Past Youth Education Awardees

July 2015 saw the third year that Youth Education Awards were presented, this time to five pediatric brain tumour survivors.  These are what the awards mean to them, in their own words.

2015-2016 Awardees

Matthew McKinnon (Surrey, BC)
Pursuing a diploma in Public Relations
Diagnosed with a pineal yolk sac brain tumour at the age of 16

Generously funded in memory of Taite Boomer

“This award will have a tremendous impact on my educational pursuits. My personal goal is to graduate with a diploma in PR and eventually with a degree in PR and Communications.

I hope to work for a not-for-profit as it’s been a goal of mine ever since my cancer journey. Seeing what people who work at these organizations can accomplish has driven me to give back to all those who have inspired, helped and supported me along the way.” 

Brandon Pearsell (Whitby, ON)
Pursuing a diploma in Motive Power Technician – Service & Management
Diagnosed with medulloblastoma at the age of 4

Generously funded by the Shayam Kaushal Foundation in Memory of Khaldoun Ayoub

“It’s been a long time since I first discovered what I wanted to do with my life. My mom left her job to take care of me, and my parents had to use the money saved for my schooling for expenses during my treatments. 

With this award, I will be able to finally live my dream. This award will help me move forward in my life.” 

Janica Pickard (Fredericton, NB)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts – Psychology
Diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma at the age of 14

Generously funded by Selectpath Benefits and Financial

“Being diagnosed with a brain tumour has had a huge impact on my life, and my journey has been filled with ups and downs. But what has helped me through is a quote by Viviane Green: ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ This generous award will help me continue ‘dancing’ into university life with pride, confidence and determination. It means that some of the financial burden is lifted and I can focus on my dream. It means that others believe in me and that my diagnosis will not stand in the way. Being granted this award will simply be the big umbrella that will stop the storms from taking my dreams away!”

Kayla Schewe (Calgary, AB)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts – Psychology
Diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma and an oligoastrocytoma at the age of 15

Generously funded by Ann Underhill and Dee Pauletig

“Being a cancer survivor has really affected me in many profound ways. I have learned to focus on what’s important in life – helping others – as well as living life to the fullest every day. 

This award will reduce my stress throughout university, so I can focus on my learning instead of school debt. I am very excited to make my own way in the world and continuing to make it a better place throughout my life.” 

Danielle Swant (Cobden, ON)
Pursuing a diploma in Practical Nursing
Diagnosed with a PNET brain tumour at the age of 2

Generously funded in memory of Dorothy Hughes

“Although I was very young [when diagnosed], the memories are very vivid and I continue, still today, to have many health and learning challenges as a direct result of the treatments.

As a brain tumour survivor, this award means the world to me. It will give me the chance to give back to the profession that impacted and improved my life so much – pediatric nursing. I really believe that it is the support we receive while on our journey that eases the struggles we as childhood cancer survivors face.” 


2014 - 2015 Awardees

Kyle Hoogstra (London, ON)
Pursuing a diploma in Culinary Skills Chef Training
Generously funded in memory of Jeff Davie
Diagnosed with an ependymoma at 16 years old

"I believe my brain tumour had a positive effect on the future of my life, without this experience I wouldn't have been even slightly interested in a post-secondary education. Throughout my entire experience with cancer I always looked forward to tomorrow with a sense of optimism, knowing that with a little perseverance I could overcome this juncture in my life. Though the road I have travelled to get to this point has not been the easiest, I would not want it any other way.

Receiving this award confirms that I am headed in the right direction, and allows me to achieve my goal of becoming a chef without any of the financial burden that accompanies a college education. I am so grateful for all of my life experiences, the negative and the positive as they have shown me life is a roller coaster and you must enjoy every second because before you know it the ride is over and all you have is the memories.

I want to thank you for you is because of people like you that the lives of those at their darkest moments are brightened. "

Maxime Hurtubise (Orleans, ON)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering
Diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma at 11 years old, with recurrence at 15

“When I look back at my life, I see a young child fighting for his health and succeeding in overcoming major obstacles. Radiation, chemotherapy and two invasive brain surgeries have made my journey more challenging than for the average teenager. Missing a few years of hockey and soccer because of my condition was heartbreaking, but getting back to playing triggered great motivation in me and helped me not only in life but mostly in school, where good grades opened the doors to engineering studies. Despite hurdles along the way, I’ve realized that working hard pays off in all aspects of life and I know I’ll keep thriving for success, hoping one day to be employed in an industry related to medicine because I’ve always wanted to contribute to the advancement of medical discoveries.

This award will help me fulfill my dreams and ease my university voyage. Cette bourse m’aidera a réaliser mes rêves et facilitera mon parcours universitaire."

Emily Keenan (Orleans, ON)
Pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Health Sciences
Generously funded by the Ultragiving Foundation in memory of James Vreugdenhill
Diagnosed with a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial (DNET) tumour at 14 years old.

"Since the diagnosis my life has been quite the roller coaster ride. I have traveled to multiple cities, saw many doctors, and learned way more about the medical field and myself as a person, than I could have ever imagined. One of the hardest parts of my journey thus far was recovering from surgery in 2013. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by my family and friends the entire time, which enabled me to keep a positive and optimistic mind set. In the end, things always have a way of working themselves out, everything happens for a reason.

