The Wilberforce FUNraising committee is once again stepping up to the plate to assist local youth in achieving their post-secondary dreams.

Since 2020 the group has been offering bursaries to qualifying students looking to enrol in college and university programs outside the community. The idea, says Joan Barton, is to help offset some of the high costs associated with moving, and purchasing expensive materials such as books and computer programs.

“Rural students have to overcome an extra hurdle if they want to go out and get a post-secondary education, because more often than not they have to leave their community. We don’t have much of a choice in Haliburton County for post-secondary education, so that means these students are having to incur massive costs to pay for accommodation and food, without even thinking about their schooling costs,” Barton said. “That’s why we started this, to be able to offer some support to our youth who are looking to go out into the world and make it a better place.”

To qualify, students must reside in or come from the Wilberforce area, or have graduated from Wilberforce Public School.

Haliburton Highlands Secondary School alumni Nikita Watson and Ezra Hill each received $500 through this year’s bursary. Watson is heading to the University of Ottawa to pursue a degree in social science, with a focus on criminology. Hill will be studying environmental engineering at the University of Guelph.

Watson said she learned about the bursary through former schoolmates Sydney Little and Chelsea Flynn, who each received money from the FUNraising group in 2020.

“Coming from a small town, there aren’t many opportunities like this. When you start thinking about the cost of post-secondary education, it can be overwhelming so I’m incredibly grateful to receive this bursary,” Watson said, noting she’ll be putting the money towards purchasing textbooks and other school supplies.

Hill said it felt special to be recognized and thanked the FUNraising group for establishing the bursary.

“I am very grateful for the hard work and dedication put into raising the money that allowed me to receive this bursary,” Hill said.

Barton said this year’s bursaries were largely funded by proceeds raised at a community sale, held in Wilberforce in May. The group also continues to receive private donations from community members to support the program.

“We want to keep this going for as long as we can. It’s a great initiative, and it helps our young people out during a time of great transition in their life,” Barton said. “There’s a lot of people in the Wilberforce community that thinks this is great and supports it… That’s why we keep doing it.”