By: Camilo Sanchez Galindo, Hamilton Ontario
In 2011, I was one of thirty grade 10 students from across the country to receive the CIBC Youthvision scholarship, a unique partnership between CIBC, the YMCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Currently valued at $38 000, the CIBC Youthvision scholarship has for sixteen years, changed the lives of almost 500 individuals by addressing the academic and financial needs of students, while encouraging them to pursue a post-secondary education. What sets this scholarship apart from others is the idea of early intervention which also makes the program unique in Canada. CIBC Youthvision targets high-potential young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue a university or college education.
I was born in Medellin Colombia during a violent drug war. My family escaped the increasing violence as refugees when I was six years old. With hopes of a better future, we settled in Bridgeport Connecticut. But the timing of our arrival could not have been more unfortunate. With the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurring just two months after arriving in the United States, any hope of legal immigration ended. A year later, my family left for Canada and settled in Hamilton. We struggled to adapt to a new country, a new language and challenging circumstances. Four years later, my parents divorced leaving my mother to care for me and my brother. Eventually, I was matched with a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters. My relationship with my Big Brother lasted for the maximum amount of time permitted by the organization, when I turned 18. But by then, our relationship solidified to the point where I can call my big brother Russ, one of the strongest influences in my life.
It was the never ending hope of my mom for me to have a brighter future that brought us to Canada in the first place. Rising above challenging circumstances, and dreaming of what the future holds, the CIBC Youthvision scholarship has given me the opportunities to accomplish many of my goals at such a young age, and continue to strive for my hopes and dreams of a better future.
And now, as I complete my first year at McMaster University, three years after receiving the scholarship, I have decided and pursue a combined Honours degree in Economics and Political science. I am also glad to announce that I have decided to pursue a career in politics and as a result, I’m currently running for City Council in this year’s municipal election in Hamilton (Ward 9). It is my dream to change the lives of those who need their voices heard. As a result, I don’t think that I would be where I am today, if I hadn’t received the CIBC Youthvision scholarship. It has changed my life, and I am excited to mention that my younger brother Daniel has also been selected to receive the CIBC scholarship this year. While the odds of two brothers receiving the same scholarship barely years apart, it is apparent that the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship will continue to encourage a new set of recipients every year to pursue their dreams, accomplish goals, and gain the experience needed to succeed in life.