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Student changes the hand she was dealt

October 3, 2011

Student changes the hand she was dealt
Lisa Carr, BSc'11

By her own account, Sarah Carr seemed like the most unlikely candidate for univeristy.

The Arva, Ontario native grew up in poverty with her younger sister and her clinically depressed and legally blind mother. She is the first person in her immediate family to attend university and without support from the Jahnke Family Bursary and other financial awards, she could not have afforded a post-secondary education.

“I grew up surrounded by drop-outs, addicts, and generally unmotivated individuals,” says Sarah, who moved into an abused women’s shelter when her parents first separated. “Not much was expected of people from where I lived.”

“I was surrounded by individuals who were dealt the worst cards in life and instead of changing themselves for the better, they just settled for that hand. I knew that I did not want to live this life and I had to work hard to make sure I never ended up that way.”

Sarah and her sister helped manage the household on meager means; from the shelter, they moved into subsidized housing where they lived on government disability cheques. Life became more difficult when her sister started showing signs of depression and dropped out of high school, despite Sarah’s efforts to convince her to finish.

“It was very hard to see both my sister and mother not care about their futures. I was the opposite; I had a goal to go to university and I was going to stick with it no matter what.”

Even though Sarah’s mother could not take care of her the way she hoped, she’s always had great advice and encouraged Sarah to try her hardest and do what made her happy. Sarah and her sister also remained close to their father.

Sarah loved high school and joined the curling team and the Science Olympics, while achieving honour roll standing for all four years. With inspiration and help from her high school fitness teacher, she applied to Western.

“She used to teach us that hard work always pays off and that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve greatness,” says Sarah. She was able to attend Western with the help of OSAP and school bursaries.

One such bursary was the Jahnke Family Bursary, which was established in 1997 through the generosity of the Dieter and Lyse Jahnke family. Each year, 10 of these bursaries are available to students registered in any year of study at Western who demonstrate financial need.

Sarah graduated this past spring with a double major in honors Chemistry and Biology and her parents and sister were there to see her cross the stage at convocation. Sarah plans to work for a year and then enrol in a pharmacy program, hoping one day to have a career as a pharmacist, where she can apply her scientific knowledge while working in a supportive public setting.

“I have worked very hard to make it to where I am today and will keep working hard to achieve my goals,” notes Sarah. “I’ll always be thankful to the Jahnke family and hope this bursary and many more will be available in the future for other students in similar difficult financial situations.”

This article appeared in the 2011 edition of Endowment Report
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