After receiving the academic start she hoped for at Selkirk College, Stephanie Kirk will make the jump to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver armed with an $80,000 scholarship to ease the financial pressure.
With two years of success in Selkirk College’s School of University Arts & Sciences preparing her for the challenges that await, Kirk received the prestigious UBC Centennial Leaders Award entrance scholarship that will make it possible for her to complete the final two years of her degree in Vancouver.
“When I called my mom to tell her that I won the award, she didn’t believe me at first,” says the 22-year-old who studied on the Castlegar Campus for the past two years. “This is exactly what she wanted for me. I’m in a good place all the way around, I have the financial support and am now going to a great school where I wanted to go. Selkirk College launched me into getting what I wanted to achieve. It’s exciting for both my mom and me… it is really life changing.”
Kirk’s academic bond to mom Lara is strong. Primarily because she is deaf in one ear, it was decided at a young age that the best option for Kirk’s education was to home school. It was a choice that stuck and the young student completed her Grade 12 in Nelson without ever attending school in a traditional classroom setting.
When it came time to decide on a post-secondary pathway, Kirk didn’t have to look far from home to find the right transition.
“Not having any experience with a classroom setting at all, moving to a big university was really intimidating,” says Kirk. “I think Selkirk College is a fantastic start because you have a lot more access to your instructors and that was huge for me. It’s important to talk with them after class or have the opportunity to get feedback from them. I feel like a lot of the instructors have invested in me and that has helped me get into UBC.”
The initial few weeks of her first semester were admittedly a little rough, but Kirk says she quickly found her confidence in classes like Psychology, English, Geography and History. Though she has glowing words to share about all her instructors, Kirk points to Creative Writing Instructor Almeda Glenn-Miller as a particularly strong influence.
“If it wasn’t for Almeda I don’t know if I would have applied to UBC because I felt like I couldn’t get in,” says Kirk. “I had a lot of people when I was going through high school that told me I wouldn’t be able to get into university because I was homeschooled. Almeda told me that any school would want me and that I will take the world by storm… it made me want to cry. Having somebody else recognize that in you and then encouraging you in that way. Her words were the ones that I thought of when I was applying.”
The UBC Centennial Leaders Award supports a select few academically gifted students from around the world who show an interest in the school, but would not otherwise be able to attend without significant financial assistance. The full-ride scholarship will provide up to $80,000 over the course of Kirk’s studies and covers everything from tuition to housing to food. Kirk has two years remaining on her undergraduate degree and then plans to pursue a master’s degree.
With many friends who are either first responders or have spent time in the military, Kirk is pursuing an undergraduate degree with a focus on Psychology and Political Science. She is particularly interested in the areas of trauma, post-traumatic stress and operational stress.
“It’s made me very aware of the toll that kind of job can take on people,” she says of her educational passion. “I would love to continue on past my bachelors so that I can serve and help the people who serve us. There is so much progress in this area that is already being made and is going to be happening over the next few years, I just really want to be a part of that.”
Moving to a campus that has more than 54,000 students and is located in one of the most expensive cities in the world is rather intimidating, but Kirk has been emboldened by the positivity of her first two years of post-secondary.
“I started at Selkirk College thinking it was a good financial decision to stay close to home, but if I skipped off to a giant university I would have never recognized the investment that the instructors make into every student,” she says. “The value in the classrooms of being able to have a meaningful discussion with your peers and instructors is huge. It really feels like a community at Selkirk College because you are able to build relationships.”
Learn more about how to get the right start at Selkirk College at: http://selkirk.ca/uas