Children's Aid helps finance college dreams

  • September 5, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Catholic Children’s Aid Society awarded its latest 84 scholarships totalling more than $180,000 to students who were enrolled in a postsecondary program Aug. 27.

Over the past four years, the society has more than doubled the number of scholarships that it has given out to students formerly in its care.

But for many students, like Allison Kretschmer, 24, the opportunity to merely attend school, let alone receive a scholarship for it, once seemed like an unattainable dream.

“I never thought that I would be at this point,” Kretschmer said.

Kretschmer said she had been in the CCAS’s care since she was 14, jumping from foster home to group home until she was 18.

“Academically, I’ve always done really well, but I just thought from an emotional and financial standpoint that it would never be something that would happen for me,” she said.

This is her fourth year receiving the scholarship, having recently graduated with a four-point grade average at George Brown College in the behavioural science technology program. Kretschmer received about $1,500 yearly in financial aid from Catholic Children’s Aid during those three years.

This time, she is receiving the scholarship to help pay for some of her expenses as she entered the psychology program at York University this fall.

“I look at it and I’m proud of my accomplishments but there’s so much more motivation in knowing that the opportunity is out there — it motivates me more even though I still have a long way to go,” she said.

For Chavenne Stamp, 21, the journey has also been  difficult.

Stamp said she went into care at the age of 11 after having just moved to Canada from Jamaica with her mother and brother. In less than five years, she went through six foster homes and group homes and became pregnant at the age of 15. After turning 16, she was able to get an apartment and soon had a second child.

“Throughout that time, I had my social workers and they were behind me 100 per cent,” she said. “Whatever I was doing I was able to tell them.

“If I was facing a hardship, if they weren’t able to help me they would steer me in the right direction so I believe that helped a lot in terms of how I was able to cope with everything that was going on.”

Stamp said she finally decided to attend college as a mature student and enrolled in police foundations at Humber College. This fall she starts her second year at Humber, but has decided she would like to get into social work at York University in the fall of 2009.

“While I’ve been volunteering with the Jane and Finch Community Family Centre, I’ve noticed that I’m happy with what I’m doing there so I figured instead of doing policing, that I’m not so passionate about, I’ll do what I love and get paid for doing it.”

Two years ago, Stamp said she helped to start a grassroots community group called Jane and Finch On the Move, which provides social events like community barbecues, but which also holds forums with youth and other community members on difficult issues.

She said the group also holds local politicians accountable for their promises.

“I was happy doing those things. I feel proud of it. I figure I want to continue down that path,” she said.

Mary Bowyer, the executive director for Hope for Children Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the society, said a large number of the scholarship recipients choose “helping” professions, such as social work, teaching and health care.

“They’re very actively involved,” she said. “Many of them volunteer for their community. They have overcome some challenges that some of us can’t even fathom, and they have come out of that with a positive determination to make the world a better place.”

Bowyer said there is a 90-per-cent graduation rate of the former crown wards who receive scholarships.

“This year, there were three or four youth who we were providing scholarships to who needed to take a year off for various purposes and now they’re coming back to finish their degree, so if we included those folks, we might be a bit above 90 per cent,” she added.

The CCAS provides scholarships to every one of its former crown wards successfully enrolled in school.

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