York University students and staff met with senior management and employees from Yamana Gold Inc. at the firm’s head office in the Toronto for a reception to celebrate an award that helps first-generation students achieve success at the University. The event took place Nov. 21.
“The Yamana Gold First Generation Award aligns perfectly with our commitment to provide students with the best education and greater pathways to success,” said Mamdouh Shoukri, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “The award represents how a collective can come together to advance the vision of a more innovative and accessible university. I want to thank everyone at Yamana Gold for sharing in our vision of success.”
The Yamana Gold First Generation Award is a renewable yearly award that provides financial assistance to academically deserving students entering York who are the first member in their family to pursue post-secondary education. Yamana Gold’s $250,000 was matched by the government to create a $500,000 endowment, which has helped to fund 10 students’ educations since its inception in 2012. First-generation students constitute about one quarter of York’s student body.
“I have seen many students with promise struggle to fulfill their potential due to financial barriers,” said Karen Warner, manager of scholarships and bursaries at York. “The Yamana Gold First Generation Award supports our mission by providing students with the financial support they need so that they may be successful in their studies and complete their degrees with little or no student debt.”
Peter Marrone (LLB ‘84), chairman and CEO of Yamana Gold Inc., spearheaded the creation of the award on behalf of the company. Born to Italian immigrant parents, he noted that establishing the award was a meaningful personal endeavor because he is the first in his family to attend university, and it allowed him to give back to the University by improving access to education.
“Seeing Mr. Marrone’s accomplishments is so inspiring and makes me feel that I can also succeed because he comes from a similar immigrant background to mine,” said Arvil Revesencio, a first-year student who received the award. “The only barrier between me and attending York was money. This award took a heavy load off my back and my parents’ shoulders, and granted me the opportunity to pursue my fascination with the human body through kinesiology studies.”
In addition to Revesencio, two other award recipients spoke about the award’s impact on their studies and families.
“Growing up in a low-income family, I’ve always understood the importance of working hard,” said Megan Cote, a second-year student at the Schulich School of Business. “I used to worry about how my family and I would manage after I graduate with a load of student debt. Thanks to Yamana Gold, I can now take a breath knowing that my debt is manageable and that it’s okay to shift my focus to my studies and career.”
The award gave Shang XuHan, who graduated from Schulich in October, the ability to pursue an exchange in Shanghai, where she worked as a marketing intern at Louis Vuitton, without worrying about the costs. “I used to think about the people out there who were quietly supporting students like me to pursue university studies, although I did not know their names or faces,” said Shang. “Today, I am glad that I can finally put faces and names to those people.”
One of those faces was happy to learn about how the award affected positive change in the students’ lives: “I’m a first-generation Canadian myself, and I understand the struggles to achieve an education,” said Kavita Kamath, manager, financial projects at Yamana Gold, who attended the reception. “I’m so proud to be at Yamana and give back to a new generation of students by helping these young people complete their studies without financial stress. Their stories are so touching, and it’s very encouraging to hear about their incredible progress.”
Charles Main, executive vice-president, finance and CFO of Yamana Gold, closed the event by encouraging the students to follow their dreams – and perhaps even consider a career in the mining industry.