In our community
The Community Support for Students Program (CSSP) is about hope and belief and trust.
Many are facing financial challenges.
For those of us who are in a position to help, it’s easy to think “well, I can’t fix the world’s problems”. But the fact is that every act of kindness and generosity, however small, helps to make the world a better place. And where better to start with acts of kindness and generosity than with the young people who are our hope for the future.
This is where the Community Support for Students Program comes in – it extends a helping hand to students in Toronto who are working hard to complete high school and at the same time are trying to cope with financial challenges. But the program is about more than just financial help. It is about believing in students who have shown a commitment to their high school studies and a willingness to put that commitment into action through hard work.
These students may have never had a bank account of their own. Most have never been trusted with money of their own. The program shows these students that others, including people from their own community, believe in them and support them. They learn about money first hand.
Not only does the program help the students finish high school: it builds their hope for the future.
How It Works
The Compass Award is $1000, with $100 monthly from September to June directly deposited to the recipient’s bank account.
The recipient is a high school student in Toronto who is hard-working and facing financial difficulties; chosen by the school Principal and/or Guidance Counsellor(s).
The award winner is anonymous although they may chose to tell anyone they like. There are no strings attached to the money and they can spend (or save) the money as they choose. Financial literacy is learned through their choices.
In May, each recipient writes a letter telling generally how they used the money and how the experience impacted them.
How It Started
Fred Cass and Tracy Keenan were concerned about students who face financial difficulties, without available sources of support, prior to the completion of high school.
There was an article in the Globe and Mail about the Help Our Students (HOST) program in Ottawa that was doing just that.
Fred wrote a letter to Richard Lussier, the Founder of that program and the journey started.
In Richard’s program for the 2021-22 school year, there will be 180 awards – three students from each school – of $1,100, comprised of ten payments of $110 per month. In addition, there will be another 12 awards funded by Restricted Donations.
Richard is on our Board of Directors and is a valued advisor to CSSP.
It is my great pleasure to report on the continued success of the Community Support for Students Program in its second year of making awards to hard-working Toronto high school students living in difficult financial circumstances.
As in the CSSP’s inaugural year, we exceeded our own expectations in 2021/2022. We expanded the program to a total of 7 high schools, where we made Compass Awards to 14 students. Needless to say, this is a very big step forward from the program’s inaugural year when awards were made to 6 students at 3 high schools.
The feedback we have received from all participating schools has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, each of the 3 schools that participated during the program’s inaugural year referred us to other schools and this support proved to be invaluable as we moved ahead with our efforts to expand the CSSP. Without the support of schools that have participated in the program, it is difficult for us to overcome the perception at new schools that the existence of a program like the CSSP seems “too good to be true”!
And, as we learned last year, there is nothing better than the words of the award recipients themselves to bring home the profoundly positive impacts of the program. Of course, the financial helping hand afforded by the program is extremely important to the award recipients as they work to complete high school, but the program’s impacts go much deeper than that. One 2021/2022 Compass Award recipient had this to say about the impact of receiving the award:
Before I had gotten the Compass Award, my mental health had been deteriorating due to my personal life and the suffocating amount of course work from school. I was carrying a lot on my shoulders and often had feelings of hopelessness and giving up on school. … The Compass Award could not have been awarded to me at a better time because I took this award as the light at the end of this very dark tunnel I was lost in. Through all of the stress and anxiety that I was enduring in my personal life, the Compass Award reminded me that I had come so far and couldn’t give up now. It has pushed me to break past my limits and to this day, it remains a symbol of my great potential.
Another award recipient put it this way:
Throughout the last four years of high school, I’ve been tremendously dedicated to my education … There were times when I was stressed and doubted myself. I didn’t recognize that I was on the right path and had accomplished many things already. So you could imagine how ecstatic I was when I received the Compass Award! It brought me a great sense of reassurance and eased my stress.
While these are just two examples taken from many very moving comments that we received from 2021/2022 Compass Award recipients, I will resist the temptation to continue quoting the words of the students. The feedback from 2021/2022 award recipients will be posted for viewing on the CSSP website (after we have removed any identifying information).
We are so proud of the achievements of the CSSP, yet it must be said that the program’s success pales in comparison to the Help Our Students Program in Ottawa, which soars to new heights year after year. From its beginnings in 2010, the HOST Program has provided financial assistance totalling in the order of $1,000,000 to almost 1,000 Ottawa high school students. The HOST Program is our model for the CSSP in Toronto and the truly wondrous accomplishments of the HOST Program inspire us to believe that the CSSP can do much more.
Richard and Linda Lussier from the HOST Program continue to serve as directors of the CSSP and are unstinting in their willingness to provide advice and assistance to the CSSP. This report would not be complete without a sincere thank you to Richard and Linda and to all of the other CSSP directors (listed below) for their support in 2021/2022.
Our efforts to emulate the HOST Program and to build on the successes achieved so far by the CSSP depend on the kindness and generosity of donors. One of the CSSP’s fundamental principles is that administration expenses are covered by the CSSP’s directors, so that 100% of all other donations go directly to Compass Awards made to hard-working Toronto high school students. Donations can easily be made by visiting our website at Donations – Compass Award. Please make a donation, if you are able to do so, and consider setting up a donation in an amount that you can afford each month.
Community Support for Students Program Board of Directors:
Fred Cass, President
David Campbell, Vice-President
Tracy Cass, Secretary
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