Student Spotlight is a new regular feature highlighting the all-round accomplishments of St. Michael's College School students.
“I remember when I was applying, I was searching up online portfolios of people who were admitted and I thought to myself that there is no way I was going to get in,” recalls Liam Abbott, grade 12 student at St. Michael’s College School. “But then when I received the email, I was blown away.”
Liam was recently named the Chapman University Hesperian Scholar.
“It is a prestigious designation offered to very few exceptional students,” says Gail O’Grady, Guidance Counsellor at SMCS. “Awarding this scholarship to Liam clearly shows that over the past four years, Liam’s talents, hard work and strength of character have been recognized,” she says.
Chapman University, located in Orange California, is home to the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts --- regarded as one of the top 10 film schools globally. Liam was accepted into the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production program, which has an acceptance rate of under 6 per cent.
“He is by far, one of the most talented, intelligent,
diligent, reliable, and creative students that I have
encountered in my 29 years as an educator in public
and independent schools."
Gail O’Grady, Guidance Counsellor, SMCS
“For me, the scholarship to Chapman was a complete surprise,” says Liam. “It was something that did not even cross my mind when I was applying to the school.”
The scholarship means Liam will receive $40,000 over a four-year period.
“Will (Liam’s Dad) and I will be forever thankful for all that SMCS has done for Liam,” says Jennifer Abbott, his mom. “He has received an excellent education, making Honour Roll every year, and he is extremely well prepared for a rigorous university program and career beyond. One of the graduation gifts we gave Liam was a seat in the theatre. It is the seat he sat in so often as the theatre performances were rehearsing. It acknowledges his involvement in 12 productions at SMCS and is a way for us to donate back to the school that has done so much for him,” she says.
The path has not always been a straight line for Liam, his mother says.
“In grade 10, Liam came home after school and told us he met with his guidance counsellor to choose his grade 11 courses,” Jennifer Abbott recalls. “He said, with NO enthusiasm, that he’ll pursue engineering. Shortly thereafter, he told us that Dr. Doyle had said in his Careers class that they should try to incorporate their hobbies and passions into a career,” she says. (Dr. Matthew Doyle is a teacher in the languages and classics department at SMCS).
“So, we had a talk with Liam and decided he needed to press re-set with his guidance counsellor and choose grade 11 courses that were more fitted to his interests and career,” Abbott continues. “It was a heated process as we encouraged him to take more liberal arts courses instead of sciences and maths. Just because he did well in those courses didn’t mean they were the best choices. He felt conflicted as so many SMCS boys take heavy science and math courses. It was at that moment, in June of grade 11, after visiting 10 American film school campuses and switching his grade 12 course selections that we knew we were truly doing the right thing,” she says.
Liam is intensely involved in a long list of clubs, activities and athletic pursuits at SMCS.
“Every faculty member at St. Mike’s would freely attest to the fact the Liam “runs” the school,” says O’Grady, his guidance counsellor. “If Liam was absent for school for some reason – for example, at OFSAA Giant slalom competition, a badminton competition or filming a football game – our video announcements would not happen, our sporting events, school assemblies and Mass ceremonies would not be live-streamed, our Student Government’s voice would not be heard, our school dramas and musicals would be without lighting or sound and the stage crew would be in disarray,” she says.
His mom adds, “Liam pulls very long hours at school, all by his own choosing. He’s at school by 7:30 a.m. daily and often doesn’t leave until 8 p.m. When he was younger, it meant that we picked him up from school on these late nights. We often asked him if he really wants to spend all this time at school. He consistently said that he loves what he’s doing. We also felt reassured that faculty and staff watched out for him and spoke with him and even reached out to us to make sure Liam didn’t overdue it and burn out, that he needed to still spend time on school work, and that he learn to say no when he gets pulled in too many directions. These activities brought him happiness and satisfaction. And as parents, we made sure he had healthy lunches, rides home and our unwavering support to keep pursuing his dreams.”
So why and how did he do it?
“Nowadays, there are so many people with 90% averages, it is not unique anymore,” says Liam. “St. Michael's has allowed me to stand out by offering so much more then a good education. I know for a fact, that without coming to this school --- first of all I would have never had such a passion for film --- but even if I did, I would have never got into Chapman. It was not my marks that got me in, it was my passion and drive that got me in.”
He adds, “People always ask me why I spend all my time at school and why I treat my extra-curriculars with just as much importance as actual school. Now I can truly say it was worth it, because that is what made me stand out.”
“I am most looking forward to just the idea of fully investing
my education around something I truly love.”
Liam Abbott, Grade 12 student
Liam's St. Michael's College School CV:
- Theatrical Technical Crew (sound, lighting, etc., for all school events)
- Producer/Editor of Video Announcements
- SMCSTV Operator
- Stage Crew/Stage Manager
- Student Government, Director of Communications
- M Squad
- Oversees Tower Media
- Alpine Ski Team (OFSAA gold/silver medallist 2017-2019), Team Captain
- Badminton Team (CISAA Champion 2017/18)