The Class of 2021: Winnipeg’s Darlene Cuevas tops with $100,000 scholarship

2nd Update: June 23, 2021, 10:21 P.M.

Updated: June 23, 2021, 6:32 P.M.

Vancouver, B.C.

 Schulich scholar Darlene Cuevas leads this year’s graduates

Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas


As we try to honour and celebrate our graduates every year, we do so again this year mindful that many others have graduated last year amidst the pandemic without the traditional celebrations.

This year remains the same – without the physical celebrations but mostly virtually so it is commendable that these graduates were able to make it through.

Meet this year’s class.

Darlene Sofia Cuevas, Winnipeg

Leading the crop is Darlene Sofia Cuevas from Winnipeg. The 16-year-old from St. John’s Secondary won the coveted $100,000 scholarship from Schulich Leaders scholarships, one of 100 recipients of the prestigious scholarship.

“This group of 100 outstanding students will represent the best and brightest Canada has to offer and will make great contributions to society, both on a national and global scale,” says Schulich.

“I just remember my body started really shaking and after the call I just broke down crying and I felt really grateful,” she told CBC Manitoba TV news host Janet Stewart in an interview.The scholarships are given to undergraduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math and awarded on the basis of academic excellence, leadership, creativity and charisma.

Cuevas will take up biosystems engineering at the University of Manitoba in September.

Cuevas, whose family immigrated to Canada in 2019, told CBC she didn’t have the money to further her education.

“I’ve applied to about 20 scholarships and I didn’t get 19 of those, it was all rejections. My last resort was, truly, a student loans. Now I think I don’t need to apply for any student loans,” she told CBC.

“Being granted this scholarship has truly made the path ahead of me boundless. Dreaming is free. Yet, it is a harsh fact that in our world today, it would always require some form of monetary foundation to achieve those dreams,” says Cuevas. “I am forever grateful to all the teaching and non-teaching staff of my high school, St. John’s, as well as all the students for believing in me and, of course, to The Schulich Foundation for this life-changing opportunity. 

It is an honour to be able to fully devote my focus in my studies, passions, and especially future endeavours that will contribute to making our world better, without the financial burden my dream would have put on me and my family.” 

Leanne McLaren, Masters in Geotechnical Engineering

(Photo provided)
(Photo provided)

A Geological Engineering Alumnus of the University of British Columbia, Leanne McLaren works with Thurber Engineering in Edmonton.  She has just completed her Masters in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Alberta, as of June 2021. She is very active in the Canadian Geotechnical Society (CGS) and successfully proposed and helped to organize the national conference in Calgary in 2020.  Her articles have been published and featured in a geotechnical magazine, Canadian Geotechnique and she currently has two papers submitted for presentation at the national CGS Conference in Niagara Falls, September 2021, and the International Geotechnical Conference in Sydney, Australia in 2022.  She is passionate about empowering women and young professionals in engineering.

Leanne is the daughter of Vancouver artist Esmie Gayo and Michael McLaren.

Diana Mae Empinado, Mount Elizabeth Middle School

City of Kitimat

(Photo provided)

Diana graduated with three awards – Academic Excellence, Student Council Service Award and  Janet Oliveira Memorial Award. An avid skater, she has been accepted to the Nursing Program at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO).

Diana is the only daughter of Kitimat City councillor Edwin Empinado and Doris Agdeppa, both nurses.

Noa Litchfield, Secondary


Noa graduated from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Vancouver.

The daughter of Gina Tubajon and Scott Litchfield, Noa has been accepted to a degree program in Human Resources Management at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Glisha Dela Cruz, Music Technology

(Photo provided)

Glisha, the daughter of community activist Narima Dela Cruz and Joel Dela Cruz of Surrey, B.C., Glisha graduated with a degree in Music Technology. (Audio Engineering and Music Production) at Douglas College.

“The singer/songwriter, Glisha was busy working on her successful first album and many commitment performances, the student in her finished her program! She’s done full time and a half every single semester! And she did it so well!,” writes her proud mother.

Michael Soldevilla Joaquin, Bachelor of Environmental Design 

Michael plans to pursue a Masters in Landscape Architecture. (Photo provided)

Michael graduated from the University of Manitoba with a degree in Environmental Design. He is the son of Marjorie Soldevilla and Marcel Joaquin of Winnipeg.

The proud family with the graduate: (left) brothers Mark and Matthew, mom Marjorie and dad Marcel. (Photo provided)

Karsten Friebe, Secondary

San Diego, California

Karsten with dad Mike and mom Grace. ( Facebook)

Karsten graduated from Del Norte Secondary in San Diego, California. He is the son of Grace Cadigal  and Mike Friebe. Mike is with the U.S. Naval Academy.  Karsten is going to the University of California for the five-year combined Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Related reading: (For those transitioning to university)


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