Sitting in a coffee shop just up the street from SHAD’s national office in Waterloo Ontario, Tracy Morency thinks back to a year before at this time and says what a difference SHAD has made for her and family.
Six days before Christmas, Morency found out she was out of a job.
Her company was sold and she was no longer needed for the sales job she had held for 11 years.
Her husband, Vince, had lost his job in 2010 and was unemployed for 11 months.
He took a significant pay cut when he eventually found another job.
Their daughter Jessi had just applied to SHAD in November 2014 a couple of weeks before Tracy got the bad news.
SHAD brings together high achieving high school students from all across the country for a prestigious summer program in July that helps them tap into their potential as tomorrow’s leaders. They become part of an important network for life.
SHAD helps foster excellence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines and spurs on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Jessi, who is 17, has a passion for many of these areas and is also interested in the arts, takes private singing lessons, plays the cello and thought SHAD would be perfect for her.
But suddenly the family didn’t know if it would now be possible for her to attend.
“We could not have done it without the bursary support.”
SHAD is a registered charity. SHAD relies on individuals, private sector companies, foundation and government donations to raise $2 million annually to support its programs including bursaries to ensure all qualified students including those with financial needs can attend the program.
Between sips of coffee, Tracy Morency is asked what she would like to say to the donors and corporate sponsors who made the SHAD bursary her daughter received possible.
And tears start rolling down her face.
“Sometimes you don’t know how you impact someone,” she says. “But you have (made an impact) and you may not find out how until years later. Who knows where she’s going to go.”
Jessi Morency flourished at SHAD UNB in July with other like-minded high achieving students all looking to learn for ways to make an impact in their communities and beyond. She became one of the leaders of her group.
“It was the best month of my life,” Jessi Morency says. “It was absolutely transformational.”
Morency is eventually hoping to become a doctor and says SHAD opened her eyes to a world of opportunity.
“My confidence level went through the roof.”
Her mother Tracy noticed the difference.
“This is the generation, these guys are going to change the world but sometimes they need to be supported. And when parents can’t do it, it’s just incredible that that support is there.” Morency says her voice breaking up.
Tracy and her husband never had the chance to go to university. Her husband grew up in poverty in difficult circumstances having to overcome alcohol and drug abuse. He now speaks about that journey and the lessons he learned to at risk youth.
“I think it’s wonderful (that) for kids like Jessi not having the money to get there wasn’t a deterrent,” Tracy Morency says.
She says she can’t stress enough just how important that is and then there is a long pause in the conversation.
“This was a big deal for us to have to ask for help. It’s something we never had to do before.”
But she adds she’s happy she did.
“I am so glad we didn’t let pride get in the way because it really did change her.”
And she wants others to hear her story so that more top students like Jessi can go to SHAD.
“These aren’t tears because I’m upset. They are more grateful tears.”