Last March, Toronto high school student Arjun Bharioke received a letter that meant the world to him.
Bharioke had received a four-year U of T scholarship from the Bank of Montreal National Scholars Program, a funding initiative introduced in 1996 through the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund (OSOTF). Without that aid, “I don’t know how I would have found the money for school,” says the first-year sciences student, who plans to study biophysics and biochemistry. His award even provides a mentor for a year in the academic field of his choice. “I think it’s a great program,” says Bharioke. “It’s really changed my life.”
For many students, awards and scholarships make the difference between being able to focus on an enriching academic career and just struggling to keep up. Now, with the Ontario government’s launch of a new OSOTF round to aid students with financial needs, more budding scholars will receive opportunities like Bharioke’s.
The goal is to encourage contributions that will create more permanent endowments for student aid. As in the first phase of OSOTF, the province will match private donors’ contributions dollar for dollar. Until the pledge deadline of Dec. 31, 2005, every dollar contributed to endowed student aid at U of T will do the work of two.
U of T’s objective is to raise at least $114 million by the end of 2005. In the first phase of OSOTF, U of T raised $114 million – which, with matching funds, created more than 600 awards. That helped U of T become Canada’s only university to guarantee that every student who is academically qualified will be able to attend, regardless of financial need.
U of T’s first OSOTF campaign attracted more than 33,000 supporters – many of them first-time donors to the university. This time, vice-president and chief advancement officer Jon Dellandrea hopes for even greater success. “Higher education is a very important part of the strategy for the prosperity of the province and the country. Students who are from backgrounds that are less advantaged than others should not be deprived of the benefits of higher education. Encouraging a private-public partnership in student aid makes good public policy sense.”
Dawnis Kennedy, who graduated from U of T’s Faculty of Law in 2003, would readily agree. With the assistance of the Gladys Watson Education Award, a scholarship created during OSOTF’s first round, she was able to excel at her studies, eventually winning an award as outstanding native student of the year. She celebrated that award in November at an emotional ceremony at U of T’s First Nations House, attended by close friends and family from her Anishinabe-quay band of Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba. Kennedy thanked all those who had helped her – family, friends, professors and private donors. “I think it is wonderful that people are so generous,” she said. “What would the world be like if people didn’t help each other in this way?”