Michael Kennedy of Spaniard's Bay had long envisioned himself as an engineer, so he could put his fondness and talent for math and science to good use.
But his career goals have changed completely following his attendance at Shad Valley in Dalhousie University this summer.
The 17-year-old now has his sights set on becoming a medical doctor specializing in radiology. It's a daunting challenge, one that will require many years of study and training to achieve, but Kennedy has proven on many occasions he has the ability and intelligence to accomplish his goals.
During his time at Shad Valley, Kennedy helped his team to a first place finish in a competition that qualified the group to attend the nationals at the University of Waterloo in October, where Kennedy and his teammates will compete for the National Shad Valley Entrepreneurship Cup.
He also finished the 2011-12 school year with a 97 per cent average.
"This experience completely changed what I thought I was going to be in life, and gave me insights into other fields," said Kennedy, who is entering Level III at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts next month.
Michael is the son of John and Christine Kennedy. He has a younger sister, 16-year-old Nicole.
How did Michael Kennedy earn the right to attend Shad Valley?
He was one of 11 high school students from throughout the province to win inaugural High School Enrichment Awards, which were handed out as part of an awards competition initiated by the Research & Development Corporation (RDC). The RDC is a provincial Crown corporation responsible for improving Newfoundland and Labrador's R&D performance.
All of the award winners spent part of their summer attending research-focused enrichment programs throughout North America.
Kennedy was one of five winners from this province selected to attend Shad Valley, at a cost of just under $6,000 each.
According to its website, Shad Valley is a four-week program held at 10 Canadian university campuses throughout the country, including Memorial University in St. John's and Dalhousie University in Halifax.
"With workshops and lectures that focus on the sciences, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship, the program provides an academically stimulating, mind expanding adventure for top well-rounded students. Students also take part in team-building exercises, recreational activities and the opportunity to explore local attractions," the website stated.
Kennedy helped a team of fellow Shad Valley participants win a product development competition. The topic for Kennedy's team was childhood obesity, which rose to the top of the five teams in the competition. Kennedy detailed all the financial projections for the project.
The team will now advance to the national competition, to be staged at the University of Waterloo this fall.
"It was one of the better experiences I've ever had," said Kennedy, who arrived back in Spaniard's Bay on July 28.
So why did the experience change his career ambition?
"It basically showed you a lot of different fields for work and exactly how they are. I decided that based on my interests that medicine is my new goal. This changed me completely. It helped me a lot."
Kennedy plans to pursue a medical degree at Memorial University, but is not sure beyond that.
He made special mention of Dave Keefe, a science teacher at Ascension Collegiate, for his guidance and support.
The RDC's Research Inspired Student Enrichment (RISE) Awards, launched in 2011, provides high school students who achieve academic excellence with an opportunity to attend a recognized enrichment program in the summer.
The awards aim to increase students' knowledge of research-related education and career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics prior to post-secondary education.
The RDC invested more than $72,000 in this year's RISE Awards program.
Other award winners included the following: Erynn Button, Booth Memorial High School; Ioana Dobre, Gonzaga Regional High School; Michael Gilbert, Stephenville High School; Clara Humby, Cloud River Academy; Kaitlyn Jarvis, Marystown Central High School; Shaziana Kaderali, Booth Memorial High School; Liam Long, Booth Memorial High School; Natasha Murphy, Corner Brook Regional High School; Luke Parrott, Marystown Central High School; and Jared Trask, Holy Spirit High School.