At age 21, Ashley Saunders has been through as many ups and downs as some people experience in a lifetime.
In 1999, her mother passed away from health complications, leaving Ashley and her two sisters to take care of themselves. Only 16 at the time, Ashley dropped out of high school and took a job waiting tables. Just when she felt her life would never improve, a friend told her about U of T’s Transitional Year Programme (TYP), an access program for adults who do not have the formal academic background to qualify for university admission. In addition to offering a full-year, full-time academic program, TYP also provides financial and social support.
Ashley was accepted to TYP in 2003, and, after an intensive year of studies, she earned a U of T National Scholarship and started last fall as a full-time student in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “TYP is one of the best things to have happened in my life,” she says. “Whatever barriers you face as a student, TYP lowers them to help you succeed.”
In 2004, the program’s current and retired faculty and staff, as well as a number of former directors, made contributions to the TYP Faculty and Staff Education Award, an endowment to provide financial aid to cover such basic costs as tuition, books and accommodation, as well as emergency expenses. This shared gift was matched by the university, matched by the provincial government through OSOTF, and triple-matched by the William Waters Challenge Fund for a total endowed fund of $75,000.
The fundraising effort was spearheaded by the program’s director, Rona Abramovitch, and received support from 100 per cent of TYP faculty and staff. “OSOTF is all about raising funds for students, and TYP is all about students who need financial aid,” says Abramovitch. “We’re doing this for the students, who are the most extraordinary people.”