Brianna Smrke didn’t know she was perfect.
But after a phenomenal final year of high school, logging hours of homework a night, there’s no doubt she is, earning 100 per cent in each of her eight courses. Grade 12 students usually take six courses.
“Everything fell into place this year,” says the 18-year-old graduate of Etobicoke’s Michael Power/St. Joseph High School and the top student in the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
“I never got marks this high in high school, ever. I’ve gotten high 90s before in grades 9, 10 and 11, but this was just the perfect time for me to peak.”
Her secret? “Putting in the effort and doing the work and staying on top of things. Once I got started, it was easier to maintain and do my absolute best. I’m just so happy it happened.”
All the more impressive is that her eight courses — two English, two biology, two chemistry, plus history and calculus/vectors — were all part of the International Baccalaureate program, which is far more rigorous than the regular curriculum.
Even Drew Deutsch, director of the International Baccalaureate program, called it a rarity among IB students around the globe, commending her for her “unique and exceptional accomplishment.”
While Smrke spent about seven hours doing homework each night — working from 3 p.m. to about 11 p.m., with a break for dinner — she also found time to work on fundraising initiatives, help distribute food to the homeless, be a volunteer math tutor and a “best buddy” to a special needs student at her school.
But she also took time for herself, going out with friends to art galleries, fringe festivals and music concerts.
“I had a really good social life this year for some reason,” she said. “It was the best year for everything.”
This fall, Smrke heads to McMaster University in Hamilton for its prestigious arts and science program.
“There’s about 60 (accepted) each year and you get a sense of community and family” with such a small group, just like in her high school IB program.
Smrke isn’t set on a career, but is interested in neuroscience. This summer, she’s working in an asthma research lab at the University of Toronto, a job she landed after volunteering with a stem cell researcher there.
“I’ve been given so much, I’m living in such a great place at such a great time, and I have such a great support system with my family, my friends,” said Smrke of her academic drive. “With everything I’ve been given, I should be able to do something great.”
Smrke, however, admits to needing a little help in one area: “I always get made fun of because I can’t always tell my left from my right without having to check. . . . That’s probably the most shocking thing about me,” she said, laughing. “I subtly put my hands down on my pants and make Ls” to figure out which is which.
Dimple Dalal, a student at Brampton’s Turner Fenton Secondary School, also achieved a 100 per cent average and is the Peel District School Board’s top student. She also studied in the IB program.