A Grade 12 student at Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s is in Toronto this weekend competing with 87 students from across the country for 35 scholarships worth $100,000 each.
“It’s a big honour,” said Jay Henley.
Just being picked as a finalist out of over 5,000 applications means Henley will at least walk away with a $5,000 scholarship from the Loran Scholars Foundation.
The foundation looks for applicants who display integrity, courage, grit and personal autonomy — all in addition to maintaining a minimum cumulative average of 85 per cent.
The fact that Henley has made it to the finals is no surprise to Holy Heart principal Sheldon Barry, who says it is a “privilege” to have Henley as a student.
“Jay lights up a room with his smile and outgoing personality,” said Barry. “What’s most striking is that he always thinks of others in his decision-making process. His tireless energy is to be commended.”
Henley’s consideration of others is undoubtedly what stood out to the selection committee as well. He is president of Holy Heart’s Best Buddies program, which helps to establish friendships between people with and without intellectual or developmental disabilities in order to make schools more inclusive and accepting of people with disabilities.
“Disability hits extremely close to home, as my sister Sarah is severely mentally and physically handicapped,” said Henley. “I have been blessed to have grown up with Sarah. She faces challenges in most aspects of life, but she always has a smile on her face and enjoys the small things that many people take for granted.”
Henley also established a volunteer outreach arm for the St. John’s Maple Leafs Midget AAA hockey team, of which he is alternate captain, called “Leafs Legacy.” The goal is to plan three initiatives every year to help others. Already, the team organized a donation of over 100 stuffed stockings to Choices for Youth this past Christmas, as well as a food drive for the Gathering Place.
“It is mere luck of birth and circumstance that I do not need these services,” he said.
Moreover, Henley embodies the foundation’s quest for a scholar with courage and grit. While he is an avid hockey player, his elite-level hockey ambitions did not come without hurdles.
Henley tried out for the provincial Hockey NL under-14 team and under-15 team, but did not make the cut both years. So, he consistently sought out advice about his weaknesses from the coaching staff and trained rigorously for the under-16 team with those criticisms in mind.
“I set my mind to make this team and although I most definitely struggled along the way, I was able to eventually reach my goal and represent my province proudly.”
On top of his other volunteer work and extracurricular activities, Henley is school council president and head of Holy Heart’s Relay for Life committee.
Henley and two other finalists from the province — Billy Barnes of Birchy Head and Liam O’Brien of Cape Broyle — will find out how they fared in the intensive finalist interviews on Sunday. However, Henley says whether he walks away with one of the $100,000 scholarships or not, he is thankful to have the experience.
“I’m hoping to try and take in as much as I can in two days to kind of help me just grow as a person, and learn some life lessons.”
Upon graduation, Henley plans to study engineering. He has already been accepted to several universities, but hasn’t yet decided which one he will attend.