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This article was published 27/2/2019 (941 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Westland Foundation has been helping hundreds of inner-Winnipeg youth engage in post-secondary education.
On Feb. 13, Westland Foundation scholars, volunteers, and donors gathered at the Millennium Library to celebrate 25 years of the foundation’s efforts in giving youth something they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
At the event, they also unveiled the 25th anniversary logo and the Westland Foundation Alumni Association, a group of scholars who have graduated high school and are either completing or have completed their post secondary studies.
John Prystanski, founder and president of Westland Foundation, said it has handed out $435,000 in scholarships to approximately 700 students. This year, the foundation has handed out 160 scholarships totaling about $100,000.
While Prystanski was a city councillor in the early 1990s, he began wondering what could be done to improve the neighbourhoods in inner-Winnipeg. He said it was either education or housing. In 1993, he founded the Westland Foundation, a non-profit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to empowering inner-Winnipeg youth.
"I am a big believer that governments can only do so much, and it’s really up to local community members and people that care to make grassroots or social changes," he said.
"Education is something that will stay with someone for a lifetime and will help guide them to right decisions and earn a good income so that they can afford a home and have a quality of life."
Although the foundation has been around for 25 years, it only began awarding scholarships in 2009 because it needed time and volunteers to build up an endowment sufficient to fund them.
"Our local community values education and we are supportive of our young people completing high school and continuing on to post-secondary. We hope that we are able to instil in them the value of post-secondary education and how it’s going to play out with their future lives," Prystanski said.
"We want to be able to provide scholarships so that the student doesn’t have to worry ‘Where am I going to get the funds from?’"
Scholarship dollars range anywhere from $50 to $1,200, Prystanski explained. He added Westland’s goal is to fund every inner-Winnipeg student’s post-secondary education. But the foundation doesn’t just support them financially — it’s also a place where youth meet new friends, learn social and work skills and become confident to graduate.
"It’s a safe environment for them to learn and develop work skills, social skills. They get to work with the foundation and apply crucial principles where they can start to develop their skills so that they can be successful," he said, adding he was proud to learn that from the students.
John Simba, a Westland Scholar in 2010 and 2011 at Red River College, recalls the hard work he had to put in with the help of his father and the Westland Foundation to get to where he is today as a Manitoba government analyst.
"I am delighted to celebrate with Westland and its outstanding contributions to my education and inner-Winnipeg youth. I thank them for keeping us connected to the mission and engaged with our community," Simba said.
Looking to the future, the Westland Foundation has a goal of raising $55 million to fund every inner-Winnipeg student’s post-secondary education. Besides, the foundation wants to grow its annual scholars’ recognition event — they want to do a year-end recognition program with the students, meaning they want to tell the students who qualify for a scholarship with a certificate. The foundation hopes to start that in Grade 7.
"That will let the students know, and place in their hand a very tangible symbol that they are capable of attaining and going to and earning a post-secondary degree," he said.
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti was the community journalist for The Times until 2019.