Create Your Canada Contest Winner Aims to Aid Future Students

LONDON – Prospective post-secondary students and their parents often encounter real difficulty navigating the confusing processes of applying for Federal supplements to their education savings, if they are aware of them at all.

As a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Western Ontario and a father to sixteen-month old son, Jacob Damstra recognizes the faults in the system. He proposed a bill that asks parliament to enact legislation that would simplify the application process for pre-existing national grants and bonds for future students, in addition to creating new awards and education savings programs and raising awareness about the necessity of private education savings to offset the rising costs of tuition.

“My hope is that Canadian families will be able to capitalize on these new programs and alleviate the financial strains which are constantly increasing,” Damstra says, “Its about leveling the playing field, through action not just words; making sure that all deserving students can attend the university or college of their choice, regardless of economic status or family income.”

A panel of community judges selected Damstra’s proposal as the winning submission in the 2011 “Create Your Canada Contest” sponsored by NDP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe).

“The proposal really spoke to me because even though I’m in a great job now, I am still working to pay off student debt,” says the London Free Press reporter Kate Dubinski who served as one of the community judges, “Any help for students is welcome help”.

The proposal now moves on to the House of Commons legal staff to draft into legislation. Once the Bill is ready to be tabled, Damstra and a guest will travel to Ottawa with his son, Payton, courtesy of Via Rail, to meet Mathyssen in the House of Commons for the presentation of the legislation.

As a former teacher and student from the same school, Clarke Rd. Secondary, Mathyssen says Damstra’s forward-looking approach to simplifying access to education savings speaks to a real need in the riding.

“All the students worked very hard on their submissions, and the effort was obvious in the range and detail in this year’s proposals. As a former teacher, I have seen first-hand the difficulties and financial barriers that many of my students and their families faced in accessing post-secondary education. Too many young, talented, and deserving students were discouraged from pursuing university or college education simply because they could not afford it,” says Mathyssen.