Ladysmith Secondary School student, Sampson McMullan has been awarded a $40,000 scholarship from the Cmolik Foundation.
The Cmolik Foundation was founded in 2008 to provide opportunities for youth who have experienced adversity in their lives. Eligible students must have experienced adversity, maintain an A average, and live in B.C. for at least seven years.
McMullan’s path to post-secondary has not come easy.
“Neither of my parents finished high school,” McMullan said. “I’m going to be the first one in my family to go to university.”
And in the eighth grade, McMullan came out to friends and family as transgender.
“I always knew something was up, but I didn’t find the word for it until seventh grade. Then I sat with it and thought on it for a year or so, and started telling my friends and family in eighth grade,” McMullan said.
“I left eighth grade a girl, and I came back in ninth grade as a boy. It was kind of a shock for a lot of people, but everyone’s been good about it. I’ve never had any negative bullying about it.”
McMullan said he was connected with a therapist, and gained access to hormonal treatment fairly quickly after coming out as trans. He completed male chest reconstruction surgery last September.
McMullan is also of Indigenous ancestry, and was raised outside of his culture.
“I’ve gone through a lot of growth and development seeking information in that realm of my life,” he said. “I did a lot of looking into it during the Land and Language class.”
The Land and Language class at LSS, taught by Mandy Jones and Bill Taylor, explores Coast Salish culture and language.
McMullan is from the Toquaht Nation. Their traditional territory is around what is now the town of Ucluelet. McMullan visited the nation briefly last summer, and met many of his family members at a large gathering. His connection with his family influenced his decision to enrol at VIU.
“All of my family, even the ones I haven’t met until recently, it was really important that I stay close to them all. I’ve got a very big blended family, and I want to be near them,” he said.
McMullan found out about the scholarship when he was called to the office one day during school. Initially, he thought he may have gotten in trouble somehow. Instead, his councillor, Kirsten Toole told him about the Cmolik Scholarship, and encouraged him to apply.
“I was told about it in December, and I didn’t have to have the application do until February. I had to write 12 different essays for it. It was about six weeks before I heard from them about whether I made it to the interview round,” McMullan said.
His interview was held over Zoom. Many of the questions were around topics he wrote about in his essays. One of the interviewers asked if he considered himself a lucky person.
“I said I don’t consider myself to be lucky in terms of prizes or draws, but I am very lucky with the life I’ve been given and the people I’m surrounded with. I find myself lucky in that way.”
As part of the scholarship, McMullan works with a personal mentor who previously received the Cmolik Scholarship. The Cmolik Foundation has a large community of alumni that host annual galas and events. McMullan is now part of that community.
One of McMullan’s references for the scholarship was LSS teacher, Bill Taylor. Taylor said that McMullan is a stellar example of the LSS student community.
“Sampson is a hardworking, resourceful young person who is really invested in himself through his education, and applies the skills and lessons he’s learned to further his goals,” Taylor said. “He really is one of our student leaders. He’s a helpful, kind, and generous young person.”
McMullan is graduating from LSS this year. He said the experience has been awesome. McMullan was moved up to the high school in the seventh grade. He’s been very involved with performing arts at LSS through the improv team, musical theatre, jazz band, choir, and concert band.
Along with his passion for performing arts, McMullan has always excelled at science and math. McMullan will attend Vancouver Island University, (VIU) for the bachelors of science and nursing program. He aspires to become a nurse practitioner.
Receiving the Cmolik Scholarship has been huge for McMullan, especially since his graduating year has been disrupted by COVID-19.
“I always pictured it spending my spare blocks in the parking lot drinking Starbucks with my friends, doing spirit weeks, and going to prom.” he said.
While school was in session, McMullan worked one day a week at 49th Parallel Grocer. He has worked there five days a week during the pandemic.
Despite the adversity he has faced, McMullan is looking to the future with excitement and determination to achieve all the goals he’s set for himself.