Jake Bird is going to college. In a couple of years, that is.
The 15-year-old Langford resident and Edward Milne Community School student, presented last week with a national CIBC Youthvision Scholarship worth up to $38,000, said it meant everything to him and his grandmother Marilyn Smith, who admitted they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise afford post-secondary education.
“It gives me some peace of mind that he can go on and get university training and will be able to function and have a good job,” Smith said. “As a pensioner I couldn’t afford to send him, so this is a phenomenal thing to happen.”
She was unsure whether her autistic grandson, who she has cared for since he was two, would qualify for the scholarship program. When she heard the news Jake was one of 33 recipients chosen from across Canada, she was ecstatic.
“When we submitted the application we thought, ‘they can say yes or no.’ When we got the phone call I was awestruck because it meant so many things to us,” she said. “Autism is considered a disability. That he has this equal chance as the other ones who have the B plus and A averages, this is a dream.”
Jake hopes to one day become a chef. Having just finished Grade 10, he has two years to choose between Camosun and UVic, which both have culinary arts programs.
Melissa Hill, general manager of Central Victoria CIBC branches, said she was proud to see three well-deserving Island residents secure the scholarships. The others are Esquimalt High student Henry Sexsmith of Victoria and Stelly’s student Mikayla Milne of Sidney.
“It is fantastic,” Hill said. “It helps youth in need who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go onto post-secondary education. With the scholarship, (these) three people will (have) a great opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and the YMCA were partners in the scholarship program. The money comes from a $4,000 annual contribution to tuition for four years and six summer internships through the YMCA. The winners will receive ongoing mentorship throughout their post-secondary education.