Removing barriers for education to help students fighting adversity

Tue, Mar 26, 2019

Kwantlen Polytechnic University student Emma Salisbury has been through more than most 19-year-olds her age.

“Being a teenager who had to go through her last three years of high school being newly diagnosed with lupus and having a disability was frustrating and hard on my confidence,” she says.

In the middle of her Grade 9 year, her blood work showed that she was in kidney failure. The doctor didn’t know if it was cancer or lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue, so more blood tests were ordered. 

“After more blood tests, I was admitted to BC Children's Hospital for a week having chemotherapy and prednisone pulses in hopes of saving my kidneys,” she says. 

But 24 hours after she was discharged and sent home, she had a major stroke that put her in the hospital for six months.

Despite all her struggles, Salisbury wanted to go to school and one day make a difference in the lives of others.

That’s where the Surrey Firefighters’ Ignite a Dream award comes in. The $4,000 award helps remove barriers and ignite the dreams of high school students in Surrey who want to go to school. The award was started in 2014 after three firefighters responded to a call involving a young person which resulted in a tragic ending.

“The discussion turned to how tragic it was that some children with great potential, skill and intelligence due to their life circumstances never get the chance to succeed,” says Joel Neufeld with the Surrey Firefighters Association.

“The group of firefighters knew that the barriers towards furthering education needed to be addressed and with finances being the biggest hurdle, the ‘Ignite a Dream’ event was created.”

Neufeld adds that the event also raises awareness for Surrey youth that have shown courage and honour, characteristics that they value in the fire department. It’s also a night of celebration for the recipients. 

The Ignite a Dream gala, an elegant night of wine tasting and culinary treats, raises money for the student awards that go towards education at KPU.

Emma Salisbury is one of five recipients of the Ignite a Dream award from the Surrey Firefighters Association.

This year there are five recipients receiving awards alongside Salisbury.

  • Ridwan Abdi Daar
  • Manvir Sangha
  • Fatima Ali
  • Ashmeen Judge 

As for Salisbury, she says KPU has allowed her to take a variety of courses that sparked her interest in child and youth care.

“My hopes for the future are to obtain a job where I get to work with children and preferably I would like to give back in a setting like BC Children's Hospital so I can share my knowledge and experience of being in a difficult position of having an unwanted illness.”

The Ignite a Dream gala takes place at the KPU Tech Campus in Cloverdale on April 6, from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are available now.