Recently, as Halifax-native Sophia Wedderburn was cleaning her room she came across a box containing things she wrote while growing up. Among the papers was a list of goals written by the Foundation Year Program (FYP) student when she was still in elementary school.
“Right at the top was ‘take courses at King’s College.’ I can’t even make this up!” she laughs.
Sophia suspects she wrote the list while in grade five or six and, while King’s came second (right after a trip to Disneyland), she notes that studying here has clearly been part of her plan for a long time.
Today, Sophia is not only studying at King’s, she is the 2020 recipient of the Prince Scholarship. Named after Samuel H. Prince (1886–1960), a King’s professor and respected sociologist, the scholarship is available to African-Nova Scotian students entering FYP and valued at up to $24,000, or $6,000/year, renewable over four years.
Sophia’s academic interests in history and literature are complemented by a love of music—she played violin in the orchestra at Halifax’s Citadel High School and participated in the school’s musicals. At the same time, Sophia was also very involved with the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts. There she took tap dancing and sang with the conservatory’s Vivid Vocal Ensemble.
Sophia also held a role on student council throughout her high school years. Drawn to leadership opportunities from a young age, Sophia relates this to her family and in particular, to her grandfather.
“My grandfather, Gus Wedderburn, was a litigator here in Halifax. He was also principal at the Bloomfield School before it got shut down. And alongside those amazing accomplishments, he was a huge civil rights activist, and you know [he] was really fighting for the equality of African Nova Scotians. From such a young age I always hoped to emulate him, in my life and in my future. He’s always someone that I’ve looked up to.”
Family is important to Sophia—in fact, when King’s President William Lahey called to tell her that she was being offered the Prince Scholarship, Sophia’s entire family came around and flooded the room with their enthusiasm before she was even off the phone.
“I got on the phone and he said ‘Hello, this is President Lahey,’ and I said ‘Hello, President Lahey!’ My whole family overheard and came into the room … and when he had conveyed the news to me, they could see my reaction and they started shrieking and dancing around! … I think President Lahey heard that on the other side of the phone, and I think it sounded alarming so I said ‘Everyone’s ok! Don’t worry!’”
“That moment on the phone call with my family around me was just so overwhelming… I was filled with such gratitude and joy.”
Now well into her first term of the FYP, Sophia has been surprised by the degree to which a young person in 2020 can connect to texts written more than two thousand years ago.
“Coming into the program, starting in antiquity was something I was very skeptical about because you feel such a disconnectedness from times that were Before Common Era. It seems like such a huge gap… I was honestly so surprised—especially through tutorials, by bouncing ideas off your tutors and your instructors and your peers—how deeply affected we are by the principles of many of those antique works.…
“Thinking about old literary texts, they are … ingrained so deeply into everyday life today. Which is something that I really didn’t think about before entering FYP… I feel like I’ve soaked up so much more than I could have ever expected in these very short past couple of months.”
One stop on the FYP journey that Sophia is especially looking forward to is reading Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, noting that the author “…is one of my role models and I’m so excited to read that piece, and to form my own opinions on it and analyze it.”
What does Sophia plan to do with these new perspectives?
“For a long time, I have been hoping to pursue a career in law or advocacy. My hope would be, in my career, to invoke change in the legal system and be able to lift people up as my grandfather did.”