By: Caitie McRae
Even after weapons have been turned back in, plane tickets to home purchased and treaties signed, the impact of war reaches beyond the battlefield. In most cases, the stressful consequences of war don’t hit close to home – but at the home. Project Hero is one of the ways Algonquin is helping families pick up the pieces.
Started in 2009 by retired general Rick Hillier and honourary lieutenant-colonel Kevin Reed, Project Hero is a program providing undergraduate scholarships to children of fallen soldiers. With nearly 70 post-secondary schools now participating, the scholarship is a successful venture amidst criticism of federal cuts to veterans’ affairs.
Jocelyn Ranger, 26, is Algonquin’s first and only recipient of the scholarship. Ranger couldn’t be reached before deadline but has been an outspoken proponent of the policy in the past, saying her college career would have been nearly impossible without the help of the scholarship.
Ranger was in her early 20s when she received the award in October 2009. She met all of the eligibility requirements, which include being under the age of 26 and being registered full-time at a university or college.
Additionally, the deceased, in Ranger’s case her father, chief warrant officer Robert Girouard, must have been serving in a mission after 2002.
Jamie Bramburger, manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin’s Pembroke campus, said the policy is “a small token of appreciation.”
“It’s a means of saying thank you for their parent giving their life in the line of the duty and our way of showing some gratitude by offering free tuition to the child,” Bramburger said.
In regards to the application process, Bramburger stated, “The onus is on the student when they’re applying to let the college know their personal circumstances,” after which the college will undergo a process with Canada’s Department of National Defense to confirm the student is a child of a military member killed in the line of duty.
As of 2012, Jocelyn Ranger is the sole Algonquin recipient of the scholarship.
“The majority of the soldiers killed in Afghanistan were young men and women, so most don’t have children who are old enough right now to take advantage of the Project Hero scholarship,” said Bramburger.
Despite a lull in applications at the moment, Bramburger anticipates a future surge of children applying for the award, and assures the intention of the program is to admit each and every one of them.
With Veteran Affairs being an ongoing source of contention in Canada’s political cosmos, Bramburger speaks proudly of Algonquin’s staunch, deep connections with the armed forces, saying the college “is a military community at the end of the day.” However, in spite of Algonquin’s patriotism and close ties to Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Bramburger admits the college does not currently provide free tuition for veterans returning from war.
“At this point in time Project Hero is the only college policy concerning soldiers killed in the line of duty,” he said.
Perhaps providing funding for veterans’ education will be up for debate in the future, but for right now there is no denying that Project Hero has made a positive impact on recipients like Jocelyn Ranger. Bramburger explains it’s the least the college can do.
“This is our way of giving back to those families who have paid the ultimate price.”