Financial assistance: rising tides lift all boats

As published in The Link, BSS's alumni magazine:

Valerie WHITTINGHAM Pringle ’71 is one of the most recognized faces in Canadian broadcasting, particularly since she spent almost a decade sitting in the co-anchor chair at CTV’s Canada AM morning show. She co-hosted coverage of the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics and was chosen as one of the Famous 50 Faces of 50 Years of Canadian Television in 2002.

Ms. Pringle’s extraordinary journey began as a BSS student and Financial Assistance program participant, and she remains grateful for the support she received.

“I think people who give to student assistance have a very big heart and a very big vision because they know what a difference it can make in a life,” says Ms. Pringle. “A massive difference, all the difference in the world.”

When reflecting recently on her time at BSS, she says: “I had the best time at BSS. Everything I learned about leadership, and trying to take positions of authority, it set me up for everything, including the guidance counsellor giving me the best advice possible about what I should be studying after I left BSS, which gave me a career in broadcasting.”

Since Ms. Pringle graduated, she has become a champion for the Financial Assistance program and has seen it grow in scope and impact.

Every student benefits when they can meet, socialize with and learn from people from different cultural and economic backgrounds, says Lindsay Thierry, Assistant Head, Enrolment Management at BSS.

“Our Financial Assistance program is integral to our mission,” he says. “The school was built on philanthropy and our parents and alumnae are proud to support the program because they know how much it means to the families on the receiving end. And they know how much it adds to the fabric of the school.”

Extending the opportunity to attend BSS to a unique and large group of the population that might not feel they have the chance for an independent school education is core to the school’s commitment to inclusivity.

“Independent schools are not out of reach for the middle-class family and for most families,” says Mr. Thierry. “The perception that it’s only for the elite of the world is simply not true.”

Financial assistance is a priority because it creates diversity of all kinds in our student population, says Bridget Child, Assistant Head, Finance and Facilities. “Strategically, it’s really important to us, trying to grow it, grow the number of girls and the dollar amounts,” she says.

Needs-based financial assistance has tripled in the last decade, says Ms. Child. BSS will offer $1.4 million this year and 93% will be for needs-based assistance, with the rest allocated for scholarships. The school now tries to grow the pot by $50,000 every year.

The number of girls supported in financial assistance varies, because it depends on each family’s degree of need. This year, 53 girls at the school are receiving support, the highest in the school’s history.

The BSS Community Fund, a component of the Intersection campaign, is dedicated to raising funds for financial assistance. The fund has exceeded its $10 million goal with $10,456,703 raised.

“It tells you how strong the community is behind it,” says Mr. Thierry. “Your community has to be engaged in the whole process in order to have inclusion. And I think that’s prevalent in our community here at BSS. The support has been phenomenal. It continues to grow every year.”

Financial assistance is broken into three categories at BSS. Tuition assistance is offered to enrolled students in Grades 7–12 based on academic achievement, admissions interviews and financial need. Program support is available for students who have qualified for tuition assistance but also may need help with the cost of textbooks, laptops, school trips or other costs. Finally, scholarships are awarded through an application process based on academic excellence.

Shalom Chen, Class of 2017, is in her final year at BSS, and plans to pursue medicine at university. Financial assistance at BSS has opened doors for her that would have otherwise remained shut. “I’m just so blessed to have been given this opportunity,” she says. “It helped me to go on trips and afford textbooks and, really, material that I would need for my classes and outside of class.”

The program will continue to grow in the future, not least because the beneficiaries are so keen to see other girls afforded the same opportunities.

“I would definitely do what I can to give another girl, maybe even a couple of girls, the same opportunity that I received,” says Shalom. “The values that BSS stands for are what people can put their money in. It’s what has made it stand so strong for 150 years.”