Former Youth in Care Finds Focus and Passion for Giving Back

Rachelle is an inspiration - by the time she was 18, she had lived in 10 different foster homes, had encounters with the juvenile justice system, gave birth to a lovely baby girl and was unsure of her future. Today, she is in her final year of her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, pursuing History and African Studies and has plans to pursue her Masters.

On August 21, 2013 Rachelle was among the more than 100 current and former youth in care who received scholarships at the annual Hope for Children Fund Scholarship Event. She is grateful for the additional support that came in the form of a grant from the Nelson Mandela Scholarship Fund, a CCAS staff sponsored fund. “As a student and single parent I need help,” says Rachelle.

Since 1994, the Nelson Mandela Scholarship Fund has been providing youth of African heritage with financial assistance to pursue post-secondary education or training through the Hope for Children Scholarship Program. CCAS employees have organized events to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Scholarship Fund since its inception and this year three students received awards.

“We really wanted to do something positive for the community. We believe that education is a way out of poverty and can provide hope for the future,” says Elaine Forrester, Child Protection Supervisor and Nelson Mandela Scholarship Fund donor.

Starting in September, the Ontario Government will provide additional support to Crown wards through tuition breaks. Rachelle believes that while the additional help is a great step in the right direction, there is a gap between the funding students will receive and the expenses they have. Faced with having to leave care at the age of 18, youth living on their own struggle to balance school, paying tuition, rent and other living expenses while holding a job. “Youth in care still need additional support. If my tuition is paid and I still have no money for rent, then I am in serious trouble,” says Rachelle.

Excited about her future, Rachelle is still deciding which career path will be best for her. However one thing is certain – she wants to a career that will allow her to give back to her community. “My community has invested in me in so many ways, even when I rejected their investments. So I am focused on giving back.” Please consider making a donation to the Hope for Children Scholarship Fund. Visit www.hopeforchildren.ca/donate.

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We are one of four Children's Aid Societies in Toronto. Funded by the Government of Ontario and mandated by the Child and Family Services Act of Ontario, we provide child protection services 7 days-a-week, 24-hours-a day.

We work with Toronto's Catholic community to protect children from neglect and physical, sexual and emotional abuse.