Matthew Trefiak of Edgerton, Ab., has won the national Loran Scholars Foundation after a rigorous selection process.
The foundation chose Trefiak from a pool of 5,089 applicants where character is key.
The Grade 12 student’s unique agricultural background, drive and well-rounded nature were what set him apart from other applicants according to Loran Scholars Foundation Senior Director of Programs, Heather Spratt.
“He was just so curious,” she began. “He was really engaged. He wanted to know everything about everybody in the room and he had this beautiful kindness about him and also he is proud of his place and who he is and the community that he comes from.
“He’s really proud of the people that he works with and the younger 4-H people that he’s helped to mentor. He has a lot of pride in his school but at the same time, you know he’s got a little edge of humility.
“He knows he is a person of his place and of his community and he just wants to make it the best that he can,” concluded Spratt.
Wainwright High School has nominated students for the past 10 years but Trefiak is the first to make it to the semi-finals, let alone being entered into the elite class of scholars.
He is in the top three for highest grades in his classes although much time is spent buying, selling and showing Hereford and Black Angus cattle at home.
Trefiak is a fourth generation farmer and his family has celebrated their 25th annual bull sale recently.
On the side, he is a 4-H Alberta Ambassadors for the Northeast Region.
Sandra Grunow, a counsellor and teacher at Wainwright High School, has known Trefiak for a number of years and viewed him as the school’s ‘go-to’ student for school-wide events and other leadership positions.
“Matthew has always been a go-to kid in our school when it comes to getting kids to step up to do something or to help out running schoolwide events.
“Matthew can be the quiet leader in the background and he can also be the guy in the front motivating kids to be apart of a bigger thing,” said Grunow.
On a personal level, Grunow admitted she had shed a few tears of joy after hearing the news.
“It was really impactful and it’s a wonderful organization and I mean $100,000 – I mean knowing that it will help pay for his first degree . . . I’m just so proud of him. He’s just an awesome kid,” she said.
“Everything that he has ever gotten in life he has worked for. It’s that nothing that has been handed down to him has been a gift. He worked hard every minute of every day from working the farm to selling his cattle to showing his cattle. Matthew misses a ton of school and I would say he always maintains his academics,” said Grunow.
Announcements were made on Sat. Feb. 2. This was a day Trefiak is not likely to forget after he also won Champion Hereford of the World while in Fort Worth, Texas for the Hereford of the World Competition two hours prior to the announcement.
“It’s quite humbling and overwhelming for sure. I mean I still haven’t really come to terms with it I guess. It’s all been a whirlwind,” said Trefiak.
Each scholar receives opportunities to explore, develop and share their various talents over four years in an undergraduate study at one of 25 Canadian Universities that have partnered with Loran.
Valued at $100,000, each Loran Award includes an annual stipend of $10,000 and matching tuition waiver, access to $10,000 in funding for summer internships, one-on-one mentorship and annual retreats and scholar gatherings.
The selection process began by reading applications from the northern Alberta area by two trained volunteers.
From there, 20 applicants are selected and asked to come in for four interviews within a full day.
Three individuals including Trefiak were chosen from that pool to proceed to the national level where more interviewing took place in Toronto.
“She tried to play it off and pretend that I wasn’t going to get in and it really had me kind of sweating beads while I was sitting there on the phone,” he said.
“Then she said ‘But, you know if you’d like to spend more time with us we’d love to have you as one of the scholars’ and it was like holy! So it was quite the day.”
For Trefiak, he plans to leave the ranch to attend the University of Saskatchewan where he will take Animal Biosciences as an undergraduate for Veterinary Sciences.
From there, he hopes to return home and open up a large animal/reproduction clinic.
Being proud of his hometown, representing Wainwright and the rural way of life on such a large scale has been the cherry on top.
“I never expected to get even to the finals so I mean I’m very proud to bring Wainwright and rural Alberta view to the table because there was not very many of them so it was fun. It was really fun being there,” said Trefiak.
In its 30th year, 35 students were selected to join the elite class of scholars.