A very cheery afternoon shone through the windows of the William Norrie Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 6, as fifteen University of Manitoba Faculty of Social Work students received some well-deserved recognition for their hard work.
The students were each awarded an $1,800 scholarship from the Polly and Derek Riley Bursary Fund. The Fund was established through The Winnipeg Foundation by Derek Riley and his late wife, Polly, to provide an annual bursary award for students to assist with housing and tuition support while attending the Centre. Their contributions were matched by the Province of Manitoba for three years.
The William Norrie Centre, at 485 Selkirk Avenue, provides post-secondary opportunities to mature students from surrounding inner-city neighborhoods with the goal of training them to become professional social workers. Students attending the Centre are generally drawn from immigrant, Aboriginal, and other communities that face educational barriers. This is the 32nd year for the program.
“The program is designed to be very flexible and accommodating for students,” said Yvonne Pompana, Acting Director of the Inner City Social Work Program. She explained that many faculty members have faced similar challenges in their pursuit of a higher education. Mature students often find the experience challenging, and many are supporting families. “We share the same history, so we understand where they come from and what they need. It’s a very supportive environment.”
Kelly Gossfeld is a three-time recipient of the Riley Scholarship, soon to begin her fourth and final year in the program.”This goes right to tuition,” said Gossfeld, “I’ve funded my own tuition, so getting this each year has allowed me to cover spring and summer courses without having to take out a student loan. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. I stood there with the letter for the first time and tears were falling from my eyes.”
Travis Bighetty is a friend and classmate of Gossfeld’s, and another three-time Riley Scholarship recipient. “I feel so close to the other students here,” said Bighetty. “They’ve become my friends, a family I can depend on. Getting this award, it’s so good to know I’m being acknowledged for my dedication.”
One of the requirements of the award is that students in the program are residents of the community near and around Selkirk Avenue and the Centre. Financial need is also a factor. As of February 6, 103 scholarships have been awarded from the fund since 2006.
The cheques were presented by Pompana along with Albert El Tassi, a member of the board of directors of The Winnipeg Foundation. Also in attendance from the Foundation were Pat Lilley, student awards officer, and Susan Hagemeister, director of finance.
“Derek and Polly believed that education is vital,” said Hagemeister, sharing a few words with students on behalf of the Foundation. “The importance of education in leading a successful, happy, and healthy life can’t be overestimated. Going to school and supporting your families–this award celebrates everything you’ve accomplished.”
In addition to the Norrie Centre, the Riley Fund has supported grants to R.B. Russell Vocational High School and other educational causes.
The Centre is named for the late William “Bill” Norrie, who passed away in 2012 at age 83. Norrie was the 39th Mayor of Winnipeg (1979-92), and Chancellor of the University of Manitoba from 2001 to 2009. Norrie was also the longest serving member of the board of The Winnipeg Foundation.
For more information on the Faculty of Social Work program.
For more information on scholarships through The Winnipeg Foundation contact firstname.lastname@example.org.