Governor General Academic Medal Recipients

We are proud to recognize Burnaby School District’s 2015 recipients of the Governor General’s Academic Medal. The award is given to the graduate with the highest average at each of our secondary schools. These students’ impressive accomplishments were shared by their principals at a public meeting of the Burnaby Board of Education, and now, here.

Laichen Ma Alpha

Laichen MaLaichen Ma was an outstanding academic student while at Ecole Alpha. Excelling in Math and Science, he graduated with a 99.6% average. These included 5 AP classes where he received 100% in many of them. His success did not go unnoticed, and upon graduation he was offered over $53,000 in STEM related university entrance scholarships.

He looks back fondly on his high school experience: “I absolutely loved the five years that I spent at Alpha. Looking back now, I can say with certainty that Alpha has a friendly environment that fosters student growth and helps students tap into their potential. I am particularly fond of the amazing roster of teachers and staff members I had while I was there. They all played such a large role in helping me develop into the scholar I am today. Without their help and guidance, I certainly wouldn’t be receiving the Governor General Academic Medal.”

Laichen is presently at the University of Waterloo where he is enrolled in Honours Mathematics/Financial Analysis and Risk Management. Eventually he also plans to add a minor in Actuarial Science. He’s made a point to surround himself with like-minded people and is an active member of FARMA, a club for students pursuing their interests in Financial Analysis and Risk Management. As for his future goal – Laichen has indicated that he can be found in New York City  – on Wall Street.

Melissa Luo  Burnaby Central

Melissa LuoMelissa Luo is exceptional on so many levels. At Burnaby Central she was always enthusiastic about new experiences, and she easily balanced an intense academic load with multiple leadership activities.

Passionate about math and science, Melissa completed every senior math and science course offered and achieved a combined average of 97.5%. During her final year in high school she chose AP Chemistry, to prepare herself for UBC.

It was Melissa’s curiosity and passion for science that motivated her to organize The Vancouver High School Science Olympics at Burnaby Central. She was so energized by the program that she is now a board member on the Greater Vancouver High School Science Association. Melissa was also President and Co-Founder of Burnaby Central’s Cancer Club, and she was a First Aid Attendant, Math Club member and a library assistant. When not involved in extra-curricular activities, Melissa spent time tutoring her friends in her favourite math and science subjects.

Melissa first set her sights on civil engineering when she first saw the CN Tower and marveled with curiosity and amazement on how it was built. From that moment on her future path was clear. She is pursuing this goal at UBC where she is in the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

Natasha Carson Burnaby Mountain

Natasha Carson

Natasha Carson is a well-rounded individual who believes in balancing academic excellence and community involvement with exploring one’s passions. At Burnaby Mountain, Natasha excelled academically as an AP student with a 98% average in her top 13 senior level courses. For her achievements in science she was awarded Student of the Year in Biology, Chemistry and Top Student in 2015.

One of the first to enrol in the District’s new Mechatronics and Automation Engineering Program, Natasha knew instinctively that the practical enrichment it offered would enlighten her in ways that no regular classroom could. She extended her knowledge of technology in computer programming and circuity with Arduino microcontroller systems, mechanical build with VEX Robotics, and computer aided industrial drafting. Then as a hands-on practicum students were involved with the installation of wireless communication technologies at Burnaby Central Secondary!

Natasha also pursued science in the community. She was an event coordinator for the Vancouver High School Science Olympics, volunteered at UBC’s Geering Up Science Camp for Kids, and tutored many of her Mountain peers. Aside from science, Natasha chaired the Youth In Action Humanitarian Club and volunteered as a catechism teaching assistant at her local church.

Natasha is currently at UBC, where she plans on pursuing health sciences or Artificial Intelligence in cognitive systems. Always inquisitive, she is exploring a career option in optometry through UBC’s Third World Eye Care Society.

Sherry Zhang Burnaby North

Sherry Zhang

Sherry Zhang excelled academically throughout her years at Burnaby North. But it was her authentic desire to work with others to achieve success where she really stood out as a role model.

After school Sherry could be found sharing her knowledge in a tutoring capacity with peers in Burnaby North’s Success Program. Additionally, as an enthusiastic member of the “math buddies team” she made the trek regularly to elementary schools to support their learning needs.

Sherry always sought ways to challenge herself. Despite the fact that English was not her first language she chose an Academic Research and Writing course in her final year. Her 2000 word research paper on a scientific topic of her choice was “a masterful piece of work.”

