From the basketball court to the debate podium, be it resolved this Carrie and Ralph Wright Memorial Scholarship winner thrives at King’s

From the basketball court to the debate podium, be it resolved this Carrie and Ralph Wright Memorial Scholarship winner thrives at King's

When Foundation Year Program student Lily Van Beek got the call telling her she’d received the prestigious Carrie and Ralph Wright Memorial Scholarship, she did a cartwheel. No matter that she was sitting in a conference room at UNB Saint John preparing a brief for a professor as part of her high school research co-op placement. The call tipped the scales towards King’s and when a second call invited her to play for the King’s Blue Devils basketball team, that clinched it; she was going to King’s. And she was excited.

Van Beek arrived at King’s with an unusually rich history for someone her age. She’s amassed a virtual catalogue of achievements—educational, athletic and entrepreneurial.  Google her and it won’t be the student council and debating team positions, her varsity basketball and soccer playing, her volunteer work as a basketball coach or even her advocacy for civics education in New Brunswick, that draw you in. It will likely be Student Stories NB, the website for an online publication that Van Beek created in Grade 12. “I took an entrepreneurship co-op course in high school, taught, actually, by my dad. I had the opportunity to meet with local entrepreneurs and mentors and develop my own social enterprise.”

Van Beek, who had been writing since she was little, bemoaned the fact that high school papers seemed a thing of the past. “There was only one high school in my district, out of seven, that had a student newspaper. I’d been talking to a lot of students who were passionate writers and journalists. We wanted to get our work out there and learn more about journalism and creative writing.” The site became home to student-scribed fiction, poetry and non-fiction including student perspectives on the news items of the day. In addition to the wide-ranging learning involved, which included mentoring and support from New Brunswick journalists, Student Stories NB helped Van Beek confirm and shape her values. “I care about education and representation of voices and communication, all things I got to promote on the site. I learned about the impact students can have.”

And then, of course, there’s basketball. Van Beek played four seasons at the high school level earning Most Valuable Player awards and captainships along the way as well as being called up to practice with Saint John’s semi-pro women’s team. Of the Blue Devils, for whom she plays forward, she says: “We’re doing very well – we’re seven and one going into the Christmas break. We’re in the national rankings and we’re in the top of the provincial rankings. I’m very proud to get to represent King’s and be part of such a great program.”

Just a few months into her first year, Van Beek has already made some powerful memories. A member of Sodales, the Dalhousie and King’s Debating Society, she recently attended a tournament at Yale where the Dal-King’s team debated students from the U.S. Ivy League colleges. “In two days, we did five debates. You don’t get to prepare. You have about ten minutes to discuss and get ready. We debated everything from U.S. firearm policies to vulture funds to the portrayal of women in literature.” As for what it was like to debate students from Ivy League schools, she says, “We were competitive. It was very gratifying to perform so competitively with students you look up to in that way.”

It wasn’t just basketball and a scholarship that drew Van Beek to King’s; the Foundation Year Program (FYP) had a powerful allure. “I grew up hearing about FYP,” Van Beek explains. “My dad did it. I heard all about having a year reading all those fantastic books and hearing about all these big ideas.” The program is paying off; she loves how down-to-earth the professors are and how accessible. “I love the opportunities to build a rapport with such knowledgeable people and have discussions with them about their fields of expertise. And I love the community, that I can walk into the common room and pull out a book and someone will ask my thoughts on it.”

Next year Van Beek plans to major in English and political science and, after undergrad, law school. “I can see myself as an academic, a teacher or working in government writing speeches, or as a political journalist. I’m passionate about communication and about education; both my parents are teachers.”

With all her polish and accomplishments, it’s easy to forget that Van Beek is 18. Asked where the kid in her is, she laughs. “Well, I had a phenomenal snowball fight in the Quad yesterday. I get excited about the first snow and I love playing with my little brother in the hotel pool when my family visits. And when I sing at karaoke night I have a pretty youthful sense of joy.” As for how she sees herself in the world, Van Beek is quick to reply. “I see myself as new to the world. I’m still learning, I’m a newly minted adult. I don’t know where my place is. I hope to contribute something to the world but I don’t know what it’ll be yet or what things it will be because hopefully it will be more than one thing. I’m still figuring that out.”


Valued at $39,000 over four years, the Carrie and Ralph Wright Scholarship was established through the generous bequest of their daughter, King’s alumna Judith Kaye Wright, BA’64. Learn how to apply for this and other major scholarships before the March 1, 2024, deadline.

Page Break