A student’s powerful message: “Post-secondary education can change everything”

Neliza

What do you want to be when you grow up? For many, that question is easy – a doctor, an accountant, or maybe even a world-class chef.

While these professions don’t have much in common, they do all require one important thing: education. When it comes to financing their education, many students are fortunate enough to receive assistance (through a Registered Education Savings Plan, for example), while others have to fund their university or college degrees through scholarships, bursaries and other grants.  

At CST Consultants, our goal is to make education more accessible for all Canadians. That’s why we award six bursaries of $2,500 every year to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and a willingness to make a positive contribution to society. These bursaries, from our Learning Matters Education Charity (LMEC), are our way of helping deserving students access the education they need to reach their dreams.

As part of our #EduSaveWeek blog series to celebrate Canada’s first Education Savings Week from November 16-22, 2014, we caught up with Neliza Mendoza - one of our LMEC bursary recipients, who is currently completing her first year of a Bachelor of Science engineering program at the University of Calgary. We asked her to share her personal story and talk a bit about how education has played a key role in her own life. As you’ll see, her story is pretty powerful.

Tell us a bit about your background. Did you always know what you wanted to study in school?

My family is from the Philippines, and life was always a bit of a struggle back home. I remember my parents would work day and night just to earn enough for us to survive. That’s why I feel like I owe everything to them - without their hard work, we will not have the life we do today.  

My dad came to Canada to work and get settled before the rest of us joined him. He then brought us here after receiving his permanent residency. We are all so thankful that Canada has given us so many opportunities to live a better life.

Before I came to Canada, I told myself: I am going to help people who are just like me and are starting from square one in a new country. That’s why I chose to volunteer with organizations such as the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association and Inn from the Cold throughout high school. I also helped with various community events, cultural nights and other school volunteer initiatives. Even though what I contribute is small, I know I’ve helped create positive changes in people's lives.

I started to think - how can I implement this to a larger scale? And that’s what inspired me to become an engineer and study at the University of Calgary. I want to make our society better, and I want to do it by building homes for those who need them, creating devices that make people’s lives easier and much more. 

How important is education to you?

My parents have always taught me to treat education as one of the most important aspect of my life. They believe that education can help me to achieve my goals and become a better citizen. I think education helps me truly understand the world around me, gain different perspectives from the people I meet every day, and most importantly, it helps me improve myself. Post-secondary education can change everything.

With such a busy schedule, how do you find the time to search and apply for scholarships?

Before the start of every semester, I set goals for myself. For example, for semester one, I planned to study 45% of the time, spend 15% of my time on community involvements, spend 5% of my time searching for scholarships, use 10% for leisure and enjoyment, etc. I found it easier to manage and achieve my goals if I looked at it that way. It also prevented me from taking on too much at once!

What’s the best part about your university experience so far?

Since I started university this fall, the best experience I’ve had is meeting new people and developing bonds and connections I’ve never had before. I’ve always been an introvert and university has helped me step out of my comfort zone and get to know myself better as a person.

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Edu Week Series Final

Thank you for chatting with us, Neliza – and congratulations! You are an inspiration to all of us. For more information about CST’s Learning Matters Education Charity bursaries, you can click here.

This post is part of CST’s #EduSaveWeek blog series to celebrate Education Savings Week in Canada (November 16-22, 2014). Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and help us spread the word about the importance of saving for post-secondary.