What he read instead had him screaming and running around his bedroom. Upstairs, his mother, Angeline Bundy, shouted to him “why are you screaming?” He ran up the stairs and told her he’d been awarded $50,000 in scholarships, “then she started screaming.”
Tuition and textbooks for Dalhousie’s Computer Science and Informatics program costs about $12,000 a year. Over four years, Beals would have been looking at a $47,153.84 price tag on his degree. Now—as long as he keeps his grades up—Beals says he won’t have to work during the school year, which means he can focus on school and leave his job at McDonalds, where he’s been working throughout COVID-19, behind.
For Beals, the money means he can leave stereotypes behind—“a lot of people that I meet for the first time or I have one interaction with, they see where I live and the colour of my skin, and they immediately make judgements about who I am as a person”—and continue to contribute to his community. He just wants a good job, to earn a good living, so he doesn’t have to live low-income and can give back to the things that have given to him.
A simple goal from a simple lesson he learned when he first got involved with LOVE Nova Scotia in Grade 10. He’d signed up for a youth leadership program that was free, and then saw that its existence relied on people like him giving back to the program that helped him. That grew into continued community involvement because “when someone gives you to you, you want to give that back to them.”
Right now, Beals is finishing up his last semester high school from his home in Dartmouth. He’s taking AP physics, Calculus 12, Band 12 (where he plays the bass guitar—currently working on Yes’s “Roundabout”) and global geography.
He misses the social interaction part of high school the most. Doing school work from home doesn’t feel like a vacation (he says his teachers are doing a great job of teaching his classes online). It’s at times stressful being so isolated from everything: creative outlets, social interaction, activities that help youth maintain their mental health.
Beals has been awarded the Seymour Schulich Renewable Community Scholarship, a Seymour Schulich Residence Award, the Dalhousie AP prize and a Richardson Family Scholarship for his hard work, good grades and community involvement. It’s a long list that no doubt speaks to the character, worth ethic and charm of 17-year-old Beals. But it also adds up to a fair amount of pressure on his shoulders: To succeed, to overcome, to “break out of the cycle,” of the stereotypes around being Black and low-income.
For now, Beals is confident he can achieve all he’s set his mind on. But he’s working on building resilience, on honing his ability to handle negative feedback. Whether it comes in the form of homophobic comments—“I remember at Pride two years ago, after the parade, my boyfriend and I were walking around Halifax and someone pulled up next to us and rolled the window down and yelled the f-word and just drove off. It’s negativity like that I just don’t take well”—or things that get him down that he cannot control.
With a computer science degree, Beals hopes to return to the time he spent as a kid playing video games growing up in North Preston: “It’s something that’s helped me that I can use to help other people.”
His all-time favourite game? Undertale. A game that’s all about choices and decisions. A powerful metaphor for the choices he’s made that got him to this point. Choices he hopes someone else might see and look up to in a way he never really could.
Choices that got him to the cusp of his proudest accomplishment to date: graduating high school.
“I know it’s really simple,” says Beals. But it means he’s made it to the end of the beginning; the doors are open and he’s looking forward, ready to keep going.