Iqaluit student wins $100,000 Loran Award

Akutaq Williamson Bathory recognized for speedskating, mental health advocacy

Inuksuk High School student Akutaq Williamson Bathory of Iqaluit has been named a Loran Scholar along with 36 other youths from across Canada this year. As a recipient of the award from the Loran Scholars Foundation, she’ll receive $100,000 and four years of mentorship and support throughout her university studies. (Photo courtesy of Akutaq Williamson Bathory/the Loran Scholars Foundation)

By Madalyn Howitt

When Iqaluit high school student Akutaq Williamson Bathory heads to the University of Calgary in September, she’ll have a little extra change in her pocket to go toward her studies.

That is, an extra $100,000 in change.

Williamson Bathory is one of 36 youths from across Canada who have been named Loran Scholars this year.

The award, given by the Loran Scholars Foundation, recognizes young people who have shown strength of character and leadership through community engagement, commitment to service, the courage to make difficult decisions and determination to work toward long-term goals, foundation spokesperson Roxy Rae said.

The 4,800 scholarship applications were whittled down to 90 finalists who were all interviewed over a weekend in Toronto in February before the 36 winners were chosen.

“I was just so shocked because I wasn’t expecting it… I had never thought anything like this would happen within my lifetime,” Williamson Bathory said as she took a lunch break at school.

“I just had no words to describe how I was feeling.”

The Grade 12 student at Inuksuk High School was recognized for her accomplishments in short-track speedskating and her mental health advocacy.

At her high school, Williamson Bathory established a peer group alongside her best friend Kimberly Canlan to create an inclusive environment focused on self-care, suicide prevention and youth mental wellness. It also aimed to give students a space to open up to other people their own age.

Recently, the group has been meeting to journal together and find ways to express themselves on paper.

“I find that a lot of people tend to, especially this time of year with exams, [not] really think through what their emotions are and what their thoughts are,” she said. “So right now we’re really working on journaling and understanding how to recognize your emotions.”

An accomplished short-track speedskater, Akutaq Williamson Bathory represented Team Nunavut at the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games this year, bringing home three gold medals from the former and breaking multiple Nunavut speedskating records at the latter. (Photo courtesy of Akutaq Williamson Bathory/the Loran Scholars Foundation)

“I believe that if it makes a difference in one person’s life, it makes a difference for many people because they will carry out these connections that they’ve gained and the new skills that they gained within this group and can influence many people and generations going down to build healthy connections as well,” she said of the peer group.

Outside the classroom, Williamson Bathory is helping to put Nunavut on the speedskating map.

At the 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Alberta earlier this year, she brought home three gold medals for Team Nunavut in short-track speedskating.

A few weeks later, she followed that by breaking multiple Nunavut speedskating records at the 2023 Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island and also served as Nunavut’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies.

“That was a pretty amazing achievement, so I’m really proud of myself for that,” she said.

When she’s not breaking records herself, she’s coaching the next generation of Nunavut skaters and creating programming for her younger teammates.

“For me, being able to see the progress that these children go through with speedskating helps me to also reflect on my life and to be able to celebrate all the victories big and small and to push through difficulties within life and to really embrace every moment,” she said.

“It’s been such an amazing experience being able to coach and to become a stronger person.”

Williamson Bathory is also fluent in Kalaallisut, or Greenlandic, and is learning to read and write in Inuktitut.

Two teachers, in particular, had a profound impact on her journey to learn new languages: Miali Coley-Sudlovenick, who helped her learn Inuktitut, and Ida Gardener who helped strengthen her English skills in elementary school, she said.

Last year, another Nunavut student, Anna Irwin of Clyde River, was also named a Loran Scholar.

As a Loran Scholar, Williamson Bathory will not only receive $100,000 to go toward her education, but throughout her four-year undergraduate program she’ll also receive mentorship, national and international summer work experiences, attend annual retreats and gatherings, receive an annual living stipend and make connections with a large support network through the program.

In the fall, Williamson Bathory will begin studying sociology at the University of Calgary and continue competing in short-track speedskating.

“What I’m looking forward to most is really meeting new people and listening to their experiences and having those friendships that last for so long,” she said about becoming a Loran Scholar.

“Honestly, it’s such an amazing opportunity and I really hope more Nunavummiut will know about it and will apply to it for the next time.”

She encourages other young people in the territory to not be shy about expressing their true selves and to take advantage of opportunities like this program.

“I really hope more youth in Nunavut see the scholarship as a great opportunity,” she said.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Karynya on

    Sociology is interesting and worth studying, to an extent. I do hope she moves on to a more useful field though.

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    • Posted by John on

      This is the comment you make after reading this article? This is what you take from a story about an inspirational student/athlete who is also a mental health advocate in a Territory in the midst of a suicide crisis? This is what you say to a wonderful young person at the pinnacle of their young life? That you hope they choose a more useful thing to study in their undergrad? Give your head a shake and think about your words before you project your obvious insecurities and shortcomings out onto children.

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      • Posted by Nutarariaq on

        Thank you! I felt the same way when I read the comment. That’s exactly why people get discouraged to follow their dreams and work towards them where challenges for young people in our territory are sometimes hard to fathom. There are too many negative comments in the majority of the articles from Nunatsiaq News. However, what this person is not aware is Akutaq has the brains and the will to surpass or ignore such futile comment. She has a great family and community support. Good for you Akutaq. You have our full support and we wish you nothing but success in your future.

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      • Posted by Nunavut Way on

        John this is the Nunavut way. Promoted to a new job? “It’s because you’re skin colour”. Want to start up a community program? “You’re paternalism is colonial”. Front line healthcare worker? “Kabloona only care about money”. And on and on it goes. Nunavut must be the most uninspiring and cynical place i have ever lived.

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    • Posted by John Fanjoy on

      Begone, troll.
      Congratulations Akutaq!!

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      • Posted by Naimee on

        Congratulations give me money

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  2. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    A great example for all to learn from.

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    • Posted by Not really tho on

      If a life of privilege is an example, where can I get one?

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  3. Posted by Lisa on

    This award could not go to a more deserving and inspiring young person. I will be following Akutaq’s career at university and beyond with so much love and admiration.

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  4. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    such an inspiration. be proud of what you have done so far and keep reaching far.

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  5. Posted by Congratulations on

    Well done!

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  6. Posted by Nova Scotia Proud on

    So very proud of you Akutaq! Congratulations from many here in Halifax!!!

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  7. Posted by Dorothy Dewar on

    I had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful athlete during the CG in PEI.
    She is a smart, intelligent, kind and compassionate young person. Wishing her the very best as she begins her studies.

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  8. Posted by Lynn Nash on

    Reach for the stars, Akutaq!! Off to an inspiring start! Congratulations from a former Principal at GREC (Inuksuk High)

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