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Mortarboards fly, the crowd cheers and families huddle around their gown-wearing grads as they proudly clutch crisp diplomas. It’s convocation season. In the sea of SAIT’s School of Information Communication and Technology graduates, one student in particular is crossing the stage after overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
Elijah Santos, who graduated from the Information Technology program (IT) this spring, is among the first Bissett Bursary recipients to complete a program at SAIT.
The bursary is an annual program that provides up to $13,00 in funding to cover tuition, books and academic counselling for students who might not otherwise afford a post-secondary education. Students who qualify attend one of 10 eligible Calgary high schools and are selected based on financial need, community involvement, career planning, and academic success. The program was established in 2014 with a $5 million endowment by Calgary philanthropist David Bissett.
“I was very focused in school and the next thing I know, I am graduating,” says Santos proudly.
Santos moved to Calgary from the Philippines with his brother and father after a family tragedy. He recalls how excited he and his father were when he got the news about the bursary.
“At first, it was extremely overwhelming because it was too good to be true. I even emailed the Student Awards manager to make sure it was real. I was astounded and happy.”
Santos chose IT because of his passion for computers and the bursary has helped him pursue his goal of a career working in an area he loves.
“Studying without having to worry about student loans is a dream,” says Santos. “It was an honour to receive the Bissett Bursary and it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
If it hadn’t been for the bursary, Santos would have had to put his dreams on hold, possibly forever. But now, with a diploma and the inspiration to reach even higher, Santos looks back on his SAIT experience with fondness.
He especially enjoyed the capstone project for his final semester, a team project that applies the accumulated skills and knowledge acquired during the program to solve a real-world problem. It was a challenging three months, says Santos but he rose to the challenge.
“The bliss after our capstone project presentation was unforgettable.”
After convocation, Santos says he wants to gain some practical experience in his field before going on to university to work on a computer science degree.
He sees his learning experience at SAIT as the start of what he hopes will become a successful career and he encourages other high school students who may not have the resources to further their education to investigate similar scholarship opportunities.
“It is worth a shot, and the time you invest could change your life.”
Written by Jolisa Tweedie, SAIT Journalism student