Henry Sexsmith was enjoying his last few minutes of morning sleep when his mother burst into his room.
The look of excitement on Stephanie Holmes’ face let him know he needed to take the call.
“The person on the other end of the line said, ‘We want to tell you you’ve been selected as a recipient for the 2014 CIBC Youthvision scholarship,’” says Sexsmith from his Victoria home. “I was like, ‘Oh no way!’ … There’s only 33 people in Canada who get the scholarship. I just felt so lucky.”
The roughly $40,000 scholarship is available to Grade 10 students who have been through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, a youth mentoring charity that helps kids in primarily single adult families.
Two other teens in Sooke and Sidney received the same scholarship, and Sexsmith also received one of only three scholarships for athletic achievement from CIBC Youthvision.
Rhonda Brown, executive director with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria, said the scholarship integrates financial support, an internship and a continued mentoring relationship that boosts the likelihood of success in university.
“It’s hope for these kids, and it’s just an incredible opportunity. It allows them to pursue a career where otherwise they may not have been able,” Brown said.
Mentors not only play a big role in the development of Little Brothers, but they’re also fundamental in kids being chosen for scholarships, she said.
“The mentor has to write about their experience with the child and why they think their Little Brother or Sister deserves to have this opportunity to reach their goals,” Brown said. “I can’t say enough about the strength of those relationships.”
Sexsmith’s Big Brother, Caleb, introduced the teen to life behind the scenes at the University of Victoria, where Caleb recently completed his PhD. They also spent countless hours playing sports, watching movies or heading downtown for a meal.
“We have a relationship based on kindness and humour,” Sexsmith said. “It was just amazing to have someone close to my age with lots of energy.”
To give back, Sexsmith is now a teen mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He’s also planning to study history or computer science at university in a few years.
“I guess I’m like every parent: I want my son to fulfill his dreams,” Holmes says. “I’m so happy and grateful that he’ll have the opportunities that the scholarship provides.”
Learn more at cibc.com/youthvision.