Vancouver Island University was honored in April for establishing the Youth in Care Tuition Waiver Program, the first of its kind in B.C. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, BC’s Representative for Children and Youth, made a special presentation to Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU president, during a two-day conference in Nanaimo.
“The reason we’re doing this recognition is because Dr. Nilson and Vancouver Island University were the first in B.C. to adopt and champion tuition waivers for kids in care,” said Turpel-Lafond, noting that VIU now has 41 students enrolled in the program.
Dr. Nilson was joined on stage by VIU faculty and staff, as well as students Jesse Anderson, Brittany Palmer and Beverly Planes, three former youth in care now studying at VIU. All three students spoke on how the Tuition Waiver program has changed their lives.
Planes, who entered foster care at the age of eight, said the impact of the Youth in Care Tuition Waiver on her life has been profound. The single mother of four said she made two previous attempts at starting post-secondary studies, but was unable to continue due to a lack of financial support and other challenges.
“I’m now 30 and a full-time student at VIU just finishing my first year towards my degree, a double major in First Nations Studies and Women’s Studies,” she said. “I’m grateful because I can now be a positive role model for my children. I’ll graduate one year before my son graduates high school. My hope is that one day my children will attend university as well.”