Listening to Dominican student, Aaronia Stedman, tearfully relate the impact the University of the West Indies (UWI) Toronto scholarship has made in her life was a powerful reminder of the need for organizations to raise funds to help young people with little or no financial resources fulfil their academic potential.
When her father – the family’s sole breadwinner – passed away a few years ago, Stedman’s mother assumed that role in addition to caring for her six children.
Despite the family matriarch’s struggle to make ends meet, Stedman was determined to become the first in her family to pursue post-secondary education.
“When I made the decision that I was going to attend university, I didn’t know how I was going to finish the program,” the management studies student said at the UWI Toronto’s fourth annual gala last Saturday night. “I saved every penny from ad hoc jobs to raise the EC$3,000 deposit that was needed to get a credit union loan. I knew I didn’t have enough money to cover my expenses leading up to the final year of my studies, so I prayed.”
Stedman’s prayers were answered when she was awarded a Can$3,000 scholarship from funds raised from last year’s Toronto fundraiser.
“When I heard I was granted a scholarship, I stopped what I was doing, knelt on the ground and cried as I was overcome with tears of gratitude and joy,” she said. “This scholarship has given me hope and strength so that I can attain my goal of becoming an economist. It has also made a significance difference in terms of alleviating my financial burden.”
Pursuing her first degree at the Open campus, Stedman was among 32 students who benefitted from UWI Toronto 2012-13 scholarships.
Nearly $1 million has been raised through the Toronto benefit gala to assist Caribbean students pursuing post-secondary education at the largest and longest standing higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The cost of tuition for a full-time undergraduate program averages about Can$12,000 annually. Close to 2,000 students apply annually for UWI scholarships and less than 100 are granted academic funding each year.