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This article was published 22/10/2018 (1063 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Jessie Asuncion-Reyes graduated from Tec Voc High School he knew he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t know how he was going to pay his tuition.
"It was looking kind of dire," he said. "I had trouble getting loans from the banks and had troubles getting loans from the government."
Receiving a scholarship from the Westland Foundation for his first year at Red River College took a "huge" weight off his shoulders.
"I was able to pay the rest of my tuition cost through the next semester, that really saved me," said Asuncion-Reyes, who grew up in the West End in a single-parent home. "Instead of having to work constantly after school, I can actually focus on my studies, help out my mom and finish school on time."
Now in his second year at RRC, the digital media design student is a two-time Westland scholar, having received an additional $825 towards his 2018-19 tuition. Asuncion-Reyes is one of 160 inner city students to receive a scholarship towards their post-secondary education this year — a record number of recipients for the foundation.
"We’re awarding $100,000, approximately, to various inner Winnipeg students," said Westland founder and president John Prystanski. "We’re in a very real and tangible way opening up post-secondary education for more students."
Prystanski started the foundation in 1993 with a goal of removing some of the financial barriers to college and university for high school students in Winnipeg’s inner city. Prior to this academic year, Westland has given out 619 scholarships totalling over $373,000. Eligible students are awarded funding based on their middle and high school grades.
While his mom wanted him to pursue nursing, Asuncion-Reyes decided to focus on digital media design because he loves art and wants to make a difference in the world. The latter stems from a vow he made in high school to make a positive impact for others.
"That vow I made holds a lot of significance for me and it came back full circle," he said. "I understand how much of a privilege it would be to leave your mark on the world and to give a voice to others who don’t really have a voice."
He is majoring in video motion graphics because the skills are applicable to a wide variety of media industries. Upon graduation, Asuncion-Reyes’ goal is to be involved in a project that calls attention to a serious world issue, like war or hunger.
He’s already started giving back as a volunteer with the Westland Scholars Committee.
"They’re not expecting me to give back, but I understand what it is to give back to other people now," Asuncion-Reyes said. "It opened my eyes to what my impact can be, due to their impact on my life."
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.