Haliburton Highlands Secondary School students Sydney Little, left, lower, and Chelsea Flynn accepted the Wilberforce FUNraising Group Bursary Award worth $500 from the FUNraising Group’s Joan Barton, left, above, and Kathy Rogers on Dec. 23 at the Herlihey Park bench at the Agnews General Store in Wilberforce. The bursary, which was started because of a donation and then was doubled because of several other residents, will help cover the cost of tools for career aspirations. Barton said the Herlihey Park bench is relevant to the bursary because of its commemoration to Hilda Clarke, who was a community booster that believed in the importance of education./DARREN LUM Staff

Wilberforce gives students a hand up for future careers

By Darren Lum

Even with masks on, the two Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 12 students couldn’t hide the light in their eyes, expressing their happiness for being chosen as the first recipients of the Wilberforce FUNraising Group Bursary Award.

Students Chelsea Flynn of Wilberforce and Sydney Little of Harcourt were appreciative and grateful for the bursaries, each receiving $500 to go towards their chosen post-secondary path.

The Wilberforce Elementary School graduates said this money will help to cover the cost of equipment related to their areas of study.

Flynn, who has her sights set on becoming a plumber, said she was brought to tears with her mother when she received word she had been chosen as a recipient.

“We were sitting in Haliburton and I cried. My mom and I were sitting in the parking lot, crying,” she said.

Her entire family, she said, is employed in the trades.

The bursary will alleviate some of the stress related to buying much of the tools she requires for her upcoming apprenticeship this year, which is made possible through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.
Sydney echoed the importance of the bursary for her career aspirations. She plans to attend post-secondary school for baking later this calendar year to pursue her passion, hoping to use her culinary skills to open her own country cafe.

“I just got off work so it was later in the day. I was very happy because I knew that would cover a couple things I knew I needed,” she said.

She adds the money will be used to purchase her uniform and enables her to upgrade or add to her collection of baking implements. The senior student said her passion for baking started with her grandmother, who loved to bake pies.

The bursary coordinator and member of the Wilberforce FUNraising Group, Kathy Rogers said the bursary award is all about the community.

“It was an anonymous donation that came to our group because of all the stuff that we do for the community and then we turned the funds around to put back into the community to our youth and folks in the community because we’re all about community spirit,” Rogers said.

FUNraising group member Joan Barton said this donation was followed up by another surprise donation made by several people, who came forward after reading the Echo article promoting the bursary and alerting the public about the deadline in December.

“We didn’t go out and ask anyone for anything to do with the bursary,” she said.

There’s a certain message that is being delivered from the community, Barton said.

“I think it says the whole community thinks that the well-being of the young people in the community is tremendously important. That it’s a really high priority,” she said.

She believes this desire to help young people comes from the large population of seniors and how they want to contribute to a stronger future.
“I think that the community here wants the opportunities our young people have to be just as exciting and just as varied and just as open as the opportunities are for a kid that lives anywhere in Canada. We want our kids to have a level playing field,” she said.

There is always a hope that community work is recognized and these donations for the bursary were an affirmation of the efforts.

“When you’re trying to be a community group doing work for the good of the community it’s always nice to get feedback that, yes, you’re going in the right direction. And that’s about the most concrete feedback you can get,” she said. “We feel like we’re doing something that the community wants done.”

Rogers said there has been another donation made to the group, which will be used for a bursary for next year. This is in addition to the FUNraising Group’s ongoing fundraising efforts from holding events such as the maple syrup festival, penny raffle and the sale of community calendars. The group also welcomes donations from the public.

This bursary was open to students from Wilberforce and the surrounding area.

Students were asked to complete an application form that was reviewed by the Wilberforce FUNraising Group. Application forms included intended programs of study, the name of the college, university or apprenticeship program, career goals, and academic information such as credits completed and final marks, participation in extra-curricular activities, and community service activities. It also asks for a written submission or video presentation or graphic presentation about the reason why the applicant is applying for the bursary and what career goals they have to be attached to the application. Preference was given to students entering their first year of post-secondary education.

Barton said this positive outcome is proof of two things: community support and good candidates.

“Our hope at this point is that this is the beginning of something that’s going to go on and perhaps get bigger. We’ve done this and it worked out really well and the intention is to run with it,” she said.