York University has received a landmark $5-million gift from an anonymous donor to provide scholarships for students entering undergraduate programs, graduate students and special funding for Indigenous students. The gift will be matched by York and government programs, resulting in a total impact of $10 million for York students.
This is one of the largest gifts supporting students the University has received.
“This incredible gift will support the most important group of people at York – our students,” says Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president and vice-chancellor. “The scholarships will enable us to recruit the brightest and most talented students, including many who are the first in their family to attend university at York. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the very special donor who has made it possible for us to provide new ways to ensure the best learning environment and experience for our students.”
Through an exciting partnership with Indspire, a non-profit organization that promotes the development and education of Indigenous people, this donation will attract government matching grants to provide an unprecedented level of support for Indigenous students at York. The funds will be used to expand and develop programming and support services, benefiting a segment of the Indigenous student population that may not normally have access to financial support at the postsecondary education level.
“A significant portion of this target group consists of mature students,” says Randy Pitawanakwat, coordinator of Aboriginal student services at York’s Centre for Aboriginal Student Services. “Some of the monies can also be accessed for important needs such as child care and transportation.”
For Indigenous students like Lisa-Lynn Stewart, a past student award recipient at York, the financial support she received enabled her to focus on her studies and spend more time with her daughter. Despite challenges of being a single mother who relies on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) as a sole source of income, Stewart was determined to use her education to improve the life of her family and of Canadian Indigenous people. She is currently completing a bachelor’s degree with honours in Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity with a minor from the Department of Philosophy, as well as certificates in Anti-Racist Research and Practice and in Indigenous Studies.
Likewise, the far-reaching impact of this gift will offer unique opportunities that are otherwise unthinkable for many graduate students at York. For example, thanks to a scholarship she recently received at the University, Melanie Wilmink, a PhD student of art history and visual culture, was able to focus on her academic pursuits and dream big.
“More than the financial benefits, the recognition has given me the confidence to push much deeper into my research. It’s a clear signal that York sees potential in me and my research, and that the University is as excited as I am about my future role here,” Wilmink says. “With the assistance I received, I look forward to building a solid foundation for my research and continued academic career.”