Sophie W.


2023 Scholarship Recipient


Scholarship Amount: $10,000
School: Queen’s University
Program: Psychology

On September 11, 2016, I woke up in the middle of the night to find firefighters and paramedics in my house. That was the night my father passed away after an 18-month battle with cancer. At ten years old I was overwhelmed by the loss and felt the great big hole that was left in our family.

I wasn’t aware at the time, but my family struggled financially afterwards, since my father passed away without life insurance. At just 52, I suppose my father never imagined that he would leave behind his wife and three young children, but I realize now that it is the unimaginable that you must plan for. That one decision was the difference between leaving his family financially secure rather than struggling to make ends meet, let alone thinking about how to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars for post-secondary education. Life insurance wouldn’t have taken away the heartache of losing my father, but it would have lessened the uncertainty about my educational future.

With my mother’s single income, she did the best she could to manage day-to-day expenses. As I got older, I understood how important it was to find work, however my opportunities for employment were limited, living rurally in a town that does not have public transportation. I had always planned to teach swimming on the weekends but due to COVID closures I was behind in earning my certifications. In August 2021, I took back-to-back lifesaving and swim instructor courses to become qualified to teach. I applied and was hired as a swim instructor and was teaching in less than 2 months. Since then, I have consistently worked and helped my mother with paying bills and become less of a financial burden by paying for my own expenses. I have consistently been an honour-roll student and maintained a 93% average to be eligible for merit-based scholarships. I am actively exploring all my options for funding to pay for my education and minimize the costly loans I would have to take.

In August 2021, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and once again our lives were turned up-side-down. After several months of testing, she had extensive surgery followed by 4 months of chemotherapy. She was unable to work, and her income was drastically reduced, so along with additional medical costs, this added to our already difficult financial situation. She returned to work in December 2022, but I know that the pressure of finances drove her to return much earlier than she was ready to.

At 17, I have learned to be resilient, through grief, financial struggles, my parent’s illnesses, and so many life challenges. I know that I will face difficult situations again, but I remain positive and hopeful knowing that I have the skills to persevere through any challenge.  I am determined to succeed and reach my goal of attending university to become a psychologist, to help people face and overcome their own challenges.

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