Simon Long, a senior at Whistler Secondary School, has been awarded the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship—the first in the school’s history.
Long, who is one of just two people to receive the STEM-focused $80,000 scholarship from Queen’s University, and one of just 100 students to receive the award across the country, was happy just to be nominated by his school, and never actually expected to win.
Top of the list for what the award brings said Long, who plans to study computer science, “is the mentor that comes with the scholarship for the four years of university. I honestly think that’s going to be more valuable than the money just to have a person there helping me and answering questions.”
Long’s main focus for his future career is to build something on his own. “I’m specializing in video game design,” he said.
“My career goal … would definitely be something that I do myself, not really like a job, but kind of starting something. Like making a game myself, starting some sort of software project or hardware project but yeah I definitely would like to ... employ myself.”
Long’s high school math and computer science teacher, Jamie Walzl, describes him as a “gifted problem solver” with a “unique curiosity” and believes Long will continue excelling at computer programming through university and into his future career.
“All the work he’s done in computer science at the school has been outstanding,” said Walzl.
“And I think that once he gets the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people and people that are achieving at his level, he’s going to really excel, and do great things.”
It’s Long’s entrepreneurial spirit that may lie behind winning the scholarship, said mom Gina Mollicone-Long.
“He’s a pretty good student, he gets good grades and he’s a computer guy, no question,” she said. “But I think what sets him apart is he started making electronic music. He started composing it, he set up a record label, recorded it, mixed it, made some albums did the artwork, got a distributor for Spotify and Apple Music and got himself established as a recording artist.
“He’s produced three full albums and a single and he gets paid royalties, not much but still, and he did all that on his own.”
Long is active in various sports including volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and biathlon. He also plays the piano.
For many families, sending multiple children to university can be a major financial strain so having a child receive an $80,000 scholarship often comes with a huge sense of relief. However, Mollicone-Long said in this case all the relief is probably coming on Long’s side as they have a deal with their kids that they’d be on the hook for half of their tuition.
“Yeah, there definitely was [a sense of relief] because, to be honest, I’ve worked a lot of places and I’ve just always hated it … [so] it’s just nice to have that pretty big load taken off my shoulders,” said Long.
“The 80 grand will definitely help a lot with the financial aspects.”