"I felt lost": FYIC funding gave KPU student the chance to turn her life around

Thu, Mar 3, 2016

Metro Vancouver, B.C. – As Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) prepares for the next intake of students to its support program for former youth-in-care, some of the students from the program’s pilot year have recently completed their studies.

One of those students is Desiree Kalhofer, who graduated with her health unit coordinator certificate late last year. According to the 33-year-old Maple Ridge resident, the university’s program enabled her to pursue her studies when her other sources of funding got cut.

“It got cut and I got left in a huge financial bind,” Kalhofer explained. “My bills were piling up and then I was told I wasn’t going to be able to work while going through my practicum for the program. I was on the verge of eviction when my counsellor recommended the former youth-in-care program to help me get through my practicum. Otherwise I would’ve had to drop out.”

Established last year, KPU’s support program for former youth-in-care lends financial and academic support to students who are pursuing post-secondary education while transitioning from government care to adulthood. The university will once again be running the program for the upcoming academic year. KPU will cover two semesters of tuition and fees for up to five eligible students.

Kalhofer said the funding available for former youth-in-care at KPU left her with a huge sense of validation.

“I have always fallen into a category where there is little-to-no help,” she said. “I make too much for any government assistance, but too little to even afford a dental cleaning. All my life I’ve been passed around with no answers and never qualified for any assistance in anything.”

Kalhofer left home at the age of 13 when her mother remarried and her living situation became unsafe. She entered the foster care system shortly thereafter. “My first foster family were big drinkers,” she said. “I would be locked in my room except for school or for dinnertime.”

At 15, Kalhofer joined the independent living program for youth-in-care. “I took some university classes but I couldn’t finish because I had to work full-time and it was too much for me,” she said.

In 2000, Kalhofer began learning massage therapy and was able to open her own mobile massage company. However, after a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, she was forced to stop practicing.

“I felt lost but when I heard about the health unit coordinator program at KPU, I knew I wanted to apply,” she said. “This program allows me room to grow. I can still help others and it is not so physically strenuous on my body. This program is something I can do for the rest of my life.”

Kalhofer hopes that KPU’s support program will continue to help those who have struggled like she has. “This program is a huge benefit to people like me,” she said. “It allows you to get an education with a massive amount of support from the staff and faculty. It gives people like myself a chance and opportunity to make something of themselves and not just get passed around like the government’s inconvenience.”

The support program for former youth-in-care complements other funding sources such as student loans and grants, and the Youth Education Assistance Fund (YEAF) available through the B.C. government student assistance program. Applications for the 2016-2017 academic year are open until April 15. To learn more, visit kpu.ca/fyic

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at kpu.ca.    

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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