Hamilton students recognized with $100 ‘token’ from RESP provider

·2 min read

With $100, Hamilton student Lydia Lister plans to buy a tripod for the camera she uses in her media and communications program or wireless headphones — an added convenience for long Zoom classes.

“I discovered headphones can be very irritating in the online world when you're trying to do classes,” the first-year Guelph-Humber student said.

“The extra cheque that I got in the mail actually today ... that's a really nice incentive.”

Canada’s largest RESP provider is distributing more than $1.5 million to more than 15,000 post-secondary students across Canada — including 103 Hamiltonians — who used their “Flex First” and “Family Single Student” plan for the first time in 2020.

“It’s just a token and gesture of recognition that we're so impressed by them,” said Carrie Russell, president and CEO of Knowledge First Financial, a not-for-profit foundation. “We hope that in a small way it can make a difference during some of the challenges they're facing right now.”

According to a recent survey by the company, 61 per cent of parents said their child’s stress levels have increased since the pandemic began in March. Remote learning, changes to curriculum and the absence of a typical post-secondary social life are among the barriers students have encountered.

For many families, financial stress has also increased. In the same study, 34 per cent of parents said COVID-19 has impacted their ability to pay for college or university.

“I’m looking for a job,” 18-year-old Lister said, adding that unemployment also contributes to isolation. “That’s been limiting, at times, and frustrating.”

She said she is grateful to live in her family home on the Mountain, and has a supportive high school friend group. But she has struggled to stay motivated, and often feels mentally and physically exhausted.

“I had my first mental breakdown in years at the beginning of the school year,” she said. “It's just completely overwhelming trying to adapt to the university life and learning style.”

Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator