Amanda, left, and Sheldon are two of the recipients of Hope for Children Fund scholarships to further their education. Photos by Ruane Remy.

Hope for children through the power of education

  • September 5, 2014

TORONTO - Amanda, a former youth-in-care with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, is acutely aware that her 19-month-old son’s future is dependent on her success in school. 

At age 23, this young mother will begin Humber College’s law clerk program with the financial help of the Hope for Children Fund and become the first member of her family to attend college. 

Hope for Children is a fundraising vehicle of the CCAS. It awarded scholarships to 100 students who are pursuing their dreams of post-secondary education this academic year. On Aug. 27, award recipients and donors gathered at The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon of the Toronto Reference Library to witness Hope for Children hand out $100,000 to current and former youth-in-care who will attend college or university this fall. 

Amanda, who for privacy reasons did not want her last name published, is one of those recipients. 

Amanda’s been working since the age of 14 and says she’s good at being responsible with money. Currently working “crazy hours” to save money, she’ll work part-time once school starts. 

“I want to make sure that I can give him (her son) everything that I didn’t get as a child — like a stable home, steady cash flow — so he doesn’t have to worry,” she said. “When I grew up, I didn’t really have much. My mother tried her hardest, but I want to give it 150 per cent. I want to make sure he has the best childhood and to know that his childhood was lived being a child and not having to grow up too fast to help me accommodate. 

“This is my start to a very long journey. I chose the law clerk program because it’s a short program so I will be able to work and still go to school and still provide for my son,” she said. 

“The maximum amount for a scholarship this year is $2,200 for the year and that’s to help the youth out with their tuition, books, any other expenses related to their schooling,” said Kara Spedding, manager of fund development at Hope for Children. “This is important because the cost of going to post-secondary school now is so enormous, especially within the City of Toronto.” She adds that this year, every applicant received an award. 

“Generally speaking, a child in care that is going into post-secondary is usually two years behind academically. That’s not an exact science, but that is a pretty close estimate based on all sorts of different contributing factors,” she said. 

While half of Canadians age 20-24 live at home with their parents, youth-in-care must leave their foster or group homes by age 18, resulting in struggles with their schooling. Often these young people must juggle part-time jobs and deal with personal struggles while attending school, said Spedding. So the scholarship lightens their load. 

“They’re still likely going to accrue student debt, student loan debt, but it really helps them so when they do graduate, they have less debt and therefore have a greater chance of succeeding in their field of choice.” 

In addition to her son, Amanda’s biggest motivation to succeed in the two-year law clerk program is the scholarship. 

“I don’t really want to be a disappointment. I want to make the people that gave me the scholarship proud to show that I do deserve the scholarship and I will work really hard for what I got,” she said. 

After college, Amanda hopes to attend university and then apply to law school. 

Sheldon, 21, has been receiving the scholarship for a few years. He is scheduled to complete his Child and Youth Work studies at Sheridan College in April. 

“I speak for a lot of crown wards in a way that it (the scholarship) helps out (by) giving you a little bit of financial freedom,” he said, adding that it can help pay for rent, food, Internet and books. “It does help you, even if it’s just putting Mr. Noodles on the table for you to get food for a month or three months. It’s something that’s really important.” 

The awards dinner was an opportunity for youth to celebrate their accomplishments and for donors to meet those they help. 

“We are so grateful to our donors who support this program. These are longstanding, very loyal donors (who) really believe in the power of education,” said Spedding. 

The fund, which merged with the CCAS two years ago, has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and special achievement grants since 1986. 

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