Family scholarship plan has helped hundreds attend postsecondary education

Paul Benedetti

Like many immigrants who came to Canada to forge a new life, my parents were big believers in the power of education.

My mother was the first person in her family to complete high school. My father graduated from a polytechnic in Italy. Both were very smart. And both believed deeply that the road to a successful life was through school. In Hamilton where we grew up, there were still good jobs making steel on the factory floor of Stelco and Dofasco. But, as far as my parents were concerned, we were all going to university. Period.

But there was a hitch.

We had five kids in a single income family. And these were the days before you could save money in an RESP, if there was any money left to save.

So, my father sat us all down at the dining room table and said, “You can go to any university in the world – as long as it’s McMaster.”

And that’s what we did.

If memory serves correctly – and that's not a sure thing – my tuition in 1974 was about $600. The deal was the kids paid for our own tuition and my parents paid for books, the clothes on our backs and the roof over our head. The food was pretty good too.

Today, sending a child to university costs ten times that much – $6000 or more. And that’s before residence, travel, food, toiletries and what I feel is an inordinate amount of money spent on frappuccinos, but that’s another story.

We have three children, all of whom I am glad to say, went on to postsecondary education, either college, university or both. My wife and I did our best to build up an RESP for the kids, but it wasn’t enough.

That’s why I was thrilled to find out about the UWOFA Dependents’ Tuition Scholarship which awards as much as $4900 per year for students attending postsecondary education. What I found even more remarkable was the money could be used not solely at Western but for any college or university in the country. The scholarship helped us send our children to the schools of their choice.

Last year (2015-16) the fund distributed more than $1.2 million, helping 272 young people attend college or university. Since 2009-10, the Dependents’ Tuition Scholarship Plan has awarded more than 2000 scholarships to the children of Western’s faculty, librarian and archivist members.

I believe education will help our kids lead a productive and meaningful life and the UWOFA Dependents’ Tuition Scholarship Plan helped us make that a reality.

My parents would be proud.

Paul Benedetti is a lecturer in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies