Madolyn Simon, Grade 12 student at Reynolds secondary, is a winner of the Horatio Alger scholarship. Submitted

Graduating Saanich students have overcome hardship

Claremont and Reynolds Grade 12s among the recipients of scholarship from Horation Alger Association

Two graduating high school students from Saanich are sharing their stories in hopes that others in a similar situation could possibly benefit from them.

Madolyn Simon of Reynolds secondary and Celina Whitney of Claremont secondary, both in Grade 12, have experienced similar tales of hardship in their lives. They are among 80 recipients of a $5,000 scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association of Canada, an organization that awards need-based scholarships to high school students who have overcome adversity and are seeking a post-secondary education.

To qualify, they each opened up in winning essays that detailed their pasts and their future ambitions. It’s not an easy thing to do. But when Whitney read about Alger’s background, she found a lot in common with the themes Alger wrote about in his 19th century American literature, albeit a lot of it about poor young men who attain a middle class adulthood.

“Growing up as a little girl in Vancouver my dad wasn’t around, I often slept in my mom’s bed and we took in borders to pay the rent,” Whitney recalled. “When we moved to Victoria I was five and I slept on a mattress (on the floor) for a year before I had a bed [frame].”

Whitney is deeply beholden to her mother, who works three jobs. Today she lives with her mother, brother and grandparents. Her mother not only raised her but has been supportive of her half-brother too, a boy who came along with the relationship when Whitney’s mom met her father, she said. Whitney also remains in close contact with her half-sibling. It’s something that Madolyn Simon knows all about.

Simon first lived in 100 Mile House and has relocated 28 times in her first 17 years. Her dad first went to prison when Simon was about seven years old. Her little brother was four, her sister six.

“[That time] we never told my brother and sister where he was going,” Simon said.

Drugs became a recurring trend, and so were prison terms, but that didn’t stop Simon from wanting to connect with him.

“It was hard, I do have my grandfather in my life, but it’s natural to want to connect with your own father, you want that figure in your life,” Simon said. “The second time he was in prison I made a big trip to visit him on Father’s Day.”

In the mean time Simon became closer with her half sisters, who she is still close with.

But eventually, Simon grew angry and shut her father out.

“I would let people think he was away working in Alberta,” Simon said. “I had one friend, she only knew some of it. I used to fear the judgment of what others thought.”

Through it all Simon’s mom left it up to her kids to decide how they would connect with their dad.

“She supported us, she didn’t tell us we couldn’t connect,” Simon said. “My best advice is not to be angry, it stops you from being happy, it stops you from living your life.”

Simon is hoping to get accepted into Trent’s bachelor of political science with an eye on law after that. Whitney, who works regularly with kids at 4-Cats art studio in Uptown, is looking at becoming an elementary teacher.

“Instead of being anxious at 12, it was at six years old,” Whitney said. “I guess I’ve come through that, I feel like I’m in a good place. I know what I want in life.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

Celina Whitney, winner of the Horatio Alger scholarship, is graduating from Claremont secondary this year. Whitney helped re-establish the Claremont improv team and is involved in drama.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Missing: 12-year-old girl found

Victora police say missing youth has been found and is safe

The blind lead the blind at the Pacific Training Centre

Centre specializes in teaching visually impaired people everyday skills to live an independent life

Student Voice: Reynolds ReyBots qualify for Texas-sized Robot championship

ReyBots robot met premier, ‘dodged’ the competition

Fewer Greater Victoria residents collecting EI benefits

The number of local EI recipients dropped by 5.5 per cent from January 2018 to January 2019

Sidney woman hosts charity shabby-chic furniture sale

Upcycled and refurbed furniture sells to benefit the Alzheimer’s Society of BC and Crohn’sColitis Canada

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

Wildlife activists slam B.C. business, clubs for ‘wolf-whacking’ contests

Chilcotin Guns, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club and West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club under fire

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Vancouver Island motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash

Collision took place west of Whiskey Creek; man in his 70s died

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Most Read