Creativity, excellence, community, diversity and responsibility are the five guiding principles, or values, of the Shad Canada program.
Shad connects youth with the guidance and mentorship of university professors and experienced professionals, allows them to make lasting connections and memories, and provides a month packed with adventures, teamwork, and learning experiences.
Imagine packing everything you need for a month, hugging your parents and siblings goodbyes, nervously exchanging "hellos" with other teens from other parts of the country, settling into your new room and meeting your roommates, spending the next few weeks getting to know everyone, participating in workshops, listening to lectures from professors and other professionals, and running on just a few hours of sleep a night. By the end of the month, there are nothing but messy tears and group hugs as you part ways from the friends you called strangers only a month ago.
This is how I spent my summer of 2022.
What is Shad?
Shad is a 27-day-long STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) and Entrepreneurship program for youth that want to be community changemakers from across Canada (and the world). Shad runs in July across 21 university campuses (Shad on-campus) in Canada and it is also continuing to offer an online program this year (Shad online) powered by Athabasca University. Both are open to applicants around the world.
The program combines aspects of STEAM and Entrepreneurship into their curriculum all while prioritizing problem solving, community-building, and active learning.
SHAD General Poster, provided by Alvina Mardhani-Bayne
From shy introductions to tearful goodbyes, the Shad program is, above all, centered around the community. The House teams, the Design and Entrepreneurship Project teams (more on this later) and the friendships made along the way all came back to this central point. Working and spending time around others who are motivated to be change-makers is inspirational.
Who Can Apply?
Are you/do you want to be a community-minded, creative, engaged, and curious individual who wants to positively impact the world?
If yes, you should apply! This non-profit program is open to any grade 10 or 11 students across Canada and the world. Over the years, Shad has welcomed students from the United States, Hong Kong, Mexico, the UAE, and the UK. Every year, over 1,000 students gather at different university campuses to experience an STEAM and Entrepreneurship-themed month with lots of lectures, labs, activities and fun!
I was among 56 students at the Laurentian University campus and I met people from almost all provinces. In the end, it isn't the lectures or the workshops you will remember— though they were interesting and opened up new options for prospective careers —but the connections and friendships you will cherish forever. Spending the summer with like-minded students who want to be change-makers, but also students from different backgrounds, cultures and cities, helped expand my worldview.
A Typical Day At Shad
At Shad Laurentian, my campus, the daily schedule varied, and we were always in for a surprise because we never knew exactly what we would be doing that day.
Typically, my day at Shad would start with waking up and getting ready to go downstairs for announcements. After the daily Shad News segment from the News committee, we would all head to the cafeteria and have breakfast. After that, we would have morning lectures which would range from mycology and mushroom farming to the brain's immune system, and the basics of coding to forensic sciences. These lectures would be given by a variety of experts, including professors from the university.
Photo by Emilia Wesolkowski, Geology Lecture and Workshop
After lectures, we would head off to lunch and this would give us time to connect with other Shads and get to know everyone better. After lunch, there would be a House Challenge (fun challenges to earn points in teams) and a workshop.
Photo by Emilia Wesolkowski, Visiting the Big Nickel
Every day we had our fair share of physical exercise, and for some of us, that included walking up and down the stairs to and from the sixth-floor of the dorm. (I am not kidding. I had to do this every day.) We would have a recreation period of about an hour and a half to do fun team sports as a group and to cheer each other on.
Photo by Emilia Wesolkowski, Visiting the McEwen School of Architecture
After rec, we had dinner. This gave us more time to socialize and to recharge. Later, we also had either DE project time, committee time, or both, depending on the day.
Committees are groups in charge of organizing different things. For example, I was on the monthbook committee which put together a book of all of our memories with photos from the month. There was also the rec committee which organized house challenges, the swag committee, the variety show committee, etc. Afterwards, we would get more announcements and go back to our dorm rooms after a long but rewarding day.
