LONG SAULT – While the local secondary school has been closed for roughly five years, the township of South Stormont has decided to bring back the distribution of an annual bursary for secondary school graduates living within the municipality.

“I’m very pleased to bring this proposed policy to council this evening. Students everywhere have economic barriers in entering post-secondary education. I’d like to see our council play a part in helping to alleviate those costs and formally recognize a special secondary student who has contributed to our community by helping them have the opportunity to pursue their post-secondary academic goals,” Loriann Harbers, director of corporate services and clerk, said.

During the July 13 council meeting, Harbers provided a key information report to local politicians outlining a proposed annual bursary for South Stormont residents graduating from secondary school who will be attending further training or education. She said she was looking for council’s input on the bursary criteria, as well as the amount. Council unanimously agreed it was a great idea, offering several suggestions for staff to incorporate.

“As you have seen in the criteria for this proposed policy, the annual bursary would be for residents of South Stormont graduating from secondary school who will be attending a post-secondary institution in a program of two years or more in length. One thousand dollars would be awarded annually to one student pursuing a full-time post-secondary education program in any field of study. The student must be graduating from Grade 12 and must provide proof of registration to a Canadian college, university, or other post-secondary institution in a full-time program in the fall of the current year in any field of study,” Harbers said. “The student must have demonstrated a passion for community leadership. The student must complete the application form and submit accompanying documentation electronically or in person at the township office no later than April 30 of each current year. The bursary recipient would be chosen by a team of reviewers made up of one member of council and senior management in accordance with the established criteria.”

Councillor Andrew Guindon said he’d like to see the bursary open to students attending post-secondary school outside Canada, as well. Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor David Smith suggested creating two bursaries, one each for a female and male graduate. Smith also said he’d like to see the bursary open to students going into technology, agriculture, and trades, as well.

“The way that this has been written, this would be open to anyone attending any post-secondary programs, so anything in agriculture or trades, they will be open to applying for this as well,” Harbers said. She agreed to removing the Canadian stipulation but noted that these types of grants don’t typically have a gender requirement.

Harbers reminded council that the municipality provided an annual bursary when Rothwell-Osnabruck School, in its K to 12 setup, was still in session. Following the school’s forced closure of Grades 7 to 12 by the Upper Canada District School Board in 2017, she said the township discontinued the bursary. She said she would like to see the bursary return, open to residents of South Stormont graduating Grade 12 from whatever secondary school they’re attending.“Our students need to know that we support them in their educational programs that they’re going to,” Harbers said, adding that her hope would be to see South Stormont’s graduates return to the municipality after their post-secondary programs are completed, whether to work and/or live in the township as adults. “I truly think this is a great idea, and I think it probably could be improved a little bit. I think I’d like to see the two awards. I don’t think it necessarily has to be male or female, but I’d like to see two students per year.”

Harbers said staff would like to see the amended policy passed during the August council meeting. She said this would allow for an aggressive advertising push leading to the recognition of the first recipients of the South Stormont Bursary during a council meeting in September.

Referring to the auditor’s report earlier in the evening that indicated a financial surplus for the municipality, Chief Administrative Officer Debi LucasSwitzer said two bursaries are doable financially. With council’s direction, she said staff could bring back a report for council to consider. Receiving approval from members of council, Mayor Bryan McGillis gave the go ahead for making the suggested changes and for the return of a follow-up report next month.

The draft policy, along with a draft application form, were included with Harbers’s report in the July 13 agenda package. Harbers said the application is to include a 50-word essay from the student. She said her intention is to make the bursary as open as possible, so that more students can apply, including those who don’t fit the mould of a typical bursary recipient.

“I certainly like the idea,” Smith said. “I certainly support it, and I would definitely like to have conversation on how we can build on this.”