I am extremely proud and fortunate to have received this award. Throughout my journey I have been intrigued and curious to receive a better understanding of the unanswered questions that accompany complicated medical cases. Thanks to this generous award I will be that much closer to receiving the education I need to be able to fulfill my dream."

Maggie Smith-Salzl (Delta, BC)
Bachelor of Arts- Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma at 11 years old

“I remember the day I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It changed everything for me and my family. The portrait of my life has been complicated with countless visits to the hospital, multiple major surgeries and three years of chemo and radiation. It was hard for me to feel normal and I lost touch with my friends because of my time away from school. Through my journey, I always felt supported by my family; I couldn’t have made it through without them. The silver lining has been the wonderful people I have met: nurses and doctors who were always in good spirits and my friends at camp. Finally, I have learned about myself, what I am capable of and now I know I can deal with whatever life throws my way. I have always loved to write and in the past year I have found that I enjoy reading. Neil Gaiman is my favourite author and one day, I hope to be somebody’s favourite too. This award will allow me to follow my dream. “

Stephanie Streich (Calgary, AB)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Elementary Education
Generously funded by Rigatoni for Research, London, ON
Diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma at 3 years old

"My journey as a brain tumor survivor defines who I am today. Although my first surgery occurred more than twenty years ago, there is not a week that goes by where I do not think about my medical history. The scar on the back of my head is a constant reminder that I have undergone a scary time in my life that no child, parent or person can imagine happening to them. Notwithstanding the struggle I battle with everyday activities as a result of my surgeries, my scar also symbolizes the strength and motivation it takes to overcome such difficulties.

I have struggled in all aspects of my life due to the repercussions of my brain tumor and will continue to face obstacles. However, the hard work that I have put into my endeavors is the reason for all of my successes. Not only will this scholarship help finance my last year of my after-degree in Elementary Education, it will acknowledge my to-date successes and provide moral support for the future."

In July 2013, the first-ever Youth Education Awards were presented to four young pediatric brain tumour survivors so they could pursue and achieve their academic dreams. In their words, here’s what this opportunity means to them.

2013 - 2014 Awardees

Bailey Brothers pediatric brain tumour survivor education award winnerBailey Brothers, 21 (Souris, PEI)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Science, Nursing
Education Award generously funded in honour of Nicole Duffin’s 17th Birthday
Diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma at 14 years old

“I believe that everything happens for a reason, no matter how tragic it may be. After all the great care I received during my many hospitalizations I began to consider nursing as a career path. I want nothing more than to make young children experiencing an illness feel the way the nurses made me feel – safe, loved and appreciated. I have a passion for pediatric oncology and having the chance to give back would make everything I fought through well worth it.

As I attend classes or placements, I consider each day and experience a stepping stone to my goals. Above all, I am thankful – thankful for my health, for the support of my family and friends, for the opportunity to gain an education, and for programs such as this that provide financial assistance to aid survivors in achieving their goals.”
Daniel Cardoso education award winner Daniel Cardoso, 17 (Burlington, ON)
Pursuing a diploma in General Arts and Sciences
Education Award generously funded by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada donors
Diagnosed with a medulloblastoma at 6 years old, with recurrence at 7 and 10

“My history, though I’m only 17, is a long and complicated one. From my brain tumour diagnosis at six, and through several recurrences, surgeries, chemo and radiation, plus physio and occupational therapy for my recovery, I have refused to give up. This has been the most educational, emotional, physical and spiritual journey one could ever imagine taking. I have learned more about myself over the last 11 years than I know I would have, had I not had cancer.

The impact this award will have on me is great as it will gives me the chance to pursue my life-long dream of helping animals. Plus, this long journey has been very financially stressful on my parents and I feel like this award is my way of giving back for all they sacrificed for me and my well-being.”
Michael Ferrara Brain Tumour Survivor Education award winnerMichael Ferrara, 17 (Fonthill, ON)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
Education Award generously funded by Onorio (Henry) and Lina Iacobelli
Diagnosed with an anaplastic ependymoma at 10 years old, with recurrence at 11

“After going through my experience with brain tumours, I just wanted to be ‘normal.’ Now I have found out that in life, normalcy is relative. I may have had to stop playing hockey and deal with many things that I would never wish upon another person, but I would never let this stop me from living a ‘normal’ life. When people ask me about the bald spot on my head, I tell them my story with pride. And while this journey has drastically changed my life, I will not let it get in the way of achieving my dreams of being a mechanical engineer.

I’m so excited to have the chance to go to school this fall – not something most kids my age would likely say. It’s something new and different for me, and I know it will help me move forward in my life.”
Katrina Moreland education award winner for pediatric brain tumour survivorsKatrina Moreland, 18 (Calgary, AB)
Pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science, Engineering
Education Award generously funded by Deys Fabricating
Diagnosed with a hemangioma at 15 years old

“ 'I give up' isn’t a phrase I use. I want to demonstrate to others that while having a neurological condition is life altering, it does not have to stop you from pursuing your dreams. It certainly limits aspects of my life, but I refuse to let it define me.

When visiting campus, I was captivated by an Engineering Physics professor's project designed to detect cancer cells with extraordinary sensitivity from a single blood test.

Technologies that could exponentially increase the ease of diagnosis fascinate me. Improved diagnostics would get people the medical help they need much sooner, and I know the importance of this firsthand.”


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