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Bursary recipients help celebrate the launch of the TELUS Student Bursary launch at TELUS Harbour, Toronto, Oct. 11.Supplied

The TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is launching a $50-million TELUS Student Bursary fund to help students committed to changing their communities, despite experiencing financial need.

This fall, our family watched our eldest son head off to his first year of university. This milestone meant a lot to me as a parent. The importance of education in enabling young people to not just learn, but to grow and explore the possibilities of all that they can be cannot be overstated.

Unfortunately, for too many young people in Canada, the milestone of starting college or university is also a time marked by financial stress. Attending a post-secondary school these days is a major financial undertaking, with the average Canadian undergraduate leaving post-secondary school heavily in debt.

Add soaring housing costs, food, educational materials and transportation and we’ve got a pending crisis on our hands. Reports suggest that 75 per cent of students find it hard to afford post-secondary education, while the crushing weight of debt has nearly a third of students considering dropping out.

This is unacceptable. In a rapidly evolving world, there is no shortage of challenges for young people to overcome and they need our help now more than ever if they are to realize their full potential and pursue their dreams.

TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is working to help address this need with the launch of our TELUS Student Bursary. Created through a $25-million endowment from TELUS, along with an additional $25-million commitment in fundraising from the Foundation, it’s the largest student bursary in Canada. The TELUS Student Bursary offers financial assistance to deserving young people across the country who are facing financial barriers and are committed to giving back in their local communities. In addition to financial support, the program provides other wraparound support including free mobility and low-cost internet plans through TELUS’ Mobility for Good and Internet for Good programs and mentoring, networking and other career development opportunities during their school years and after graduation.

We’ve already awarded bursaries to more than 200 students across the country – all of whom are giving back to their communities in positive ways, a key differentiator of the bursary program. In all, we expect to award bursaries to more than 400 students this year and look to expand that number as we move forward. It’s our way of saying we believe in the boundless potential of our youth and the transformative power they hold.

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Ashif Mawji hosting a panel discussion at the TELUS Student Bursary launch event in Toronto, with bursary recipients Clementine, Jolie and Nebiyou.Supplied

It’s been inspiring, and humbling, to read through the many applications and bear witness to the intellect, perseverance and compassion behind each individual journey. Clementine Jarrett is one example of an exceptional youth and first-round bursary recipient.

At 19, Clementine is beginning her third year of studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, pursuing a double major in human rights and social justice, and women and gender studies. Both subjects are close to her heart. As a child taken into foster care at nine, Clementine is the embodiment of resilience and strength. She has achieved a hard-fought dream of attending university and is maintaining a near-perfect GPA. Her ultimate goal is to attain a PhD and radically transform the child welfare system – helping better enable the safety and dignity of children in care and ensure the next generation has a different experience than she did.

But her journey remains an uphill battle. With no family or external support, finances are a continuous struggle. The bleak reality is that for every 1,000 Canadian youth in the foster care system, only eight graduate with a post-secondary degree.

Clementine is exactly who the TELUS Student Bursary is designed to assist. If we can help relieve some of the financial burden, we know she can remain focused on her school work and dreams for her future.

In her own words: “Having the support of organizations like TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is one of the major reasons I am still in school. I have wanted to attend university ever since I was a child and, through immense determination, have made that dream come true. The kernel of that belief is based in the pain and hardship I have experienced and not wanting any other youth to experience it. If we don’t encourage education and personal growth, we miss out on the changemakers of tomorrow and the talent that is needed to really change the world. We owe it to these kids to help them flourish.”

Supporting students like Clementine is not something we at the Foundation want to be doing on our own. We welcome every business, big or small, every school, every leader, and every Canadian to join us in empowering our youth, across all socio-economic backgrounds. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. Together, we can ensure a brighter, more inclusive future for all, while also making a positive difference in our communities.

A serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, venture capitalist, mentor and community builder, Ashif Mawji is committed to leveraging technology and innovation to drive positive social change, helping make higher education accessible to all youth in Canada.

The next student bursary application window will open in spring, 2024. To learn more, visit friendlyfuture.com.


Meet more recipients of the TELUS Student Bursary

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Cassity

Age: 21

School: Brandon University, Manitoba

Program: Pre-psychiatric nursing

Goal: Become a nurse and help youth heal from trauma and addiction

I am a proud Indigenous woman from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation and have a beautiful two-year-old daughter. I was raised in many different environments that eventually led me to becoming a middle school dropout. I now use all the skills that I learned early on in my life to better my situation for myself and my daughter. I am extremely excited to expand my career and focus on helping others who have experienced similar events. Now, I am a Brandon University student on my way to becoming a psychiatric nurse.”

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Cody

Age: 29

School: University of Lethbridge, Alberta

Program: Psychology

Goal: Become a counsellor and youth advocate

I am deeply passionate about giving back to my community. I have witnessed firsthand the impact of limited resources and opportunities on children’s lives. I firmly believe that education is a transformative force that can empower individuals and break the cycle of poverty. Upon graduating, I am committed to dedicating my career to working with children, providing them with the support and guidance they need to reach their full potential. I envision establishing mentorship programs, organizing educational workshops and creating safe spaces where children can thrive and develop their skills and talents.”

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Yahya

Age: 19

School: Langara College, British Columbia

Program: Science

Goal: Become a doctor and inspire other refugee youth to achieve their dreams

My family came to Canada in 2020 after fleeing the Syrian civil war, during which we lost everything. I plan to study science to help me develop the knowledge and the skills needed in order to achieve my dreams of becoming a doctor. This will, in turn, also allow me to inspire and show other refugee youth what is possible for them to achieve. My life has been shaped by unprecedented trauma, and a lot of challenges and struggles have inspired me to pursue a medical career to continue uplifting my community.”

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Nebiyou

Age: 18

School: York University, Ontario

Program: Criminology and business

Goal: Become a business lawyer and advocate for social justice

“As someone who escaped a challenging life, I understand what it’s like to feel voiceless. I come from a dark past as I’ve faced hardships in Ethiopia, lost loved ones in the Yemen war, lived in a shelter and encountered numerous obstacles. I’m dedicated to advocating for social justice and being a voice for the neglected. I founded community projects like ‘Brothers4Brothers,’ mentoring young males on mental health and healing, and ‘Teens4Change,’ providing clothing and food to the homeless. My brand ‘Rehoboth’ aims to spread positivity through apparel. My life’s goal is to leave a legacy of kindness and love, as my brand slogan and foundation always emphasize: ‘There is power in kindness.’”


Advertising feature provided by TELUS. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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