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Vancouver student's journey from refugee to SFU scholarship winner
VANCOUVER -- Finishing school during a global pandemic is nothing like we’ve seen before. No big ceremonies and no big celebrations. But Vancouver student Surprise Munie deserves to be celebrated.
She’s about to graduate from Britannia Secondary School and is heading to Simon Fraser University next year on a full scholarship for basketball. It's a scholarship she said she wanted since Grade 6.
“When I looked at my mum's face, she was so relieved because we don’t have the money for me to go to post-secondary, you know, and when I had received that scholarship, she was immediately at her knees. She was crying,” Munie said. “I’m going to be the first person who goes to post-secondary in my family. My mum didn’t even get to finish elementary school because there was a civil war in Liberia at the time.”
Munie and her mother came to Canada in 2009 as refugees and says the two are very close.
"She’s my biggest role model and she’s also a single parent," she said.
Munie helped lead her school team to a win this year at the provincial championships, a game she recalls as her most memorable. But the scholarship isn’t just for her achievements on the basketball court. When Muni moved in high school, she started getting involved in volunteer work. She’s now a mentor with the organization, Girls Who Leap.
“It's basically a program that attracts young ladies from sixth grade up until 12th grade and we just work with girls, helping them understand different things that they need to move forward financial literacy, how to be assertive, being confident with yourself,” Munie said.
She was encouraged to join the group by her basketball coach and mentor, Mitra Tshan, who met Munie about seven years ago.
“She helps run programs, she does breakout sessions, she leads discussions, she leads by example quite a bit and she’s taken on some of our responsibilities on social media,” Tshan said. “She encourages kids to show up and quite often the kids go to her for advice.”
Tshan says Munie has grown into her role as a mentor recently.
“If you had said a year ago she’d be doing interviews like this, she would just shake her head and walk away from you. But she’s really grown and come out of her shell,” Tshan said. “She’s always been mature beyond her years and that's a lot of what she's seen and what she's had to go through as a refugee coming to Canada.”
Munie says she plans to study psychology at university, and her new coach, Bruce Langford, is looking forward to having her as part of the team.
“I’ve watched her a lot of the last five years. She’s really grown as a player,” Langford said.
He’s also hoping she can continue her volunteer work.
“We can’t look at anybody who’s not a good student. SFU is a very challenging school to get into,” Langford said. “She has a ton of community work, like a mind boggling amount, of what she tries to give back to the community.”
Langford laughs a little trying to recall how long he’s been coaching basketball, before guessing it to be around 40 years. And he has big hopes for Munie.
“I've had a player on the Canadian national team every year since…28 years ago or something. It would be nice to have another one," he said.
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