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RAYS sets scholarship recipients on promising paths

Creemore Echo - October 29, 2019

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Two of RAYS recent scholarship graduates shared where they are today after graduating from their university programs. Jordan Charles graduated from Brock University in Child and Youth Studies and is now working in her field as a developmental support worker. Josh Swift graduated from Western University in Environment and Health with a minor in Political Science and is on a fellowship program with an United States organization called Green Corps.

Swift said, “It’s five years ago this fall, I attended a workshop lead by Tony Fry that was held in my high school. That’s where I learned about RAYS and the assistance they offered to students. I knew I wanted to go to university, but I had no idea how I’d be able to afford it even though I worked part-time during the school year and full-time in the summers.”

Charles added, “RAYS took away some of the pressure and stress that I otherwise would have had when paying for my schooling. Instead of focussing on where I was going to find enough
money to get through school, I was able to focus on getting good grades, experiencing new things and making meaningful relationships with new people.”

Part of the support offered by RAYS is having a mentor. Swift talks about his relationship with his mentor, Doug Mills. He said, “Mills would check in with me from time to time. I always found this so encouraging especially when my grades dropped from where they were in Grade 12. Mills pointed out that it was a learning curve and I would do better in the future.”

Going to university can be stressful. Swift says, “Over the years, RAYS has become like a family to me, full of caring and supportive people that want nothing more than to help you achieve your full potential. I don’t think the people at RAYS will ever truly know how big of an impact they have had on me throughout the years, but I hope they know how thankful I am.”

Charles said, “The gratitude I have toward RAYS and my sponsors for their contribution to my schooling is beyond words. It is truly an amazing organization.”

Swift shared that his academic journey was not a straight line and he changed his major from kinesiology after his first year to follow his passion that combined both his love for the
environment with his interest in human health.

Swift reflects on how his university experience helped prepare him for his job. He said, “My undergrad in Environment and Health with a minor in Political Science was an amazing base for what I am now doing. On a daily basis I have conversations about environmental issues and the various impacts those are having, many of which are human health related. My background in political science including many positions through the university, such as External Representative of my faculty’s Student Association, Research Analyst in Western’s Leadership and Democracy lab to name a few, has given me a strong grounding in the policy process and how government functions.”

Figuring out what you want to do in your career can be challenging. Charles offers this advice, “Follow what makes your heart happy and if you find that whatever program you are in does not make you happy, then try and explore different options that you are passionate about. Also, explore new opportunities available at your university.” She adds, “I now work in my field at a group home for folks with disabilities and I am supporting an individual with autism. It’s the best job ever! I love it and my work has made me ever more passionate about this field. I eventually plan to earn my Masters degree in Applied Disability Studies.”

RAYS, Resources for Area Youth Success, is a Creemore-based charity that invests in youth for a brighter future. Over the past seven years (to end of 2018), RAYS has attracted over $350,000 and awarded 18 university scholarships and 23 bursaries.

Sandra Webster