feel to have accomplished what you have?

J.B: There's been a lot of people saying "You must be really proud of yourself" and "It must be a tremendous weight off your shoulders with the scholarship", but the way I look at it is there's going to be so much more from here on in, and I won't be doing a lot of sleeping I don't think. <laugh>

SNN: What are you planning to do?

J.B: I'm going to the University of King's College in Halifax in the fall to do a foundation year program which will lead to an Arts Degree of some kind.

SNN: Do you have any words for people who are planning on getting involved in the CMSF?

J.B: They are a fabulous group of people. The executive director is someone who will answer her own phone, and ask how you've been. It's great. They really want to know who you are as a person. So if you want to get involved, don't worry about your marks too much. Just fill out the application and something really good may come of it.