Leaside High School graduates Stanimira Aleksieva (2018) and Nicole Ilyin (2017) are the most recent local recipients of the $1,500 scholarships awarded by the Canadian Federation of University Women Leaside-East York as part of their mission “to advance and promote the higher education of young women and women’s equality.”
The national organization is a century old, while the local chapter is in its 64th year and has been granting scholarships since the late 1950s to young women at the three high schools in the former East York Board of Education: Leaside High, East York Collegiate and Marc Garneau Collegiate. The amount has risen from the initial $100 to the current $1,500 over the years, with the total amount awarded sitting at $82,000 granted to 143 students.
According to Maralynn Beach, one of the scholarship co-convenors, the criteria for the award have evolved from the best marks in nine Grade 13 subjects to today’s high academic achievement plus involvement in a variety of extracurricular pursuits both inside the school and in the community, two reference letters, and enrolment in a Canadian university.
Beach and her co-convenor, Lorna Wright, evaluate the five or so applications from each of the schools. As she says, “Reading the applications is a reward in itself. I am in awe of the girls’ achievements. They often see a need in the school and then initiate a club or program, acting as leaders.”
The two most recent winners are excellent examples. Nicole Ilyin, the 2017 winner, is certified in first aid, lifeguarding and swimming instruction. She won Toronto’s Best Rescue Award for saving a non-swimmer as well as the Sunnybrook Volunteer Association Award before entering her university program in nursing.
This year’s winner, Stanimira Aleksieva, volunteered in an international heritage program, teaching Bulgarian to children. She was also a leader in a youth summer program, tutored students, participated in several sports teams at LHS and plans to pursue medicine.
This level of dedication is typical of all the scholarship winners, including the two this year: from Marc Garneau – Julia Xiao, and from EYCI – Kim Vo. No wonder the club members are so proud of the winners that they invite them to present reports on their university experiences at their year-end dinner each May.
In addition to the scholarships, the University Women’s Club engages in several other activities aimed at “improving the status of women, promoting human rights, public education, social justice and peace.” This enthusiastic and lively group welcomes new members to their program of social activities, interest groups and monthly meetings with guest speakers, held at Northlea United Church. For more information, visit www.cfuwleasideeastyork.ca.