Photo by Emilia Wesolkowski, Taking a walk during the camping trip
The Design and Entrepreneurship Project
Every year, Shad participants receive a real world problem they must come up with a solution to in teams by the end of the month. Teams typically work together in the evenings to narrow down the specific problem they are tackling so they can more easily develop a solution for it. At the end of the month, teams present their projects to fellow Shads and parents at the Open House. This project allows students to develop a product or prototype, a realistic business plan and helps hone an entrepreneurial mindset.
In 2023, Shad participants were challenged to reimagine living spaces in Canada and each team came up with unique solutions to specific problems within this greater real-world problem.
Testimonials from 2023 Shad Alumni
Here's what some of this year's Shad alumni had to say about the program.
"I enjoyed Shad so much, everyone there is like-minded and they all instantly connect with you. I would definitely recommend Shad to others, it really is the best summer of your life! Not only do you connect with Shads, but you meet professionals in fields of STEAM and business, these people made me view the world entirely differently!"
- Josh Wu (Ontario), Ontario Tech University
"Shad was the most amazing experience that I have ever had to be completely honest. It opened up so many opportunities and I met so many amazing like-minded people. The PAs weren't just program assistants, they were good friends to everyone as well.
It truly changed my view on the world of STEM and changed my view on the world in general. I have made so many lifelong friends. With the Design Project, my team and I actually ended up pitching our project to investors and now we are working with the university's venture capitalist program to evolve our idea into a business!!! Overall, the most amazing experience, and so so so worth it. If you're debating whether you should apply or not, DO IT!!!! I promise it will be so worth it!!!"
- Mateo (Prince Edward Island), Ontario Tech University
"It was really fun and inspiring to meet so many talented and diverse people from across Canada, and we became good friends really quickly! I hope we can all stay in touch because I’m certain everyone will do incredible things in the future!"
- Alexandra Chow (British Columbia), University of Prince Edward Island
"Shad was a once in a lifetime experience that provided me a full month of fun, education, friends, and personal growth. The moments and memories created during that time are truly unforgettable. From engaging in enriching educational activities to forming deep and lasting connections with fellow shads, Shad opened up a world of opportunities for me. The laughter, the challenges, and the sense of belonging that I experienced during my time in Shad have left a significant impact on my life. It was not just a program; it was a journey of self-discovery, a platform to explore my potential, and a community that continues to inspire me to this day."
- Parsa Ahmadnezhad (Ontario), Western University
"It felt like a dream of some sort, everyday full of learning and fun. As an introvert it was slightly difficult to fit in the first week, but after I did, having friends at my fingertips was amazing. The PAs were so nice and I’m still in contact with the ones I’m close with. I will never forget the people I met at Shad, and it’s truly a community where everyone can find their kind of people."
- Hannah Han (Ontario), Lakehead University
Why You Should Apply
Shad is a once in a lifetime opportunity (you can only attend once). Take this chance and put yourself out there! You never know what next summer will entail.
The Perfect Application
In truth, there is no such thing as a perfect Shad applicant. Everyone has something unique to contribute to the program. However, there are still some things to keep in mind when filling out the application. The key is to show who you are, highlight your achievements, and demonstrate your values, interests, and qualities.
The purpose of the application questions is to get to know you better in 250 words or fewer. Shad is looking for people who are or want to be creative problem solvers, curious learners, passionate thinkers and community-minded and engaged individuals. Be honest in your answers and don't be afraid to make them personal.
Shad does not require a minimum average grade/GPA to be accepted into the program. They want to see your uniqueness and initiative, which is not necessarily all present in a single grade.
If nothing else, applying to Shad is great practice for when you will be required to write essays and talk about your achievements for university applications.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Every year, Shad has proudly offered a total of 1 million dollars in financial aid to those who need it. Financial aid is solely based on your parents' income, nothing else. This year, Shad is continuing to offer scholarships for Black and Indigenous youth. To learn more about these scholarships, click here.
Connect with Shad!
You can follow @shadprogram on Instagram and @ShadNetwork on X, formerly Twitter, for regular updates and events. Make sure to visit their website www.shad.ca for more information and to get started on the application!
The Shad Canada program opened for applications on September 20, 2023. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2023. Feel free to ask me questions about the program in the comments as I would be more than happy to answer, or visit the FAQ page on their website.