WELLINGTON NORTH – High school student Joey Townsend believes higher education is crucial for the betterment of society but he says for many it’s out of reach.
The Wellington Heights Secondary School (WHSS) student has started an annual education scholarship fund aimed at reducing financial barriers to post secondary education for a student in their final year of high school.
Having witnessed fellow classmates struggling to keep up while working several jobs to pay rent or support their families — leading some to drop out completely — Townsend felt compelled to action.
“It got to the point in which not only could they not compete for [university] programs, they could barely pass at all,” Townsend said.
“It was really gut-wrenching.”
Though money raised won’t help address that immediate problem, the funds will help ease the financial burden for those accepted into a post-secondary program.
As of Feb. 6, the “Wellington North Legacy Scholarship” GoFundMe (https://gofund.me/a5dad12c) has raised $750, and he has connected with local businesses which so far are committing to contribute around $2,000.
The ultimate goal is to raise $10,000, but Townsend says whatever is raised will be provided.
“When he approached us about supporting the scholarship, I instantly agreed,” Hybrid Hair and Detox Spa owner Erin Kiers wrote in an email to the Advertiser.
The Mount Forest business will host a “cut-a-thon” during March break to raise funds for the scholarship.
“We are so proud of Joey and the ingenuity he is showing by seeing a problem in our community and bravely stepping into the role of being part of the solution,” Kiers added.
Townsend hasn’t yet nailed down details about how applicant students will be evaluated — that will be done in collaboration with school staff and the board, he said.
What he does know is there are 30 WHSS students graduating Grade 12 this year who are in dire need of financial support in order to pursue university or college.
A decision on who is awarded the growing funds will be made close to the end of the academic year and announced during school graduation.
“I applaud Joey for taking the initiative to address the issue of poverty in our local community,” WHSS principal Brent Bloch stated in an email.
Joey is an “empathetic and dynamic student advocate,” Bloch wrote, adding the school is “extremely grateful.”
“I know about these kids who have these problems with money and much more,” Townsend told the Advertiser by phone.
“I think I’m the person who is revolted by the idea that it’s just okay to sit there and do nothing because that’s their problem; I don’t think that’s okay,” he said.
Townsend is a philosophical thinker, and describes himself as a perfectionist and idealist. His friends, he said, might describe him as “intense.”
He pulls inspiration from the likes of enlightenment philosopher David Hume, admiring ideas of the importance of education and a belief that knowledge contributes to society’s wellbeing.
“What’s the purpose of a community, what makes a community a good thing?” Townsend asked.
Answering his own question, he said, “mutual respect and mutual benefit.”
“Mutual benefit comes from not just leaving the community members to sit … within their difficulties — that’s not a community,” Townsend asserted.
“I feel morally obligated … it’s something that I’m passionate about, I really want to help.”