A new scholarship created to help Indigenous students at Keyano College in Fort McMurray aims to help students who have had to overcome adversity.
The nine scholarships range from $500 to $1,000. Applicants are asked to answer a question: What has been your most significant challenge pursuing your educational goals?
Ken Braget, founder and president of True North Valve Solutions, started the award.
He became passionate about supporting generational change within Indigenous communities after learning about his background.
At 34, Braget, who was adopted, reunited with his biological family.
"I found out my real name was Kenneth Louis Callihoo. My family was a proud Indigenous family," said Braget.
"I didn't know who I was for 34 years, and I just became obsessed and I wanted to make up for lost time."
He started a foundation called the True North Strong Foundation to help Indigenous communities with mental health and addiction programs.
Before starting the scholarship, he went Keyano College to have a meeting and see how he could support students.
"I wanted it to focus on the underdog and the person that faced adversity and needed somebody to believe in them," said Braget.
Originally, Braget was going to give out two scholarships of $1,000. But when he started reading through the nine submissions he received, he didn't want anyone to be cut.
"I know what it's like to be turned down and rejected and there was no way we were going to say no to anyone," said Braget.
"It might just take somebody to believe in you, for you to go on to do exceptional things."
Braget said he's going to keep offering students assistance, with scholarships and he'll be offering support if they want to start a business or need mental health support.
Carl Haine, member of the Sturgeon Lake First Nation, was one of the recipients of a $1,000 scholarship.
He wrote about his struggles with the pandemic and online education, how his anxiety and ADHD made learning difficult this last year and how a recent surgery affected his studies.
Haine, 19, finished his first year at Keyano College. He's studying to be a social worker. He said the money will help him pay for basic necessities and rent while he goes to school.
"It just feels so amazing to be included and seen for all of the things that I've gone through," said Haine.
Dale Mountain, interim president of Keyano College, said there are 410 awards at the school and 57 are slated for Indigenous students.
"We get very excited, because we do have limited monies," said Mountain. "Students are always in financial need."
Mountain said this can also be motivational for students because they know they're being supported.
"They know that people care and that people are actually giving money out of their own pocket… to support them as they go through college," said Mountain.