by Kyla

Last week, last exam … I’m done. But for the technicality of graduation (which I look forward to very much), I have completed my degree. And that, let me tell you, feels like a million bucks!

Two years ago I almost dropped out of university. I didn’t want to drop out, I loved school, but I had been in university for a year and a half and still had two years left to go. I was also seriously out of money, as I remain to this day, and I just didn’t see how I could go forward. I wrote an essay about it called Gnawing, about how I would lie awake at night wanting to gnaw off my own hand.

And then I heard from financial aid. I’d been awarded the MacVille Charitable Foundation Award for Continuing Students – an award that paid my tuition for the 2010/2011 school year. I felt faint with relief. Suddenly I saw that perhaps I could go on, after all.

After my first semester of university, I was awarded $2500 from the Minerva Foundation for the 2009/2010 school year. The next year I was given the MacVille Award, and this last year, 2011/2012, I was again granted $2500 from Minerva. The scholarships were lovely – they meant I needed significantly less money in student loans than I might otherwise have,  but to me the real significance of the scholarships were not – and are not – about money.

When I was lying awake at night so overwhelmed with stress that I wanted to gnaw off my own hand, word of a scholarship came as a sign that perhaps I was not doing the wrong thing after all. Scholarships provided a light by which I could see my way forward. They were little gifts of hope; like little promises, ones that whispered, it’s okay. You are doing the right thing, after all.  While I couldn’t see my way all the way forward, each year they lit enough of the path in front of me that I could keep taking steps. I will do this until it doesn’t work any more, I would tell myself, and just when I thought it wouldn’t work any more, just when I was lying awake at night gnawing on my hand, something new and wonderful and promising would arrive so I could keep going a little bit farther.

And now I am done. The way was lighted enough. Time and again, it was lighted enough.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, to VIU Financial Aid and Awards, to the Minerva Foundation, and to the MacVille Charitable Foundation. Thank you for these gifts of hope. I say in no uncertain terms: I could not have done it without you.

And for you students: apply. There are grants and scholarships and bursaries out there – there are drawers full of them. Go spend some time in Financial Aid and apply for whatever you can. Perhaps you will not get anything – but perhaps you will. There are people out there who want – who want – to give money to support students like you; who want to help light the path before you. Help them find you – apply for whatever you can.

And when you get an award, pause for a moment amazed that there are people in this world who donate their money just to help out students like you, just so you can have, for a little while, the burden lifted, just to give you a breath of hope.  To this day, that takes my breath away.

Because of you, I made it through.

Thank you.