Two students with exceptional academic accomplishments and notable out-of-classroom pursuits, have been chosen for a scholarship and an educational award by the Chubb Charitable Foundation — Bermuda.
Leah Smith and Chiyaro Wedderburn are both heading to New York to continue their studies, and will benefit from financial backing and support from Chubb.
Ms Smith is pursuing a career as an actuary, and she has been named the 2017 Robert Clements Scholar. It is a fully funded four-year scholarship open to Bermudians studying for an undergraduate or graduate degree in insurance, risk management, actuarial science or other discipline related to the insurance industry.
A former student of Somersfield Academy, she graduated with high honours from IMG Academy in Florida this year. She was recognised as a 2017 Advanced Placement Honour student based on scores in calculus, chemistry, statistics, English composition and world history.
Ms Smith said her mother is an actuary, and that led to her interest in the field, but it was not until her junior year at high school, where she enjoyed studying advanced placement statistics, that she started down the route towards becoming an actuary.
But it is definitely not all about academics and schoolwork. Other pursuits are important, and Ms Smith believes that being well rounded is a key component to success. Her love of football has given her a perfect balance between academia and extracurricular activities.
IMG Academy is a prep-school based around sports, and that was important for Ms Smith. For the past three years she has spent the first five hours of the school day studying in the classroom before doing afternoons of football practice, weight training, and learning about nutrition and mental and visual aspects of the game.
“I started playing soccer when I was 9, and it grew from there. I eventually got recruited by the national team coach here, that’s where I got a lot of my training from and I decided I wanted to focus more on it. Here we don’t have a lot of girls to have a league, so I decided to go away and get more exposure.”
She led her IMG Academy Girls’ Soccer team for two seasons and was awarded Player of the Year and MVP last year.
She also represented Bermuda in the women’s Concacaf U20 team last month. In 2014 and 2016 she captained the Bermuda Concacaf U15 and U17 teams in Puerto Rico and Haiti. She has been recruited to the New York University’s varsity women’s soccer programme.
Explaining the importance of having interests beyond classroom studies, she said: “It allowed me to balance out my life. Being busy every day allowed me to focus more and be more prepared when going into college, because I knew I wanted to play.”
And when asked what advice she would offer to others setting out on their own educational journey, she said: “Focus in school, that is definitely a big part of it. Don’t think you have to be a nerd or have to always be totally academic.
“I’m pretty well rounded. I went away to school to play soccer as well as academics. So don’t think you always need to be strictly focused with academics.”
Ms Smith will start study at New York University’s Stern School of Business later this year, pursuing a bachelor of science in actuarial science and finance.
Lori Dunstan, chairwoman of the Chubb Charitable Foundation — Bermuda, said: “We are extremely impressed with Leah’s academic accomplishments which span from Somersfield Academy, to the prestigious IMG Academy. Her balance of academics, athletics and community service made Leah stand out from the other applicants.”
Meanwhile, Chiyaro Wedderburn is the recipient of the 2017 Bermuda College Education Award.
He is Bermuda’s youngest dual-enrolled graduate. At 16, he has graduated from Bermuda College with an associate’s degree and from Berkeley Institute with a high school diploma.
He is now entering his junior year at St John’s University in New York, where he will be studying psychology.
He has a focus on health, where his passion is helping those in need.
“I would like to become an oncologist in the future. My grandma was diagnosed with cancer and that’s what really made me want to heal people from it,” he said.
While still at primary school he shadowed Eugene Outerbridge, a paediatrician at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, becoming the youngest person to so.
He also attended a two-week conference at Harvard Medical School in July 2016. This allowed him to conduct medical simulations, attend clinical rounds and interact with other gifted students interested in medicine.
Mr Wedderburn said the Bermuda College Education Award award will make a huge difference in his life.
“This will reduce the financial cost of my school drastically and allow me the opportunity to go to school abroad,” he said.
Maintaining a 3.57 cumulative GPA, out of a possible 4.0, made him stand out among candidates for the award, and he encouraged other students to continue working hard so they might do the same.
“I maintained my GPA by having the support of my brother. He is in college and we are very competitive — I am always competing with him to be better.”
He believes Bermuda has a shortage of doctors, and he wants to eventually return to the island to work as one.
Among his other interests is playing piano and drums, which he has done for eight years at Simon’s Music School. He is also a former martial arts student in Kung Fu and Tai Chi, and participated in various local community service activities.
The Bermuda College Education Award is a component of a partnership between Chubb and the college.
Samantha Froud, chief administration officer, Chubb Bermuda Operations, and a member of the Bermuda College Education Award selection committee said: “This award was launched in 2008 to provide assistance to promising Bermuda College graduates who want to pursue their bachelor’s degree overseas.
“Chiyaro exemplifies the purpose of this award. His positive impact on the community and his passion for medicine is why we are delighted to support his future academic endeavours.”