© Jason Kerr
A launch ceremony was hosted on April 29 to unveil the Prairie Healthcare Scholarships through the McIntyre Family Foundation.
Shocked and excited was how Prairie Healthcare Scholarship recipients described their experience after being honoured at the Dream Big ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
Cheyenne Schulze, Caitlin Wotton, Cole Kritzer, Annette Haughen, Kaitlyn Neustaeter and Sidney Stock were awarded between $1,000 and $15,000 in scholarship money during a special ceremony at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School.
“I was shocked,” said Wotton, who grew up in the Swift Current area and now attends the University of Saskatchewan. “It’s such a big opportunity and such a rare thing to be a part of. I’ve never heard of a scholarship launch like this before, so it was very new to me.”
The McIntyre Family Foundation funds each of the individual scholarships, which are awarded to students pursuing post-secondary education in a healthcare related field. In total, the foundation gives away more than $400,000 each year.
The scholarships are the brainchild of southwest Saskatchewan oilman Eldon McIntyre, who couldn’t hide his smile while speaking after the event.
“It makes me real happy to be able to give to these kids,” he said. “They’re very good recipients. They’re smart. They’re the people that we were looking for.”
There are many different areas and fields McIntyre could have supported, but said he can’t think of anything better to put money towards than healthcare.
“There’s times in the downturn when nobody needs a geologist,” he said, drawing on an oilfield example. “But we always need healthcare. We always need it.”
Even Premier Brad Wall was on hand to congratulate the winners. Speaking afterwards, the premier said the scholarships fill a special niche by helping future rural healthcare workers just get through school.
“If a nurse or a nurse practitioner or a doctor practices in a rural area they can get a financial incentive, but that doesn’t help them get the education in the first place,” he said. “This is helping with the cost of the education at the front end, so it’s a huge deal.”
That’s a sentiment all six recipients agree on. Simply realizing their dreams can be difficult considering the expenses post-secondary students accumulate.
“A lot of the obstacles are financial and a lot of students just put it off and put it off to try and go back to school,” said Haughen, who studies nursing at Great Plains College. “This just helps immensely to make that dream more possible.”
“It takes a lot of the pressure off paying for school,” added Kritzer, a grade 12 SCCHS student.
Kritzer, who hopes to become a doctor, said it’s particularly tough to pay for university without sacrificing his other pursuits, like coaching soccer. He said this scholarship money won’t force him to make that decision.
“It costs a lot of money to get through med school and I got a lot of other stuff on the go, like sports and volunteering,” he said. “It takes a lot off your work time, so (the scholarship) is nice.”
However, the financial support isn’t the only thing the winners are happy about. A large crowd was on hand to watch the presentations, and for some recipients, that support matters just as much as the money.
“Living in a big city right now, going to the U of S, it’s hard to find scholarships that support students who want to go back (home),” Wotton said. “It’s very important that I know that my community is there for me and all these other students know that too.”