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Over the May long weekend, Cassandra Burbine was in the middle of an icebreaker game at the Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association conference at St. FX University when she slipped out of the room to check her emails. She had been shortlisted for two University of King’s College entrance scholarships, and she was anxiously awaiting word.
The email that Burbine read couldn’t have surprised her more—it said that she had been automatically considered for the new Carrie and Ralph Wright Memorial Scholarship, and that she was the inaugural recipient.
“I couldn’t believe it!” says Burbine. “I read the email over and over again, then I emailed King’s and said are you sure? It didn’t feel real because I didn’t know about it and I hadn’t applied for it.” She was in such shock and shaking so badly that when she called her mother to tell her the good news, she couldn’t speak, so she took a screenshot of the message and sent it to her.
The 19-year-old first-year King’s student hails from rural River Hebert, N.S., near the town Amherst. “I’m really proud to be from an incredibly small community. It’ll always be home. The heart and soul is the school. I’m proof that you can go to a very small school and still get a good education.”
Burbine decided to apply to King’s in Grade 10, after chatting with King’s recruiters at a career fair at her high school. Her history teacher also thought King’s would suit her interests. “I fell in love with the idea of FYP (Foundation Year Program) and the small size of the university,” she says. “There were around 200 students in my high school, and just eight in my graduating class. I wanted to know my way around campus easily and not be overwhelmed, and get to know the professors and make friends easily.”
Living in the Chapel Bay residence on campus has helped her do exactly that. “We’re like a little family. We’re all doing FYP, so we can talk about what we’re studying together.”
It isn’t lost on Burbine that she’s the first recipient of a scholarship valued at $12,000, renewable in upper years for $9,000 each year to students who maintain their academic standing. Therefore, the Carrie and Ralph Wright Memorial Scholarship’s potential for each recipient will be $39,000. It was established through the generous bequest of alumna Judith Kaye Wright, BA’64, in loving memory of her parents.
Born in Sydney, N.S., in 1942, Wright graduated from the University of Toronto as well as King’s, and was a teacher and a voracious reader. Her wish was that upon her death in 2017, this gift would be used to provide one or more leading undergraduate scholarships, based on academic excellence, for entering and/or in-course full-time students of King’s humanities programs, including the Foundation Year Program.
Burbine’s current career plan is to become a high school English and history teacher. She’s considering doing a double major in English and history with a minor in politics (she’s toying with the idea of becoming a politician). She has other aspirations, too. “I want to be a published author,” she says. “I’m working on a kids’ book, and there are a few novels in my head.”
If Judith Wright were here today, Burbine knows what she’d like to say to her. “I’d reassure her that I’ll do my best to make the most of what she’s granted me. I had a strong work ethic before, but I not only want but need to put everything into my studies now. I always dreamed of receiving a scholarship of this size but I never thought I’d achieve it. I’m very grateful.”