Achieving Potential — From Foster Care to University Graduate

Laura Garand, Photo © UWinnipeg

Laura Garand / Photo © UWinnipeg

Originally published in the Spring 2016 UWinnipeg Magazine

“It never occurred to me that going to university was even a possibility,” says Laura Garand, who grew up from the age of six onwards as a ward of Child and Family Services, in and out of foster homes. Garand attended seven different schools before graduating from Steinbach Regional High School, where she was a strong student.

Today, the confident and poised 24-year-old is on the verge of completing a three-year Bachelor of Arts in psychology at UWinnipeg, and intends to get a degree in social work. “I feel really strongly that I want to be a counsellor because I can relate to what kids are going through, and I know what a difference a good social worker can make,” says Garand. “I want children to know that as life goes on it gets better, and they can see me as a stable role model.”

Young people like Garand are now better able to achieve their full potential because in 2012, UWinnipeg became the first post-secondary school in Manitoba to launch the Youth In Care Tuition Waiver program. It allows youth who have grown up in the child welfare system to plan for their academic future regardless of socio-economic background. Four Tuition Waiver students are now UWinnipeg graduates, including Garand, and approximately 30 more are currently enrolled in UWinnipeg degree programs.

“When I first arrived at university I was anxious and overwhelmed. Today it feels like home and I have experienced new things that have deepened me as a person and made me more confident about my knowledge,” says Garand, who is newly married and credits her husband for offering unwavering support. She feels her UWinnipeg courses, such as child development, provide a good foundation for her next academic move.

The Youth In Care Tuition Waiver program is a partnership: The Province of Manitoba Authorities cover living expenses, including housing, textbooks, and meal plans, while UWinnipeg covers tuition costs. There are approximately 10,000 children and youth in care in Manitoba. The majority are First Nations and Metis, and it is estimated that less than five per cent of those youth pursue a post-secondary education. Since UWinnipeg introduced the Tuition Waiver program, many other institutions across Manitoba and Canada have followed suit.

When asked what accomplishments she is most proud of, Garand does not hesitate. “Everything that has allowed me to graduate from university.” She adds: “Being a recipient of the Tuition Waiver and taking hold of that and setting goals and reaching them, that makes me proud. And I continue to set new goals. There is more to come.”

Diane Poulin

Learn more about the Youth in Care Tuition Waiver program.

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