When Jessica Casey received the call from King’s President William Lahey to inform her that she was being awarded the 2020 Dr. Carrie Best Scholarship, she was deep into a game of Scrabble with her mom. When the phone rang, she debated answering.
“It was my evening Scrabble time with my mom. I had tea going, I didn’t want to, but then I did and I’m really glad I did!”
Understandably so. The Dr. Carrie Best Scholarship is named in honour of the acclaimed Nova Scotian journalist, broadcaster and author who helped to establish the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. Available to Black Canadian students and Indigenous students in Canada, the award is renewable over four years, and worth up to $20,000.
Asked how it felt to find out she had been offered the prestigious scholarship, Jessica recalls, “It felt very freeing to know that I was going into my next year with that with me.”
After taking time to absorb and celebrate the news, Jessica and her mom finished their Scrabble game.
King’s came onto Jessica’s radar relatively late in her final year of high school. Once it did though, the young student from Paradise, N.L. wasted no time getting her application in order.
“As soon as I heard about King’s, and I watched the YouTube video and read the pamphlet I immediately started writing the scholarship essay because I knew that that was the kind of place I wanted to be.”
That scholarship essay asked students to respond to a prompt that included a quote by Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592):
“’Let this variety of ideas be set before him; he will choose if he can; if not, he will remain in doubt. Only the fools are certain and assured.’—Michel de Montaigne, Of The Education of Children
The quote resonated with Jessica and for her essay she drew connections between De Montaigne’s arguments and issues that she has long cared about—in particular, the value of critical thinking.
“[The quote] was on the theme of critical thinking… so I spoke about it in terms of the macro effects of why critical thinking is important in society, and also the micro effects—I wanted to speak about how critical thinking can be used to overcome internalized oppression. Because that’s something that I’m really, personally interested in.”
Now studying in the Foundation Year Program (FYP) for a Bachelor of Arts degree, Jessica was drawn to King’s and to FYP specifically for what she had heard about it as a place where people live and learn in community.
“I really liked hearing about how King’s … tends to be a community of really engaged learners—people that are interested in talking about what they’re learning … in and outside of class. That’s what I’m getting now in residence and I’m really loving it.”
Community is important to Jessica—as a high school student in Newfoundland she spent a lot of her free time volunteering in her community. She also has another hobby—one that could be described as being a little less down to earth.
“I also do a lot of aerial acrobatics—that’s kind of my hobby for fun. Like hoop, and trapeze and things like that. I’m looking for a place in Halifax to continue with this.”
While she hasn’t yet found her aerial acrobatics community in Halifax, Jessica is deeply engaged in the literary world of FYP. Asked if there is a particular text that she has enjoyed the most so far, she shares three titles:
“I really liked On the Nature of the Universe, by Lucretius. And also Sappho … And I really like the Guide to the Perplexed by Maimonides—very helpful for a perplexed person like me!”
For Jessica, being perplexed isn’t a bad thing; rather, it’s a sign that she’s getting a better grasp of how much there is to know.
“I’m planning on leaving this year feeling like I know less than when I came in. I want my eyes to be opened.”