BONNE BAY, NL – Billy Barnes, 17, is an enterprising young man from Glenburnie whose hard work and commitment have earned him the chance to win a hefty scholarship.
The Bonne Bay Academy Grade 12 student is heading to Toronto on Feb. 2 for a chance to become a recipient of the Loran Award, a scholarship from the Loran Scholars Foundation. It is valued at $100,000 over four years for undergraduate studies in Canada.
Billy was one of the top 88 of 5,000 candidates, selected on evidence of character, commitment to service in the community and leadership potential, according to the Loran Scholars Foundation.
He is also one of only three students throughout Newfoundland and Labrador up for the scholarship.
This week, 34 winners will receive the $100,000-Loran Award. If Billy isn’t selected, he will still be eligible for a $5,000-finalist award.
In his application for the scholarship, Billy had to include four essays written on four different subjects.
For the first, he wrote about his business, Tutum Digital Management, which introduces greater digital marketing to the Gros Morne region and the western coast of Newfoundland.
He conceptualized Tutum Digital Management in June 2017, with the intent to help establish an online media presence for rural businesses.
Billy feels local businesses need to increase their presence on the internet.
“We have a high tourist population in the summer – those tourists come from away and, yet, you never see anybody marketing online,” he told the Northern Pen.
Every year, he hears of tourists who couldn’t find services and information online; yet, there are businesses struggling because they can’t draw in tourists in the summer.
Billy wanted to change that.
“Working at the park last summer, seeing the (high number of) people that come through here, it’s ridiculous they can’t get business,” he said.
Through Tutum, Billy helps manage and create social media accounts and websites for businesses, while implementing search engine optimization.
Last summer, he took it upon himself to learn the skills to effectively perform these tasks.
For Billy, it’s not at all about the money. He’s started this project entirely to help people.
In fact, he says he undercharges for his services to help local businesses as much as possible before he graduates from high school and goes away for university.
“If I’m going to start a project, I want it to be something that’s going to have a positive impact on people,” he said.
Billy’s website for Tutum is https://tutumdigitalmanagement.wordpress.com.
Billy’s second essay was written on his experience with SHAD, a registered Canadian charity for exceptional high school students.
Per SHAD’s website, each year the program provides “the opportunity for 900 students from across Canada and internationally to attend a month-long summer program, in-residence at one of our Canadian host universities, focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & math).”
Billy first attended SHAD at Dalhousie University in Halifax after his Grade 10 year.
All the activities at SHAD, he says, collectively encouraged him to become more involved in enterpreneurship. He came to see how these various fields of study can be applied to that setting.
In his essay, he specifically wrote about the design challenge he had to undertake that summer.
He calls it “one of the hardest projects I’ve ever took part in.”
“I definitely developed a lot as a person,” he said. “I learnt a lot of different skills from it: conflict management, determination, perseverence, efficient and effective work.”
Volunteer Fire Department
At just 17, Billy is also on the Southside Fire Department, which serves the Bonne Bay South area comprised of the towns of Glenburnie, Birchy Head, Shoal Brook, Winterhouse Brook, Woody Point and Curzon Village.
The fire department was the subject of his third essay.
The important thing for him is the “very involved” role the fire department plays in the community.
Firefighters do community service projects and they’re active as a “makeshift security force” as well, he says.
To write about a personal challenge in his fourth essay, Billy chose to discuss how he lost approximately 40 pounds from Grades 10 to 11.
“It was a fairly significant number for a young person like myself,” he said.
He went from about 200 pounds to around 160.
“It was a big relief for me,” he said.
Billy decided he wanted to lose the weight before he went to SHAD.
He says he accomplished his goal not through any diet program but simply by exercising and eating better.
Today Billy is a member of the provincial badminton team, which does four hours per week of on-court training and three hours a week of off-court training to compete at a national level.
In his essay, he discussed the emotional, physical and mental effects of his weight-loss journey.
What the future holds
Currently, Billy is trying to create change on a local level through digital marketing. But to reach a higher level of change – whether provincially or nationally, he says – Billy knows he’s going to need stronger skills.
He wants to study engineering in university to gain technical skills that he can’t teach himself.
Billy says winning the Loran scholarship would give him the opportunity to focus solely on developing those skills, without having to worry about finances during his undergraduate studies.
He has applied to attend programs at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo, named by Macleans Magazine as the top two schools with the highest national reputation.
Programs at these schools, he says, are very difficult. But if he could place his sole focus on them, he’s confident he could complete them with success.
Billy says he believes it’s his drive to improve his skills and create change in the world around him that made him eligible for the Loran Award.
“The reason I think I, at least in some respect, embody the characteristics that Loran holds so highly is because of my overall personal goal with my life,” he said. “And that goal is to (encourage) positive change at the highest level I can. I want to help advance people’s lives through technology.”
He was grateful for the opportunity Loran provided.
“I’m so happy that Loran chose me even to go this far, because even if I don’t get selected, it tells me that somebody sees I can do what I want to do,” he said. “And, while I never base my own opinions off the affirmations of other people, it’s still nice to see.”