CST Graduate Awards: Conquering Challenges

CST Graduate Scholarship Award winner Sam Tanenbaum

As a young child, Sam Tanenbaum had nearly everyone fooled.

“When I was in grade two, I had the vocabulary of someone who was in grade 10.  I could use words, speak and tell you rhymes and ‘read’ you books - but I wasn’t actually reading,” Sam explained.

"I have a non-verbal learning disability and I’m proud to say I am Dyslexic." 

According to the International Association of Dyslexia (Ontario Branch) “students with Dyslexia experience difficulties with language skills such as reading, spelling, writing and pronouncing words.”

Over the years, Sam has not let her learning disability stop her from reaching for her dreams and  achieving success. 

Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation Graduate Award

Sam is a 2016 Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation Graduate Award winner.  She has been recognized as a student who has demonstrated determination, high academic performance and achievement.  The award honours Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan alumni who are pursuing graduate studies with a scholarship valued at $7,500.   

Sam is among 12 scholarship recipients from across Canada, who were celebrated at the CST Graduate Awards ceremony in Toronto, Ontario on September 26, 2016.  Watch Sam and the other award winners in this Thank You video.

The future is bright:  2016 CST Graduate and Scholarship Award recipients

Overcoming Obstacles

It hasn't always been easy.   Sam recalls a time, early on, when she and her mother encountered a surprising roadblock.  “A psychologist said, ‘your daughter will not be going to university.  Your daughter should not be in academic classes and she should just get by,” remembered Sam. 

“It was not the answer that we were looking for.”

"I could tell you rhymes and 'read' books, but I wasn't actually reading," said Sam of being dyslexic as a child.

Since then, Sam has shattered expectations and overcome challenges by leaps and bounds.  She attended the University of Toronto in the Concurrent Teacher Education Program and received an Honours Bachelor of Arts with High Distinction and a Bachelors of Education. 

 Sam is now pursuing her Masters in Childhood Education at New York University.

“I took all those 'nos' and turned them into amazing 'yeses' and experiences,” beamed Sam.

The importance of university education 

She credits her grandmother, Shilly Rosen, with setting the bar for higher learning.  Unable to pursue university education herself, Shilly invested in CST Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) for her own children's post-secondary aspirations, as well as her granddaughters.

"The CST RESP has been the foundation for my education," said Sam.  "It has allowed me to attend the University of Toronto and now NYU.  It was always something I was working towards and knew would support me along my educational journey."

Sam and her Nana, Shilly Rosen, who started her CST RESP.

Since 1984, CST has awarded alumni who are pursuing higher education with the Graduate Awards.  This year, is the first time, all of the graduate award winners have been women.

 “I think that shows the strength in women, who we are and how we really have a place in academia and education today,” said Sam, “I’m just really proud to be one of the women who have won.”

This is the first year CST's Graduate Award winners have all been women.

For Sam, it's an award ceremony she knows her grandmother would have been proud of as well.

“My grandmother passed away in the last 5 years and she’s not here today," said an emotional Sam.  "She was not at any of my graduations physically, so it means a lot that I’m able to carry on her legacy in education.” 

Sam:  "I know that I will forever be a lifelong learner."

Sam dreams of becoming a teacher and changing the world through education. 

She offers this inspiring advice for students struggling with a learning disability;“Remember you are possible.  The simple lesson I learned was that, ‘impossible’ is quickly, ‘I’m possible’ with an apostrophe.  No one can take away your smarts and your intelligence.  Just be brave.”