Whether winning international space science competitions or piloting aircraft with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program, recent Branksome Hall graduate Adele Crete-Laurence’20 does it all with humility and integrity.
Crete-Laurence’s academic and leadership excellence have earned her a prestigious Schulich Leadership Scholarship at the University of Toronto. With 100 scholarships designated for science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) programs at 20 partner universities, 50 are awarded in the field of engineering. Each high school may nominate just one graduate for Canada’s most coveted STEM award, worth $100,000.
“I did not expect this,” says Crete-Laurence, who received the news in May. “I had just come back from a walk with my mom; I checked email and was so shocked I cried.” The ultra-competitive engineering science program at U of T is especially appealing, she says, because of the opportunity to start specializing in aerospace engineering in third year, a rarity for Canadian undergraduate programs. Her dream is to work in the aviation industry to make aircrafts more sustainable in terms of fuels, materials and engineering. She also received the same award to study mathematics at McGill University but chose to decline.
Among her accomplishments, Crete-Laurence, who has always loved math, was part of a Grade 10 computer engineering team whose program was selected to run on the International Space Station. The program measured light pollution. Hers was the only team from Canada, and the only all-female one world-wide, to be selected as winners in the European Space Agency’s International Space Science Competition
. Her team also earned a web conference with British astronaut Tim Peake.
Brushing shoulders with star astronauts seems part of her destiny. A member of the Air Cadet Program since Grade 7, she has her glider’s and private pilot’s licence and has mentored younger cadets. While taking part in the Rotman School of Business’ Creative Destruction Lab’s High School Girls Mentorship Program in 2019, she was selected to have astronaut Chris Hadfield as her one-on-one mentor. Based on the merit of her application, she spent the day learning about how he supports science-based entrepreneurs and start-ups.
“He was really down-to-earth,” she says, “and he had his first flying experiences with the Air Cadets so we understood each other.”
Despite such singular interests, Crete-Laurence stands out most for her versatile interpersonal and collaborative skills, says Heather Cornford, her mathematics teacher for the past two years.
“Adele is confident in her originality,” says Cornford. But she is foremost a leader. “With intense focus, she persists when faced with a mathematical puzzle. Once she solves it, rather than spoil it for others, Adele leads by empowering and encouraging others and posing questions to further their thinking. In these interactions, she is serene and avoids undue haste.”
A leader outside the classroom as well, Crete-Laurence was the Junior School Prefect for 2019-20 and a JUMP Math tutor, a seven-month long weekly commitment that pairs a student from our school with a student at an inner-city public school. She also worked at SunnyView Public School, for children with complex disabilities. As a member of Branksome Hall's Adaptive Technology Club, she designed and adapted products for students at SunnyView.
“Branksome Hall has always empowered me to pursue my interests and develop my leadership skills,” says Crete-Laurence. “It was great to be a Prefect this year, as I looked up to them ever since I was as a kid.”
Above all, as Andrew Schroter, Crete-Laurence’s mathematics teacher, advisor and Extended Essay supervisor notes, she is testament to the ability for an introvert to excel.
“Adele succeeds as a reserved, self-effacing introvert in a world that celebrates extroversion,” Schroter says. “I keenly note her precocious skill at balancing introspection with courage and confidence. So she will listen to everyone else before speaking, but when she does speak, her words are full of judicious wisdom and kindness and gratitude, honouring many perspectives.”
Though she is heading into engineering studies, Schroter also notes her strength as a writer. He supervised her impressive IB Extended Essay as she learned difficult extra-curricular material in cryptography, then “resolutely revised her essay down to a concise and punchy text.”
As she heads off to pursue her dreams, the sky truly is the limit. “I am confident that Adele will make her mark in a significant way at university and beyond,” says Cornford.