Bailey Neufeld (right) is the recipient of the first Make It A Reality Scholarship.
The months approaching summer can be difficult for high school students. As graduation looms and some apply for post-secondary education, the cost of moving away and paying for education can be stressful.
The Winkler Community Foundation hopes to alleviate that stress for some students.
This year, their Scholarships Committee announced the creation of the Make It A Reality Scholarship, made possible by former pharmacist Gordon Wiebe. In 2015, his gift of $2.2 million helped establish the Gordon Wiebe Education Fund, which was to go toward making dreams possible for young people who demonstrate commitment to community service.
The Make It A Reality Scholarship is valued at $20,000, which goes toward a first undergraduate degree or diploma. The recipient must represent the best in the community, including a giving spirit, commitment to leadership and excellence in whatever they pursue.
The inaugural recipient of the scholarship is Bailey Neufeld.
Neufeld said receiving the scholarship was mind blowing. “It feels kind of surreal,” he said. “It took a couple weeks to really sink in.”
Neufeld is a student at Garden Valley Collegiate. He said he was a bit nervous to get involved when he first arrived, but got involved with student council, and by grade 12 he helped establish a Peer Helpers group. “We wanted to help support the wellness of other students,” he said. One of things they would do was stand just inside the main doors and greet students as they walked in. “We’d barricade people and we don’t let them in unless they take a granola bar. It’s lots of fun and it feels really good to say good morning to people. It’s such a small thing that we wouldn’t normally think of, but it definitely brightens up people’s day.”
Part of the reason Neufeld established the Peer Helpers was because of his desire to help. “I find my engagement through helping others or working alongside people,” he said. “I’d say there’s a fair amount of anxiety and depression and lots of different things going on. I would say that it’s often overlooked. That’s kind of why I was also interested in starting a Peer Helpers group, because the need was there.”
After graduation, Neufeld will be attending University of Winnipeg to study psychology. “I have a drive to help other people and I feel like that would be the best way for me to help people,” he said. “There’s lots of ways to help people, but I feel that it’s a career that I can focus around my interests and then be there to support other people and their wellbeing, whether I’m a school psychologist helping students or whether I’m a clinical psychologist helping patients.”
Corey Hildebrand, who is on the Scholarship Committee, said the Winkler Community Foundation wasn’t expecting such a response from students. “We were wondering what to do with all this money we had and then all the sudden we received all the applications,” he said. “Clearly there was engagement from our community and our students, and we very much value that.”
Public Member Gary Gilmour said Neufeld embodied the qualities they were looking for in a recipient. “Firstly I’d say it was the amount of community service he’s already put in,” he said. “It was really substantial, really interesting things that he’d done. [Neufeld is] very much a self-starter.”
Hildebrand agreed. “From top to bottom, [Neufeld’s] application, his essay, his community involvement and his interview were just fantastic. All of those pieces made us very proud to select him as our recipient.”
The Make It A Reality Scholarship is the biggest single scholarship from the Gordon Wiebe Education Fund, but there are 16 more being split between Garden Valley Collegiate and Northlands Parkway Collegiate that will be distributed at graduation. “By and large, I think Gordon would be very happy with the way it’s set up,” Gilmour said.
“We hope that what it will do is provide the ability for more Winkler people to pursue post-secondary education,” Gilmour said. “We realize how expensive that is, and with a few exceptions, you have to leave the community and that’s a big hurdle.”
12 recipients will also be receiving an ongoing scholarship from the Foundation.