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Shining a light on exceptional volunteerism
Most people cannot wait for the weekend to get here, but Loran Morrison always looks forward to Wednesday afternoons.
Each week throughout the school year, you can find this third-year Dalhousie Medical School student at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library welcoming students and tutors alike to SHINE Academics, a volunteer-run free tutoring program that Morrison co-founded in 2013. Focused on science and math, the program has had a significant impact on everyone who has participated in it, from the students who are succeeding in school, the volunteers who make it happen, and Morrison herself.
“When you volunteer in your community, you’re doing something that adds energy, excitement and meaning to your life,” Morrison explains. “That’s what SHINE has done for me. To see students who were certain they couldn’t do math now entering their second year of university is just incredible.”
Committed to community
Most people who know Morrison would likely describe her as incredible, particularly her ability to give back to the community despite the demands of her studies, work and three dogs. In addition to running SHINE, Morrison played a key role in launching Sistema NS, a music tutoring program for youth, and she spent three months in Mae Sot, Thailand, providing education and health care services to Burmese refugees. That devotion has long inspired friends and family to make a difference in their own way, and it is now being recognized with the 2017 Dalhousie Alumni Association Volunteerism Award.
SHINE co-founder Chloe Zinck (BSc’16) says such recognition is well-deserved. “Loran is a revolutionary thinker, a visionary leader, and nothing short of an inspiration to everyone who has the pleasure of meeting her. “She carries this passion with her in everything she does and I have no doubt that she will continue to change the world.”
Morrison and SHINE have certainly helped to change the lives of students who have participated in the program, with many going on to post-secondary education in a variety of fields that once seemed beyond reach. But Josh Creighton, who graduated from the program in 2015, says the impact of SHINE goes far beyond improving grades.
“SHINE acts as a platform for people to become leaders in our community,” says Creighton, who is studying at Dalhousie. “I would never have guessed how much Loran and SHINE would change my outlook on education, or life, and I hope she realizes how much we, the community, appreciate her for all she’s done.”
Success and support
Originally from Truro, Morrison says the inspiration for SHINE came to her after she began studying physics at Dalhousie University in 2006. Looking for a sense of connection in her newly adopted community, she saw a poster at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library promoting a literacy tutoring program and asked staff if there was an opportunity to help students struggling with science and math.
“I was introduced to a student who was pregnant and trying to get through grade 11 before her baby was due,” Morrison recalls. “The next year, she had a cousin who needed help. Eventually, I went from having one student to ten a week and tutoring each for an hour. I realized I needed help, and that’s how SHINE was born.”
The program has grown significantly and quickly from its humble beginnings, thanks mainly to word of mouth. As of 2017, there were 55 students participating, and Morrison says it would not be possible to help them achieve their dreams without the support of volunteers. She is also grateful to Gordon Stirrett Wealth Management, which provides funding for equipment and snacks, and to her Dalhousie School of Medicine colleagues who have served as tutors and raised money for SHINE through the annual Euphoria talent show.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be there for someone, but it is also wonderful to know there are people who are there for you,” Morrison says. “For me, that is the essence of community. It’s a team where everybody’s able to provide for everybody, and that’s what our volunteers and institutions like Dalhousie have done for me, because I couldn’t do what I do without them.”
A SHINE-ing light
For that reason, Morrison says receiving a Dalhousie Alumni Association Award is an honour. “It’s amazing to feel such love and appreciation from your colleagues and to know that they think the work you’re doing is great. It’s not the reason I volunteer, but to be recognized by the Dalhousie community is an incredibly humbling moment in my life.”
Morrison is not quite sure what the future holds for SHINE, except to say that she will remain involved even as she progresses toward a career in medicine. “SHINE has always evolved in an organic way,” Morrison says. “I don’t know what direction it will move in, I only know it will continue to grow and I am absolutely going along for the ride. It is the light of my life.”
- The nominee can be of any age.
- The community operated in can be on any municipal, provincial, national, or global level.
- A nominee’s activities must encompass the following requirements:
- Donation of personal time, expertise, or knowledge.
- Achievement of results that are important to the recipients.
- A nominee’s activities must not involve any of the following:
- Be intended to generate personal financial or commercial gain.
- Be intended for political gain.
- Volunteer activities must not be a part of the person’s job description [e.g. NGO]
- Financial contributions or the lending of commercial or personal resources will not be given value in the consideration of this award.
Please note: This award recognizes those who have made signification contributions to volunteerism outside of Dalhousie. For information on recognizing those whose volunteer efforts benefit Dalhousie, please see the A. Gordon Archibald Award.
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