As a child, Adam Joiner moved around a lot with his family. He remembers moving 10 times before the age of nine in an effort for his family to deal with tough financial burdens.
“I didn’t have any close friends besides my family because we moved so many times,” says Joiner.
When it came time for him to go to post-secondary school, things became increasingly difficult financially.
His family had just moved out to the country where the cost of living was more affordable when he started studying at Algonquin.
So, he commuted most days to attend classes, sometimes sleeping on a friend’s couch for several nights in a row in order to let his father have primary use of the family vehicle. He also juggled three part-time jobs in order to pay for tuition and books.
“I could have easily just worked full time at minimum wage and given up on school,” says Joiner.
Fortunately, Joiner received a bursary in his first year of the social work program in order to cover some of his tuition and living expenses. Thanks to the college’s financial help, he was able to cut down on hours at work and get an affordable apartment near campus.
“The bursary was the defining moment for me. It changed the hardest part of my college career,” says Joiner.
Joiner is just one of the many students at Algonquin who struggle financially.
On Nov. 24, staff and faculty got together to kick off the annual United Way Week of Giving in order to raise funds for bursaries that will support students in situations similar to Joiner with a breakfast fundraiser.
The campaign this year looks a little different than usual. Rather than running several longer campaigns throughout the year, Algonquin has decided to concentrate their efforts on one week-long campaign with an event each day.
“We are going to try to change as many lives as we possibly can as a college,” says steering committee chair, Jeremy McQuigge.
This year, the campaign has a record number of canvassers, which are critical to the success of the campaign, according to McQuigge.
Algonquin president, Cheryl Jensen, announced that by the time the breakfast started, the campaign had already raised enough money to change the lives of 15 people.
“Through the United Way, we are transforming the lives for the people who have not have the great opportunities that we have,” says Jensen.
In the past 10 years, the college has been able to provide financial aid to over 1,000 students thanks to the supporters of the campaign.
They estimate that about $90,000 is distributed in bursaries among students who represent financial need each year.
While staff and supporters worked hard to make a difference for the Algonquin community, they had a little fun doing it.
The main event of the morning was the “air band competition” in which Student Services faced off against the college’s Communications department in a dance and lip sync battle.
Students Amanda Rocha, Matthew Brown and Joe Fraser of the music and industry arts program judged the competition.
In the end, first-time competitors from the Communications department took home the trophy with their performance of Alan Jackson’s I’m A Country Boy.
“I’ve had a really positive morning supporting this great campaign,” said Nils Hamster, a recent graduate from the police foundations program. Hamster now works in the Connections Bookstore and attended the event for the first time.
“Having been a student myself so recently, I really know the financial struggles that so many of us face, so I’m really glad I got to do my part this morning.”