Teen scholarship winners knock down all obstacles in their way

Marissa Drew and Jarrod Martin among 85 students chosen to receive post-secondary scholarships

Their path to a bright future has been littered with obstacles.

But teenagers Marissa Drew and Jarrod Martin have managed to navigate through adversity and emerge stronger

Drew, a Langley resident and Martin, who lives in Surrey and attends school in Langley, are among the 85 students chosen to receive post-secondary scholarships through the Horatio Alger Association of Canada.

It is a charitable organization “dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles.”

The winners include five recipients of the $10,000 Horatio Alger National Entrepreneurial Scholarships, awarded to students who demonstrate a desire and ability to be entrepreneurial in a chosen field, and 80 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarships valued at $5,000 each.

Horatio Alger scholarships are awarded annually to deserving high school and vocational students in financial need who have overcome significant adversity while demonstrating strength of character, strong academics, a commitment to pursuing higher education as well as a desire to contribute to society.

Funds can be used for both post-secondary vocational or university studies. Since 2012, over $3 million in scholarships have been awarded to 601 young Canadians.

Pushing Through Problems

Drew definitely fits the bill for the scholarship.

“I have suffered years of abuse, as well as mental and physical health issues,” she told the Times.

She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression with psychotic symptoms.

“I have (also) been diagnosed from about the age of 12 or 13 with fibromyalgia and have had ANA positive blood all my life, causing a weak immune system,” she noted.

Her home situation forced Drew to take on a parental role at a young age, raising her brother — who is 10 years younger — up until a year ago. Drew said she missed years of school (Grades 8 and 9, and most of Grade 7) due to illness and depression, yet still managed to succeed in high school and settle for no less than an 80 per cent grade point average.

The 17-year-old is currently attending high school in Langley and is planning on going to SFU next year as she recently received an acceptance letter. Drew has big plans. She’s focused on getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology, then a masters in counselling, in order to become a counsellor for youth.

“A year ago today, I would have never thought this achievable with my previous home situation and the severe state of depression I was in because of it,” Drew said. “But I pushed through, stood up for myself and my little brother, and I am able to focus on my studies now.”

Motoring Toward a Brighter Future

Eighteen-year-old Martin says he’s “been through a lot.”

“(I had) unstable living conditions all my life and has been a very big driving factor for me,” he told the Times. “They are my main motivation to be successful in life, so I don’t have to go through that or make my family go through that.”

He says he lives in a “rough area” in Whalley but works hard to make it to school every day.

The mechanically inclined Martin is enrolled in an automotive technician program sponsored by Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and after graduation, hopes to pursue a career in the automotive industry.

He will be putting the scholarship funds toward his schooling, with the goal of becoming an automotive technician.

Criteria

The association received thousands of applications from coast to coast to coast, with each submission confirming the necessity of these needs-based scholarships:

• The average annual family income of the recipients was $25,145;

• 51 per cent of the scholars experienced abandonment by a parent or guardian;

• 45 per cent suffered from physical, mental, or sexual abuse;

• 40 per cent faced drug or alcohol abuse in the household;

• 25 per cent experienced disability or serious illness;

• 19 per cent faced the death of a parent or guardian;

• 12 per cent experienced the incarceration of a parent or guardian;

• eight per cent are wards of the state or in foster care; and

• eight per cent have faced homelessness.

Association president Prem Watsa said choosing winners was a difficult task.

“We have an outstanding group of 85 scholarship recipients and we are honoured to help them as they strive to overcome adversity and obtain a good education,” Watsa said.

A total of 60 per cent of the recipients work during the school year and the average recipient maintains an exceptionally high grade of 89 per cent.

For the complete list of the five Horatio Alger National Entrepreneurial Scholarship recipients and the 80 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarship recipients, click here.

Association members include Alain Bouchard, Dominic D’Alessandro, Murray Edwards, Serge Godin, Wayne Gretzky, Rebecca MacDonald, the late G. Wallace F. McCain, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Jim Pattison, Gerald W. Schwartz, Isadore Sharp, Prem Watsa and Rick Waugh. The Right Honourable David Johnston will be inducted into the association as a member in the spring of 2018. For more information, visit www.horatioalger.ca. The association can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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