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Simone Reade believes it was destiny that she would end up studying at the University of King’s College. She hadn’t heard of it until she was in Grade 11 at Citadel High, when she noticed her friend Gabriel wearing a sweater with the King’s logo on it. Gabriel sang in the King’s choir and attends King’s now, as does his sister, while his father, Peter O’Brien, is a King’s Classics professor and the university’s vice-president.
“In Grade 12 I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, and Gabriel said I should go to King’s,” says Reade. “I write fiction, poems and screenplays, and my dream is to sustain myself on writing alone. I researched King’s, and it was the only university I applied to.”
Reade also submitted an application to the Dr. Carrie Best Scholarship for Indigenous students in Canada and Black Canadian students applying to enter the BJH, BA, BSc or BMus programs. It’s an entrance scholarship valued at $5,000 that is renewable for up to three years.
The small campus and close-knit community where the professors know their students’ names appealed to Reade, as did the Foundation Year Program‘s curriculum. “I want to improve my paper-writing skills, and I think it’s important to read the classics, because classic literature influences everything.”
Reade’s career “backup plan” is to become a teacher. Her goal is to major in English and minor in French (she did immersion from Primary through Grade 12), then earn a bachelor of education and focus on her creative writing in the summers.
During a half-hour break in a rehearsal for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in Grade 12, Reade’s cellphone rang. It was an unknown number, which she normally never answers, but a friend urged her to pick up. “It was Gabriel’s dad on the phone to say I got the scholarship,” she says. “I lost my mind! It was so exciting. Then we went back to rehearsal as if nothing had happened.”
When Reade got home, the scholarship acceptance letter was waiting for her (she had been checking the mail obsessively for it). After she told her parents, her mother cried. “Then I cried because she cried. She was really proud of me. She said I got it because I’m a good writer.” In fact, Reade had experienced doubts about her scholarship essay, which she finished writing 10 minutes before the post office closed on the day the application was due. “I wasn’t feeling good about it, but I’m a perfectionist, so I often feel that way when I hand something in.”
The scholarship is a huge financial relief to Reade. “Basically, my university is paid for, which will be easier on my family. I’m set, and I don’t need a student loan. It also means that my parents will be able to help my younger brother more when he goes to university.”
It isn’t lost on Reade that the scholarship honours Dr. Carrie Best (DCL’92), an African Nova Scotian writer, publisher and broadcaster from New Glasgow, N.S., who was unafraid to call out the racial injustices she witnessed in her lifetime. She received the Order of Canada in 1974 and was posthumously awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2002 and 2011.
“There’s a powerful name attached to this scholarship,” says Reade. “It makes me want to have a watchful eye on my community, and I feel a sense of responsibility to take Dr. Best’s values and live them myself, which I try to do. It also lights a fire under me to work harder to maintain my GPA. I want to prove to the scholarship committee that I deserve to keep it.”