Pani Ayoubizadeh received a mighty $40,000 gift for her 18th birthday on July 19.
During a special presentation to Ucluelet council, the Ucluelet Secondary School (USS) Grade 12 grad was named the recipient of the annual Pacific Rim Foundation’s Dick Close Scholarship. Ayoubizadeh was accepted into the University of British Columbia’s faculty of science and will use the $40,000 bursary to help achieve her goal of becoming a cardio thoracic surgeon.
“This is the best birthday I could have ever asked for,” said Ayoubizadeh. “I want to thank everyone on West Coast who have always supported me from the first day I arrived here. I am very blessed for having such a supportive community with so many kind people.”
Ayoubizadeh is originally from Tehran, Iran. She moved to Canada in 2018 and then to Ucluelet in 2019 when her mom was offered a job at Black Rock Resort. She is the first-ever immigrant to win the West Coast’s highest scholastic honour since it was established 14 years ago.
“I really hope that all the other immigrant students like me step out of their comfort zone and get involved in their communities just like me. I really believe that home is not where you are born, but a place where you step out of your comfort zone and pursue your passions,” Ayoubizadeh said during the July 19 presentation to council.
Pacific Rim Foundation president Gary Marks introduced the Dick Close Scholarship to mayor and council.
“We congratulate all of this year’s applicants and acknowledge that each of them have demonstrated a desire to live a life of purpose and make a difference in the world,” said Marks, noting that the selection committee had a very difficult time and felt that all of the applicants were worthy of a scholarship. “All Tofinons and Ucluetians can be proud of these young citizens.”
The Pacific Rim Foundation’s Dick Close Scholarship celebrates the idea of service to others and awards the student who has excelled in community volunteerism and their determination to make a difference in the world.
“His magnanimous gesture not only encourages the young people of our communities to volunteer and be positively engaged, but it also motivates ordinary people to do good things,” said Marks.
“To paraphrase Ralph Abernathy, ‘We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future’,” he said before announcing Ayoubizadeh as the 2022 Dick Close Scholarship recipient.
“Pani’s involvement in a wide range of activities is a clear demonstration of her innate curiosity,” Marks said.
He went on to share that Ayoubizadeh was a member of the BC Youth Parliament, the treasurer for the Surfrider Youth Club, a member of Junior Achievers, and part of the USS cross-country team. A straight-A student, she speaks four languages (Persian, English, Arabic and French) and dreams about becoming the next Provincial Health Officer or Minister of Health.
“Her goal of becoming a cardiac thoracic surgeon, and I think we can all agree, is well within her reach. We are here today to recognize Pani’s dreams and ambitions and offer her our support and encouragement. Pani is humble and thus worthy of all our praise for her accomplishments,” he said.
Ayoubizadeh thanked her parents for bringing her to Canada. She expressed her gratitude to USS teachers, in particular Ms. Thompson, and made a special note of thanks to the Dick Close Scholarship.
“I hope I can pay off all this support with my hard work. Thank you so much everyone,” said the USS grad. Ayoubizadeh was also voted as Ucluelet’s Youth of the Year at the Ukee Days closing ceremonies on July 24.
Richard (Dick) Close passed away on Feb. 24, 2016 at his home on Cox Bay in Tofino. He developed Weigh West Marina (now Tofino Resort + Marina), was instrumental in developing the Long Beach Golf Course, and was active in creating the Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society and was involved with the Tofino General Hospital Foundation.