Do you recall your first career aspirations when you attended the University of Saskatchewan?
Christina Crone, a second-year U of S student, already has plenty of dreams to pursue. Recently accepted into the College of Nursing, Christina is investigating all types of nursing specialties for her future career: geriatrics, labour and delivery, forensics, mental health and abuse, as well as clinical care.
She’s also busy chasing those dreams by gaining real-world health and social care experience while she attends university. As a new mom — she’s busy with a two-year old daughter, Rosalind — and a part-time Continuing Care Assistant at St. Mary’s Villa in Humboldt where she lives, she has more than enough deadlines and demands to juggle. She’s also a registered massage therapist who helps low-income families with infant massage, a volunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters as well as note-taker for the university’s Disability Student Services.
Add the time she spends commuting to Saskatoon each week to attend classes full-time and you can see how determined Christina is to fulfill her dreams, regardless of her challenges. Despite all of her time commitments, she accomplished an incredible feat this year and was awarded with the College of Nursing’s highest admission average for her entrance marks.
Christina’s an example of one of the many bright, ambitious women the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) chooses to support through scholarships each year. The Saskatoon chapter of the national non-profit has 80 members, and raises over $20,000 annually to support scholarships for young women like Christina to help them pursue their educational pursuits at the U of S.
The group has been in existence for nearly 100 years, and is made up of local women — many U of S alumni — who work together to make improvements for the status of women. By supporting women in post-secondary education the group believes it will help improve our entire community.
Saskatoon residents have been supporting the group’s fundraising efforts for years by attending the group’s annual used book sale at the German Cultural Centre. This annual event, held each autumn, typically raises $15,000 alone, and is one of the main ways the group is able to raise funds to support seventeen scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan.
As a result of the CFUW’s fundraising efforts, Christina was presented with the group’s Marie I. Gillespie Scholarship, which is awarded each year to a mother pursuing a university education. When she received the call from Mary McKay, Chair of the Scholarship Selection Committee in the CFUW, letting her know she was the chosen applicant, Christina says it was “so awesome….it was such a good day!”
Christina says that receiving scholarship support has already helped her in so many ways. Financially she can spend more time on her classes and doesn’t need to work as much outside of school while trying to raise a family. “I am less stressed and anxious about accumulating student debt,” she explains.
The support has also made things easier for her home-life. “Now I have money for daycare!” she says. “And my daughter doesn’t need to lose out on the socialization and care because I am going to school.” Until then she had been relying on her own mother to help take care of her daughter when she needed to isolate herself just to study. “I would spend time with my daughter as much as I could, before every nap-time and bed-time, but then would study alone until midnight.” She credits support from her husband and mother during her first year in university. “They were a huge help!” she adds.
For Mary, seeing women like Christina succeed through higher education is what motivates her to stay involved in the group and lead the scholarship selection committee. “It’s an important endeavour,” she says. Her mother was also a member of the CFUW. “I joined because I was inspired by my own mother and followed in her footsteps. She went to university in 1930 — an extraordinary thing at that time. It wasn’t an easy choice,” she adds. Mary sees a common element that ties the members of Canadian Federation of University Women together: “Because we are women, we want to support other women in learning,” she says.
Although receiving the scholarship has provided Christina with comfort and assistance, she says that attending the CFUW honours night event was truly the icing on the cake, because she had the opportunity to meet so many “nice, passionate, very educated women” — both members and scholarship recipients.
“It was really inspiring,” she says, of the annual scholarship award event organized by the CFUW. “I was so impressed with all the other scholarship winners and hearing everything they do inside and outside of school. There were so many women finishing their PhD’s!” she adds.
Always one to dream big, Christina is now contemplating pursuing her master’s and her PhD once she’s done her current degree, so that she may have the opportunity to teach and do research one day. She’s also thinking about how she will give back to help other young women going to university. “When I am done I will contribute to a scholarship, because I was so fortunate to receive one myself.”
By Jessica Elfar