Two honours students who spent their high school years at a prestigious private school northwest of Okotoks had very different school experiences, but both are ready to take on the world.
Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School’s Aribim Pepple rarely attended school – often learning virtually while focusing on soccer - while Cecilia Liu was
an active member of her school community, often heading up extra-curricular activities. Both graduated in June.
For Liu, who lives near Spruce Meadows, it was her experience at STS that got her out of her shell.
“In elementary and junior high I was more on the shy side,” she said. “I didn’t really talk a lot, but after I got to STS I got more confident.”
Liu became so confident, in fact, that she ran for the role of prefect, which has students planning school activities and acting as a mentor to her
peers, in her senior year.
“It was really good confirmation of how far I’ve come to be elected prefect,” she said. “I’ve been really grateful to have an opportunity to represent my school.”
Liu’s involvement in extra-curricular activities began in her first year at STS when she joined the 2050 Project, where students address problems they might face in 2050. Liu’s project involved looking into using mealworms as an alternative protein source.
Liu also signed up to help organize activities around STS’s Diversity Week, which celebrates the school’s diverse cultures and all the ways students are different.
Liu’s extra-curricular involvement didn’t end there.
In Grade 11, she took part in the STEM Followship’s Big Data Challenge for undergraduate students with three other STS students. Her team placed in the top seven and was invited to present their project in Calgary last spring.
The Big Data Challenge is an inquiry-driven experiential learning program that invites students from across Canada to strengthen their problemsolving
and critical thinking skills while gaining familiarity with the fundamentals of data science.
“The theme of the challenge was looking at data that’s related to the Earth and connecting it to the future in space travel, so our project was taking air pollution data from California and using AI (artificial intelligence) to analyze it and apply hypothetical situations on Mars for planning for human habitation,” explained Liu.
Last year, Liu was one of 25 students selected to be a part of the Heritage Youth Researchers summer Program after writing a science-related essay and receiving referrals from two of her teachers.
The six-week internship for Alberta high school students at the University of Calgary tasked Liu to work with a university professor to conduct a database analysis of the adverse reactions to the drug Clozapine, which is used to treat schizophrenia patients, with a focus on its impact on the intestinal system.
A research paper containing Liu’s analysis was published in this spring’s Psychiatry Research journal.
“It was furthering my interest in neuroscience,” said Liu of her participation in the project. “It opened my eyes to how many different facets of science are interconnected.”
Liu is an honours student and full diploma candidate for the International Baccalaureate Diploma program.
She has a love for music, having played the flute in the school band and keyboard in the pit band for the school’s last two musicals, Mamma Mia and Elf.
With so many opportunities ahead of her, Liu is directing her focus on the sciences – specifically neuroscience.
“I got waitlisted by Harvard so I’m still waiting on that decision,” she said. “If that doesn’t work out I will go UBC’s faculty of science.”
At the University of British Columbia, Liu would pursue a bachelor of science degree in behavioural neuroscience – what she refers to as “a biology
approach to psychology.”
Pepple also has an interest in psychology, which is his backup plan in the event he doesn’t go pro.
Pepple, an honours student who lives in Heritage Pointe, was offered a two-year professional contract last year to play with Cavalry Football Club in Foothills County. The contract ends in November.
He made his pro debut for the Cavalry’s Canadian Premier League’s draw against the HFX Wanderers last August.
“It’s my dream come true to get the opportunity to play pro,” he said. “Just recently it’s been available for players to play pro in Calgary.”
Born in England, Pepple got his start in soccer overseas. After his family moved to Calgary, he joined the Calgary Foothills Soccer Club.
“At around 15 I hit my growth spurt and I started playing with older and faster players,” he said. “I moved up faster than people normally would. I
was more developed than most kids my age. Last year they moved me to U23.”
Pepple is keeping his eyes on the prize – getting recruited to play in university or possibly down the road playing abroad.
“Obviously the goal for everyone is to play overseas,” he said. “I don’t really know where I will end up playing – where soccer will take me.”
Although Pepple was a student at STS for three years, he didn’t spend much time in the hallways or classrooms with his peers.
“I wasn’t at school at lot because of soccer,” he said. “I was able to come in after hours and before school. The teachers were very flexible.”
During the small amount of time Pepple did spend at the school, he joined the Spartans’ basketball and badminton teams in Grades 10 and 11.
“Basketball was one of the highlights of my time there,” he said. “I was with the senior varsity team in Grade 11 and that was so much fun. It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had.”
Pepple began playing basketball in Grade 7 and fell in love with the sport, but when it came time to decide between basketball and soccer he chose soccer.
When organized sports ground to a halt across Alberta last spring due to physical distancing regulations and mass gathering restrictions in light of COVID-19, Pepple remained in heavy training mode.
“We can’t train in the facilities together, but we’re doing Zoom calls and they give us a workout program at home - it’s just not with the team,” he said. “It feels more intense because they try to make sure our fitness levels don’t drop.
“They work us to the extreme to make sure that we can start with our foot running.”
The new routine wasn’t easy at the beginning with daily yoga, ball work and workout regimes, but Pepple has gotten into the groove.
“My teammates motivated me and cheered me on,” he said.
For Pepple, athleticism is a family trait.
His father played university soccer in Nigeria and his younger brother lives with a billet family in Vancouver while playing for the Whitecaps FC youth team.
While his athletic future looks bright, Pepple has a backup plan.
He’s considering taking an online psychology program through the Athabasca University, with a plan to pursue medical school. His mother is a doctor and his dad is a surgeon.
But for the moment, Pepple has his eyes on the ball.
“I’m really excited I can now pursue my dream to play professional soccer full time,” he said. “Now I can see where that takes me."