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Early sea rescue work adds character to Loran Scholar

Oak Bay Sea Rescue member a scholar, athlete and volunteer
Ford Smith
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Oak Bay Sea Rescue from RCMSAR 33 on Vimeo.

Ford Smith credits a large component of his Loran Scholarship application to work with Oak Bay’s search and rescue junior program.

He’s among the 33 Canadians selected as a Loran Scholar from an initial pool of 4,438 applicants based on evidence of character, commitment to serving their communities and long-term leadership potential.

The Loran Scholar program strives to highlight those with integrity, courage, grit and personal autonomy, suggesting they are better indicators of overall potential than standard academic measures.

In a comprehensive and thorough scholarship selection process, 350 volunteers in 21 cities interview nearly 400 semi-finalists and invited 83 finalists to national selections earlier this month.

“It’s a pretty diverse application so it was interesting to see what other applicants had achieved,” he said.

Each of the 33 Loran Scholars was interviewed or assessed by up to 12 different people over the course of three months.

“My biggest component with my application was my work with RCM SAR,” said Smith, a Grade 12 Claremont student.

RCM-SAR Station 33 in Oak Bay maintains a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year marine search and rescue readiness and promotes boating safety programs to the public. It is among a handful of RCM SAR that offer youth programs, one the 18-year-old found two years ago.

“It was out of passion for the water and wanting to help the community,” Smith said. “I was driven to work with them and I’ve had a lot of fun so far.”

After 400 to 600 hours of training and dedication as a junior member, he made crew level about eight months ago.

“RCM SAR presents lots of interesting opportunities, I’ve been working with training and helping out with events in the station, whether working at the (Oak Bay) Tea Party. The fact there’s always something to do is what draws me to it.”

He credits the people from station leader Steve Gaudet, and current ‘captain’ Kelly Noel as well as junior program leader Nathan Leung and training officer Alex Mason with his ability to join the regular crew at a young age.

“These four were pivotal in creating the opportunity for me to take on a role as an on-call crew member at the station,” he said. “Without them I would have had to wait to be 19 before I could be on-call.”

Smith also spent the past two seasons as a junior patroller with Mount Washington Ski Patrol and leads a Scouts Venturer company.

Ford also plays baseball and referees soccer. He spent the summer working at the BC Cancer Agency. At Claremont he’s among the Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers who make soup for shelters in Victoria and in the school’s pursuit of excellence program.

Valued at $100,000 over four years, each Loran Award includes an annual stipend of $10,000 and matching tuition waiver, access to $10,000 in funding for summer internships, one-on-one mentorship and annual retreats and scholar gatherings. It is tenable at any their partner universities.

“The Loran money provides the opportunity to pursue any post secondary opportunity in their partner universities,” he said. “Also they provide some money for you to do summer work; for you to go out into the world and do something interesting.”

In the nature of a Loran Scholar to keep an open mind, and try something new, Smith continues to explore his options for both summer and post-secondary schooling.

In the meantime he plans to continue working with the volunteer search and rescue organization based out of Oak Bay Marina.

“RCM-SAR is pretty incredible organization and what they do is pretty awesome. The role that RCM-SAR plays, saving lives on the water is pretty exciting to do and also something great to be a part of,” he said.

“I think it’s really great they’re giving youth the opportunity to get involved. The fact that they take the time to do that is really excellent.”