She was particularly inspired by what she learned in Mr. Janetka’s computer courses. She quickly took to coding which she describes at the “true passion of her academic life.” And she was equally as amazed with the words of wisdom shared by her Physics teacher, Mr. McPhee. He recommended that she focus more on the idea of learning, and put less emphasis on her GPA. Upon doing just that, she was surprised when this led to an even higher average in her final year – 100% in each of her senior level classes. This achievement led to post-secondary offers and awards that included the SFU Academic Excellence Entrance Scholarship, the University of Toronto’s Dean’s Merit Award and the President’s Scholarship from the University of Waterloo. Sherry Zhang is currently in her 1st year at UBC in the Faculty of Science where she plans to pursue her interest in Mathematical Sciences.

Gillian Xu Burnaby South

Gillian XuGillian is a bright, generous hard-working student who is always willing to help her peers. With a deep love for literature, she completed a major presentation on William Blake in her AP Capstone research class. Her extreme focus on her studies led her to achieve a 97.5 percent average that included perfect grades in Pre-Calculus 12, Art Foundations 12, AP French Literature and AP Capstone Research. Gillian is currently attending McGill University studying Literature.



Nikola Deretic Byrne Creek

Nikola DereticNikola personifies the combination of academic excellence, character, and community service that Byrne Creek Students are known for and has earned an academic award as one of the top scholars annually since grade 7. Since grade 10, he has earned 100% in ten courses, including AP Biology, Calculus and Physics. His average mark of his best 13 courses was over 99%. Additionally, he achieved 15 individual subject awards.

Besides academics, Nikola was a volunteer with the school’s Leo club. He was particularly proud of the work that was done fundraising for winter essentials and distributing these to the homeless. He also spent many hours as a tutor and mentor and for this was awarded service awards in grades 11 to 12.

Throughout high school Nikola volunteered at the Burnaby Village Museum, the Shadbolt Arts Centre and Burnaby Parks, helping with community events and summer camps. Through these summer camps he became a well-respected role model for the children he worked with. He also volunteered for the UBC Model United Nations conference and worked at a chemistry laboratory for part of a summer.

Nikola won numerous district and community scholarships, and several major scholarships, including McGill University’s $26,000 entrance scholarship. Nikola is currently attending UBC in the Faculty of Science with plans to become a medical researcher.

Natalie Warkentin Cariboo Hill

Natalie WarkentinNatalie Warkentin encompasses the qualities of a Governor General’s Academic Medal recipient, a leader dedicated to academic excellence, extracurricular activities and the community.

In her final two years at Cariboo Hill, Natalie achieved an average of 97% in 13 of the 19 courses she took. An AP Scholar, she achieved 5’s on all her AP exams and she placed in the top 3% of the Concours d’art oratoire and the Pascal Math Contest and was on the Honour Roll each term. In addition to her academic achievements, Natalie demonstrated her strong interpersonal skills as a mentor and co-founder of Cariboo Hill’s Best Buddies Program, working with the most vulnerable students in the Access Program. She also found time to be part of many clubs such as the Youth Action Committee and the Grad Council.

Natalie is also musically inclined and can play the French horn, violin, and piano. A mentor at Southside Community Church, she has worked with children enrolled in music and art camps. She also teaches at Shire Music School and assisted in a music program forat- risk students at Second Street Community School. Natalie was also part of a Mission trip to Albania where she worked closely with children and community leaders through art. She also helped refugee families and the Burnaby Homelessness Task force to fundraise for initiatives. Her nurturing demeanour shines through in all that she does.

Natalie was offered major entrance and community scholarships to both UBC and SFU. In the Fall of 2017 she will be attending UBC majoring in French and Art in the Faculty of Arts. She plans to pursue a Masters of Education and is presently enrolled at Capernwary Harbour Bible School.

Angela Lin Moscrop

Angela LinAngela Lin was one of the most hardworking and conscientious students at Moscrop Secondary last year. Thoughtful, articulate and an outstanding critical thinker, she excelled in both the Arts & Sciences. Angela has a wonderful ability to make cross-curricular connections and blend different perspectives and knowledge as she analyses different situations and problems.   She won the top academic awards last year in both Geography and various Sciences.  She is open-minded, considerate, generous, and was able to work amongst all peer groups at school, and was active in many different clubs at Moscrop and within her community.

Angela is currently attending UBC on an academic scholarship where she is studying in the Faculty of Sciences. She plans to pursue a major in Biochemistry or Chemistry and go on to work at a hospital in Pharmacology.