Ten years ago I had the opportunity to spend a month at Lakehead University facing science, technology, engineering, math and entrepreneurial challenges as a 2004 Shad. On Oct 23rd, memories of that month flooded back as I joined SWR staff and volunteer colleagues at the 2014 Shad Valley Entrepreneurship Cup to present a group of 2014 Shads with an award.

Shad Valley is a Waterloo-based non-profit that provides educational opportunities for high school students involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It is always inspiring to sit in a room of passionate youth, and with this year’s Shad product theme being “living big with a small footprint“, I was even further motivated by the excitement and potential in the room at the award ceremony.

Student projects included wonderful ideas from self serve beauty products to sustainable medical bandages, resulting in Fill It! from Lakehead University winning Best Application of Theme and Evita from Dalhousie University campus tying with Capacity from the University of New Brunswick campus for Best Overall. Congratulations to all the students involved in the winning teams and the hundreds across the country that gave their all in this one month challenging program.

As the awards ceremony progressed last night I leaked details to current friends from my grade 11 experience – working on entrepreneurial ideas after 9 at night, attending cutting edge lectures during the day, tackling building challenges and making friends from across the country. Shad Valley president Barry Bisson talked about pressure cooking the students and I couldn’t help but laugh as I remembered the long days we pulled, and my enthusiasm after about how much you can accomplish in a day given the right environment (and little sleep) – reminiscent of early SWR days for me now.

At that time in my life, that month helped me to develop a sense of self, a measure of the potential I could reach, and sparked an interest in business for me. Looking back, if I hadn’t attended Shad, I’m not sure I would have ended up pursuing a business degree, and in turn may have never come to be part of Sustainable Waterloo Region’s startup days.

Thank you Shad Valley for challenging me ten years ago, and helping to pave my path to the wonderful organization and team I’m with today.