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University Advancement | December 2018  

 

How access to education can change a life

Sadia Mehmood, fifth-year biomedical sciences student

Sadia Mehmood, fifth-year biomedical sciences student, came to Ryerson through the President’s National Entrance Scholarship.

 

She’s now a fifth-year biomedical sciences student, but Sadia Mehmood’s journey to Ryerson wasn’t easy. It started at age four, when she immigrated to Canada with her family.

The transition was challenging: Mehmood was raised by a single mother with a disability and chronic health conditions. They were frequently in touch with the Children’s Aid Society, and in dire financial condition. “Growing up in that environment with no family around — it’s very difficult,” says Mehmood. “Because of the degree of financial instability we faced, sometimes we were living in shelters.”

Things began to change when Mehmood’s mother was diagnosed with a variety of health conditions, and championed by a kindly physician who helped find the community resources to stabilize the family’s life. “When my mother was finally diagnosed with Schizophrenia, things completely changed, and her physicians, nurses, healthcare team heavily advocated for my mom and got us appropriate community supports that finally stabilized my life. It also allowed me to build a very strong, loving relationship with my mother.”

Seeing first-hand the work of the medical community made Mehmood want to pursue a similar path. “I thought if I could do this for the rest of my life, that would be the career I would want. I would like to work as a primary care health practitioner, working with marginalized communities.”

In addition to excelling at school, Mehmood became a prolific volunteer, dedicating her time in hospitals and clinics to make patients’ journeys easier. She balanced this with part-time work throughout her time at high school.

 

Accessing resources

Mehmood had the drive, and she had the talent — but she also needed the resources to thrive. She came to Ryerson through the prestigious President’s National Entrance Scholarship, which provides $10,000 in funding per year ($40,000 total) to a select group of incoming students who have demonstrated outstanding academic accomplishment and leadership qualities. The scholarship is renewable each year provided the student maintains a high GPA.

For Mehmood, the scholarship meant the difference between going to university and not.

“I don’t think I would be here today without the scholarships that I received from Ryerson,” says Mehmood. “I used to have to constantly choose between volunteering at the hospital or other valuable extracurricular opportunities, and working more hours. Ultimately, I would have to do what was absolutely necessary, which is pay bills. Thanks to the scholarship, there are so many things I have gotten to be a part of because I didn't have to work so many hours.”

With the scholarship, Mehmood now has greater flexibility to pursue her career. “I knew I didn’t necessarily have those resources to be able to volunteer extensively, or be involved in a lot of student groups or do prestigious internships…For me, the scholarship provided freedom, and it also had a bit of a snowball effect: having the scholarship allowed me to pursue other opportunities.”

 

World Access to Higher Education Day

November 28 marked the first-ever World Access to Higher Education Day. Established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the day is an opportunity for institutions and organizations to form a network to address barriers to higher education, and find solutions. Ryerson is a proud registered supporter of this global movement.

“I emigrated to Canada from Morocco with my family as a child,” says Ryerson Provost and Vice-President, Academic Michael Benarroch. “My parents didn’t speak the language, we didn’t have a lot of money, and we didn’t know how to navigate the university system. I know the challenges newcomers face in entering and succeeding in university, and I’m motivated to make a difference for future generations.”

Ryerson has introduced a number of awards, grants, and scholarships, as well as programs like Spanning the Gaps and Tri-Mentoring to provide a bridge to education. Ryerson is also involved in the StudentDwellTO program, a collaborative initiative that seeks to resolve the student housing crisis.

“Ryerson’s community is one that is diverse and inclusive,” says Benarroch. “We want to do all that we can to ensure fairness, access and opportunity to support students, like Mehmood, who not only want to transform their life, but positively impact the lives of others as well.”

To support Ryerson students like Sadia Mehmood, please visit the access to higher education giving page. Your gift will help drive change.

This story first appeared on the Access to Education website.