Sobey Scholars – Zoe Schacter-Beiles and Olivia Piercey

Sobey Scholars - Zoe Schacter-Beiles and Olivia Piercey

Zoe Schacter-Beiles

Zoe Schacter-Beiles

Perhaps it’s inevitable that 2021 Donald R. Sobey Family Scholarship recipient Zoe Schacter-Beiles is in the Foundation Year Program (FYP) at King’s. Where else would a kid from a family of philosophers go? “I grew up in a house with philosophy books everywhere and we had philosophical debates at the dinner table. I lived in a house of ideas,” she explains. “When I saw that in King’s FYP I’d be reading Dante and Saint Augustine and all the great historical books that teach us where our system of morals comes from, it really attracted me. I thought that after King’s I could go home and actually win an argument with my father and brother!”

Three months into FYP (Journalism), Schacter-Beiles, a Toronto native, has settled in well. “It’s great to be with people who have the same level of interest in what we’re studying and who want to talk about these things. King’s is one of a kind. And Halifax, so far, is amazing. I love being in a city with such proximity to nature. I love that I can hear the birds.”

Powerfully drawn to both journalism and science, Schacter-Beiles envisions a future where she can help bridge what she sees as a huge divide between science and the humanities. “Science is so isolated and yet it’s a part of everyday life. Even at university you have your science kids and your humanities kids and they don’t relate to each other well. I’d like to write in a way that makes science accessible.” Her journalistic roots run deep; while in high school Schacter-Beiles co-founded an Ontario student newspaper where young writers could try their hand at journalism.

Zoe Schacter-Beiles

Schacter-Beiles has interdisciplinary interests in the humanities, science and journalism.

While she’s naturally inclined towards serious matters, Schacter-Beiles says King’s is helping her explore her lighter side. With a high school history in the dramatic arts, she’s acting in a King’s production of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano. “It isn’t philosophy all the time,” she laughs. “I love sports… and I have a giddy, fun-loving side.”

She was sitting on her bed talking to a friend when the call about the Donald R. Sobey Family Scholarship came in. “My generation has an inherent fear of phone calls,” she laughs. “President Lahey was congratulating me but I thought there was another step, an interview, and I asked, when he said I got it, if he meant I got to go on to the next phase. I was so confused. I wandered down the stairs and told my dad. Then I started crying.”

Olivia Piercey

Olivia Piercey

Navigating Covid as a student: “I’m a very social person and I learned a lot about myself,” says Olivia Piercey of Richmond, Ont. one of the 2021 recipients of the Donald R. Sobey Family Scholarship.

Olivia Piercey is alert to possibilities. The FYP (Journalism) student and 2021 Sobey Scholar from small town Richmond, Ont. may just be one of those people with many professional lives ahead. “I love trying and experiencing new things,” she affirms, “and I don’t want to limit myself to one thing in my life. I don’t know where my life will take me… I just know I really enjoy journalism now.”

It was the Foundation Year Program curriculum that drew her to King’s. “I’ve always wanted an excuse to read all those texts,” she chuckles. “I knew I’d never be disciplined enough to read them for fun.” Journalism, of course, is part of the attraction.

Piercey has always loved storytelling; she sees journalism as the perfect way for people to share stories and learn to appreciate each other. “It develops caring about others. It opens your mind to new possibilities. And it makes complicated subjects accessible to large numbers of people.” She finds the state of flux in journalism today both scary and exciting. “Today, information is so accessible but it’s not always correct. It’s easy to get answers but you don’t know if they’re factual. But it’s exciting for the same reason. There’s never been so many ways to share information and that leads to more creativity in the field.”

She’s clearly not short on creativity. As a student at an Ottawa arts high school, Piercey was in the drama program. Improvisation became her passion and she competed nationally with her school’s improv team. And she volunteered and worked at a local theatre camp. “It was one of my favorite places on earth,” she enthuses. “It cultivated a love for freedom and expression and creativity in me and the kids, all the while being outside all day.”

While others found a year of Covid restrictions very challenging, Piercey feels she grew from it. An organizer of her school’s spirit weeks, she wasn’t going to let Covid stand in her way. She and a fellow student developed an online school spirit program with movie and trivia nights and competitions. “We made a lot of social media accounts so we could communicate with each other. In the end, the Covid year was rewarding. I’m a very social person and I learned a lot about myself.”

The Donald R. Sobey Family Scholarship was a very welcome surprise. “I worked really hard on my grades. My mom instilled in me the idea that if you get good grades you can do anything you want in life. I had missed a call from King’s on the weekend and when President Bill called, I misunderstood. I didn’t realize I had won. My adrenaline was pumping, I ran down and told my mom. She started crying, I was crying, my dad had tears in his eyes. None of us really expected it.”

Zoe Schacter-Beiles and Olivia Piercey are the 2021 Donald R. Sobey Family Scholarship recipients. Worth $50,000 over four years, the Donald R. Sobey Family Scholarship is granted to Canadian high school graduates (with a preference for those from Atlantic Canada) who have a minimum admission average of 85 per cent, proven leadership skills and involvement in school and/or community activities.

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