Shyen T.


2019 Scholarship Recipient


Scholarship Amount: $10,000
University of Western Ontario
Program: Education

I am an only child and was raised by a single mother who left an abusive relationship with my father when I was three years old. As a child, I had extreme separation anxiety from my mother, making school a struggle. However, even though neither of my parents completed high school, my mother was always extremely adamant on me obtaining a degree and encouraged me to become a teacher.

When I was eleven years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing months of treatments, she went on disability and struggled to get us by, as she did not have critical illness insurance. After three years of being in remission, she was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer and underwent nine different types of chemotherapy treatments until passing away when I was nineteen years old.

I was suddenly on my own and felt that the floor had fallen from under me. My mother had no life insurance or other financial means to leave behind. With a laundry list of new expenses, including the payments for the home that I had lived in since I was three years old, I knew that sacrifices would need to be made.

Immediately following my mother passing, I returned to college full- time; began working nearly full-time; and became the primary support for my grandmother. As I did not have a consignor for a student loan from a bank, I had to rely solely on myself, financially. Within one year, I completed my diploma program and started studying at University of Waterloo to obtain my degree. During this time, I began to feel extremely overwhelmed and my anxiety amplified. I knew that I couldn’t keep up working and going to school full-time and made the decision to focus on my education.

However, this decision came with its own consequences and sources for anxiety, as I was no longer able to afford to live in my home. As I continued to push through school, I began to see a psychologist, where I learned how to better manage my anxiety, grieve, and confidently walk away from my own abusive relationship with my father.

I completed my degree one year ago and have now begun teacher’s college. While I have never lost motivation to achieve my goals, the financial stress that has come with the loss of my mother is a constant worry. The extreme anxiety that I feel negatively impacts my personal relationships and overall health every day. Had my mother had insurance before becoming ill, I would have been able to fund necessary supports for my grandmother. I also would have been able to focus on my education and achieving better grades. As I was not able to do this, I did not get into my local school of choice for teacher’s college. Instead, I travel three hours per day for school to achieve my goal of becoming a teacher. The Manulife Life Lessons Scholarship would enable me to focus on my education and wellbeing.

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