A St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) alumnus is one of only 20 recipients to be awarded a competitive leadership-based scholarship for their master’s and professional studies at McGill University.
AJ Bimm ’16 is among the first scholars to receive the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarship, which is awarded to applicants based on their character, community engagement, leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit, academic strength, and intellectual curiosity.
“It’s hard to put it into words, but I feel so grateful to be recognized and included among such an amazing group of people,” says Bimm who graduates this year with an honours bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto where he completed a double major in urban studies and sociology. Next year, Bimm will begin his post-graduate journey pursuing a master of urban planning at McGill.
According to a McGill news release, “The scholarship enables students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University while connecting with mentors and participating in an intensive leadership development program.”
The scholarship also provides students with a $2,000 monthly stipend during their academic terms so that each person can fully participate in everything the program offers, including retreats, seminars, workshops, and more with other McCall MacBain Scholars, mentors, and advisors.
“For me, this scholarship means that I’ll be able to pursue my passions in a more meaningful way without the same financial barriers of paying for school that I had in undergrad,” says Bimm. “This scholarship will also help me learn from other students in different fields and participate in the scholarship enrichment program that will help inform my practice as a future urban planner.”
To be considered, Bimm had to submit an application answering essay questions along with a personal statement on why he wants to study at McGill and how it aligns with his future career goals.
“Out of the 735 applicants, 132 students were invited to regional interviews. From there, 50 students were invited to participate in final interviews in March (normally this would have been in Montreal, but due to the pandemic, it was all virtual),” he says. “Following the final interviews, 20 were selected as McCall MacBain Scholars.”
“Overall, the application process was extremely rewarding and gave me the opportunity to reflect on some of my past experiences including my challenges and triumphs at SMCS,” says Bimm.
“AJ was the quintessential St. Michael’s student, who was involved in all aspects of our SMCS community,” says Gail O’Grady, Bimm’s former Guidance Counsellor.
Throughout Grades 9 to 12, Bimm competed on both the track & field and cross country teams at SMCS. He was also the track team captain in Grade 12. He took home the gold medal in the 400m at OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) in 2013 and another gold in the 4x400m relay in 2016, among other top finishes.
“In my first two years [at SMCS], I was really blessed to be surrounded by some great leaders on the track team and their guidance made me feel like I wanted to help out younger students in a similar way,” says Bimm. “When it was my time to be a team captain, I tried my best to be as approachable as possible and ensure that anyone on the track team would feel like they have someone they can talk to or look up to. I think that really set the foundation for my leadership approach in university.”
“During AJ’s time at St. Mike’s, I think he demonstrated great leadership as captain of the SMCS track team,” says O’Grady, who was one of the track and cross country coaches at SMCS when Bimm competed. “He was an excellent role model for the younger team members, both on and off the track. He was approachable and ensured all members felt welcomed and valued.”
In addition to being heavily involved in the school’s athletics programme, Bimm also volunteered his time tutoring younger students in French.
“As for service, my mom always reminded me of the importance of giving back, but I think my passion for helping my community at SMCS started in Grade 10 through the Youth Philanthropy Initiative,” he says. “I worked on a project with Covenant House, a charity supporting youth experiencing homelessness. I remember learning about some of the challenges that kids my age were going through and feeling that we can do much better to support them. That year, my team member and I won the Youth Philanthropy Initiative grant of $5,000, which we were happy to give to and support Covenant House.”
“I would describe AJ’s character as thoughtful, considerate, competitive, self-motivated, and kind with a genuine interest in helping others,” O’Grady adds. “He always loved the journey of learning and not simply the end result of ‘the mark’. AJ brought enthusiasm, commitment, passion, and spirit to all of his endeavors at St. Mike’s.”
In anticipation of the future, Bimm says, “I’m really looking forward to starting my master of urban planning and learning more about how land use policies can be leveraged to benefit communities. After I graduate, I am leaning towards working in the public sector, preferably at the municipal level as I feel like it’s where I can have the most impact.”
“Thank you to all my mentors at SMCS who challenged and encouraged me to be bold,” he says. “My time there definitely contributed to my character and pushed me to be a better leader in my community.”