BY HEATHER WOOD
As the world struggled to come to grips with the pandemic last year, Allison Parry started brainstorming about what she could do to help.
At the forefront of her thoughts was how fortunate she had been to have the Green Family Scholarship fund her neuroscience degree at Dalhousie University in Canada, and how Covid-19 might impact students who did not have that financial assistance.
“The Greens really helped me a lot,” she said. “I wasn’t financially supported by my parents, so I was really thankful to get that scholarship; it pretty much got me through school.
“And so I really wanted to do something. I was thinking how, if I was going back to school and I wasn’t able to work during the summer I would have struggled.
“I usually saved up my money from the summer to pay for rent, for things outside of tuition. So I was really thankful that I wasn’t going back to school and I just wanted to help someone that would have been in that situation.”
Because of the help it gives to “financially needy students” she partnered with Knowledge Quest and launched a charitable initiative. Run to Read invited people to run, walk or swim throughout the month of July last year. Twenty-one people travelled more than 800 miles, raising more than $16,000 through sponsors. The Green family then stepped in, boosting the amount.
Ms Parry ultimately gave Knowledge Quest $32,500 which was passed on to Veronica Swan-DeGraff to assist with her studies at AdventHealth University.
Without that help the biomedical science student might not have made it back to college. She had not been able to find the summer job she anticipated would cover most of her academic expenses. Added to that, tuition costs had gone up at her Florida school.
The 2020-21 school year was looking “very challenging” until Ms Parry chose her from a handful of people Knowledge Quest put forward for the award.
“Veronica just really stood out. She’d done so much for our community and she just worked so hard despite a lot of the challenges that she had been through,” Ms Parry said. “[And] she wasn’t able to work so she was exactly the kind of person I started the scholarship for.
“She was so overjoyed. She was just so thankful and so grateful to everyone who donated, participated and organised [Run to Read] and I think she really just wants to work harder now just to make everyone who was involved in it proud.”
Ms Swan-DeGraff had “a matter of days” to get her things together and leave after AdventHealth announced it was to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
She continued with online classes and had hopes of physically returning to the school in January however the high incidence of Covid-19 in Florida has prevented that from happening.
Said Ms Parry: I have had contact with Veronica, who seems to be doing well in her second semester, although she is still stuck in Bermuda due to Covid. As far as I know she has one more semester prior to graduation, and I look forward to hearing from her at the end of the academic year!”
Run to Read was a first for Ms Parry, who had never organised a fundraiser on her own before or hosted one of that scale.
“There were so many rewarding moments throughout the fundraiser last year,” she said. “2020 was the year that kept dealing us more and more challenges, but awarding this scholarship was a small victory in such a defeating year. It impacted my life, and another life positively and that’s all I could have asked for. It was really fulfilling to be in a position to help a student, after being the student who needed help for so many years. I am excited to continue giving back to Bermuda and providing opportunities for students to enhance their education.”
Her hope is to offer the scholarship again this year. The one thing that is likely to change is the timing of the event. Although an avid runner, she struggled to run in the heat and humidity of July.
“It will likely be earlier in the year – in May or June – to try and beat the heat,” Ms Parry said. “I personally struggled to run every day in the heat last July, and I know others had a tough time too, so hopefully people will be more motivated to participate if it’s not quite so painful!
“I will likely do this in partner with Knowledge Quest again this year, which means that the applicant pool will be shared with KQ applicants. The KQ scholarship is available on the Bermuda Scholarships website along with many other great scholarships. The criteria for the scholarship this year may be slightly different, given that last year was based mainly on students who were financially affected by Covid, but the primary criteria are financial need.”