Fifteen years after winning a scholarship that first ignited his academic aspirations, Trevor Crowe, 29, is using his opportunity to pursue an almost fully funded university education.
In 1996, Crowe, then 14, won the University of Toronto’s Andra Takacs Scholarship. Each year the award is given to two Grade 8 students in Toronto, and includes an initial cash prize and four years of tuition assistance that can be used at any accredited university or college in North America.
“Once I got the scholarship, it made university or college seem more real. It provided a lot of motivation. I just needed to wait until the time was right,” says Crowe, now a second-year U of T student.
The award is for kids involved in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto who show academic potential and are active in their community. Winners have the option of being mentored throughout high school by a U of T student to prepare for the demands of higher education.
“The scholarship encourages younger kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider post-secondary school and to believe in themselves,” says Andra Takacs, a former executive for the Ontario government who established the scholarship with her husband, Bryan Davies, in 1994.
For Crowe, who grew up in a one-parent, single-income family, the award transformed post-secondary education from a hypothetical concept to an obtainable goal − one he never lost sight of during his years away from school. Unsure of his future after graduating from high school, he sought adventure abroad, travelling across Southeast Asia, India and Australia. During his last stop, in Korea, he found work teaching English to Korean children − and finally discovered his calling. But without post-secondary training, he couldn’t advance, so after two-and-a-half years in Korea, he returned to Canada to start university.
Originally, Crowe received a $100 prize, and was to receive $1,000 annually for four years upon starting his degree; the amount of the award has since increased to $5,000 a year to accommodate rising tuition fees. Majoring in East Asian studies, Crowe has adapted well to post-secondary academics: his strong performance in a bridging course for mature students led to an additional $2,500 scholarship, and his high marks during first year landed him on the Dean’s Honour List.
Now taking a full course load while raising an 18-month-old daughter with his wife, whom he met in India while travelling, Crowe is focused on completing his degree and returning with his family to Korea, where he plans to teach again.