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.
The first year of the Community Support for Students Program has been a resounding success! Despite the challenges of launching this new program in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic, we exceeded our expectations for the inaugural year by making awards to six students at three high schools. And, when it comes to the success of the program, the feedback from 2020-2021 Compass Award recipients is the best part of all. Here is what one student said:
Winning the Compass Award has taught me that the type of person I am and the things I do when I do not think anyone cares or is paying attention do not go unnoticed. Being recognized like this has made me strive to be a better person every day. I now make a greater effort to always be generous and understanding around others, no matter the circumstance.
The award money I received has helped and continues to help funding multiple aspects of my teenage life. It has also taken stress off my family financially, which is quite relieving to me. So far, I have used some of the money to pay for driving school and university applications, and it came in handy because these are not usual expenses any other year.
The comments made by this student reflect consistent themes that we see in the feedback received from 2020-2021 Compass Award recipients. Not only did the Compass Award provide important, if not critical, support to students to assist them in completing their final year of high school, it gave them a boost with their post-secondary plans and goals and it had other very positive impacts on their lives. Another one of the students told us this about the experience of receiving a Compass Award:
With this award I have been able to pay for my post-secondary applications. This award has also helped in supporting my family by paying for food and transportation when we really needed it. I am truly grateful to have received this award because it meant that I can assist my family with financial needs and that I could pay for my post-secondary fees. This award also meant that I had support for my final year of high school with less stress and that the hard work that I put in over the years meant something.
Now there is some food for thought: receiving a Compass Award helped a hard-working student in difficult financial circumstances to appreciate that their hard work over the years really meant something!
Not that there was ever any doubt about it, but the first year of the Community Support for Students Program has brought home just how much the program is needed in Toronto and how much positive effect a Compass Award can have on the life of an award recipient. We are tremendously excited and inspired as we look forward to growing the program in future years.
The letters written by 2020-2021 Compass Award recipients describing the impact of the award on their school year will be posted for viewing on the CSSP website as soon as we have completed the task of making sure that any identifying information has been removed from them.
None of this would have happened but for the example set for us by the Help Our Students Program in Ottawa and the advice and assistance of Richard and Linda Lussier from the HOST Program. In fact, Richard joined our online meetings when each recipient was told about their selection for a Compass Award, and his experience from the HOST Program, together with his ability to build rapport instantly, set just the right tone for each meeting. And while Richard and Linda were finding time to respond to all our requests for assistance with the CSSP, the HOST program was reaching new heights in Ottawa, despite the difficulties and uncertainties caused by the pandemic.
Thanks go also to all of the directors of the Community Support for Students Program. Particularly in the program’s start-up year, many extraordinary demands were made on the time and talents of the directors and, without fail, each one of the directors more than rose to the occasion. We are extremely fortunate that we were able to launch the CSSP with such an outstanding group of directors, who bring sound judgment, high-level skills and a wide range of expertise to the CSSP’s board.
And, most importantly of all, we extend our deep appreciation to our donors, because every dollar of every donation, no matter how large or small, directly supports a deserving Toronto high school student as the student works to finish high school. It is a core value of the CSSP that no administrative costs are paid from donations, so that all donations go 100% towards Compass Awards made to hard-working students in difficult financial circumstances. The generosity of our donors in 2020-2021 has re-affirmed our belief in the importance of the values and goals of the CSSP.
Please continue to support the CSSP as we work to grow the program and make it the very best that it can be. Donations can easily be made by visiting our website at Donations – Compass Award. If you are able to do so, please consider setting up a donation in an amount that you can afford each month.
Many thanks for your support, and keep safe and well.
Community Support for Students Program Board of Directors:
Fred Cass, President
David Campbell, Vice-President
Tracy Cass, Secretary
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