Grade 12 student Takes the Lead, and takes home a one-year scholarship to Brescia University College


London, ON – On Saturday April 9, 2011 a   Grade 12 student from Northern Collegiate Institute and Vocational School in   Sarnia Ontario, Sarah Van Dusen, was awarded a one-year academic scholarship to   Brescia University College, as the winner of Brescia’s third Take the   Lead high school public speaking contest.

Sarah was in good company. The morning of April 9 began with Grade 11 and 12   girls from high schools across Ontario presenting five-minute speeches on the   topic of women and leadership to a panel of preliminary-round judges. Seven   speakers with the top scores in the preliminary rounds were selected to present   their speeches once more in the finalist round.

Sarah’s poignant and personal speech paid homage to two female leaders – a   developmentally delayed classmate who pushes boundaries and encourages others to   do the same, and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

It was Sarah’s conviction, coupled with her poise, that mesmerized the   judges.

Take the Lead final-round head judge and former host of CBC’s As   It Happens, Mary Lou Finlay, explains, “Sarah seemed so natural behind the   podium and her speech was truly memorable. She incorporated personal anecdotes   and stories that kept the audience engaged. I will never forget her concluding   quote, ‘How many times do we turn down opportunities…because we don’t think that   we are qualified, or that we aren’t good enough? Maybe things like leadership   have less to do with experience and more to do with enthusiasm.’”

When asked how Sarah felt when she heard her name announced as the winner of   the full-year scholarship to Brescia, she responded, “The day before Take   the Lead I asked my drama teacher for advice, and he told me to go into the   competition thinking that I’d already won, and that I had been commissioned to   write and perform this speech. I thought that was a nice concept, but I didn’t   have that much confidence in myself. I spent the final round reminding myself   how much fun I’d had and that it really didn’t matter if I won. So when my name   was called, I just sat there for a few seconds – completely surprised. I   couldn’t get up!”

Dr. Colleen Hanycz, Principal of Brescia University College, recalls, “When I   announced Sarah’s name I was touched by her response. She was so humble that it   took a few seconds for the news to register. When I handed her the trophy, tears   were welling in her eyes. It was at that point that I knew. I knew that ‘women   and leadership’ wasn’t just a topic that she could speak about for five minutes.   It was actually an ideology that she wholeheartedly believed in. I look forward   to having her on campus in September 2011.”

Brescia University College congratulates the courageous young women who   boldly spoke about women in leadership at this year’s Take the Lead   competition. To view photos from the event, visit:


For more information, please contact Sheila Blagrave, director of   communications, marketing, and external relations at Brescia (; 519-432-8353 (extension   28293)

Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college,   is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. The 1,100 women registered   as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of   subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering,   compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are   granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds   and values diversity. For more information, please visit