Maya J.


2023 Scholarship Recipient
Scholarship Amount: $10,000
School: Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate
Program: Communications and Media

It was much like any other Friday. My grandmother (Nan) picked me up from gymnastics and we grabbed a pizza for dinner. This was our Friday night routine. As soon as we got home the phone rang. Nan talked for a long time then came and sat down beside me. She said, l have some really sad news, mommy has died.

My mom was fifteen years old when I was born, and I don't know my father. From day one, we lived with Nan. Nan was a single parent. She raised my mom and her younger sister on her own. She worked long hours to make ends meet. When Mom died, Nan put on a brave face and without hesitation assured me that she would look after me. When she got laid off from her job, she confidently told me that we would be fine, and never let on that she was worried. Despite her strength and resiliency, Nan isn't wealthy and the financial impact of a funeral, and full responsibility for another child was significant.

At some point, I realized that my life was different. I didn't have parents or grandparents in the usual sense. I developed anxiety and my self-esteem plummeted. Activities and experiences that my friends took for granted were luxuries for me. I came to understand that funding university would be up to me if I wanted to attend.

When my mom died at age 27, she had no money and no insurance. Sometimes I let myself wonder what life would be like if I had a "normal" family or if my mom had insurance. Insurance wouldn't make the loss of my mom any easier, but had it been there to cover the funeral costs, my day-to-day care, and my education, life would have been much less stressful. Nan should be planning her retirement but unfortunately that is not our reality.

I was fourteen when I started coaching part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer. Nan suggested I save 20% of my pay and enjoy the rest. I decided to save 50% toward my education and use the balance to lessen the burden on Nan. It's hard to lose your only parent when you are eleven years old, but this motivated me to be self-sufficient. I am independent, maintain a 90% average, and am an accomplished athlete.

I am determined to build a good life for myself and to support Nan as she ages. The struggles I have been through have taught me a lot including how to work hard and the value of money. I honestly wish there were high school courses on money management and insurance. Everyone should know how to protect their family because everything can change in a moment, as it did for me. I am excited to start university and live in residence, but the costs are overwhelming. This scholarship will be life changing, allowing me to focus on university with significantly less financial stress. 

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