When the phone calls came in, one of them was in a library and had to whisper “thank you,” while the other’s mom thought he was getting into trouble.
The precise moments that changed the lives of Richmond teenagers Jason Pang and Ethan Rajkumar - both recipients of Beedie Luminary scholarships – were markedly different.
However, the profound effect the $40,000 educational awards have had on the 18-year-olds is of equal measure, both in terms of the present and the future.
Pang and Rajkumar are now living their dreams in the first year at UBC, studying global resource systems and neuroscience respectively.
Due to a host of personal and financial reasons, it’s a potentially prosperous path the pair may not have been able to take without the intervention of philanthropist Ryan Beedie.
“Ryan called (about my application) and my mom took the call as I was out. She told me, ‘some guy called Ryan wants you to call him,” recalled Rajkumar, an alumni of Hamilton elementary, who lives near Blundell and No. 2 roads with his single mom and 14-year-old brother.
“I said to her, ‘you know who you just talked to, right?’ She said, ‘did you do anything wrong?’
“She knew I wanted to go to UBC, but didn’t really know what the call was about. Ryan called again and said, ‘congratulations, it was a no-brainer.’”
Without the scholarship, Rajkumar said he had no back-up plan, as such, and would likely just continue working in McDonald’s near his home.
“I was surprised (about the scholarship). I thought I was getting rejected," added Rajkumar, who ultimately wants to study addictions and “help as many people as possible, because so many have helped me in my life.”
“But now I'm so excited at the prospects and the future. And I want to show (my brother) that you can help other people.”
Pang, meanwhile, wanted to express his joy when taking the call from Beedie, but simply couldn’t.
“I was actually studying at the library,” said Pang, an alumni of Garden City elementary, Palmer and Richmond secondaries, who calls Steveston home.
“I was whispering into the phone, saying, ‘thank you so much Ryan.’”
Pang – whose family emigrated from Hong Kong 15 years ago with zero English skills – said growing up in a low-income family meant university was likely beyond reach.
“I have two older brothers. They weren’t able to go to university, due to finances,” added Pang, who used to have three jobs, at the public library, the Olympic Oval and Menchies and also worked for Elections Canada during the recent federal election.
“Being able to go to UBC and not having to worry about student loans and several jobs is amazing. All my energy can now go to my studies.”
Pang said he’s grateful for the sacrifices his parents made, moving to a new country where language was a massive challenge.
“They wanted more opportunities for my brothers and I,” said Pang, who wants to focus on protecting the local and global environment and resources.
“It’s very stressful being a student in Asia. Especially with all the political conflicts. They saw some of the current conflicts coming. They really believe in growing up in a free country.”
The Beedie Luminary scholarships only kicked off last year, with 80 students in B.C., who face financial adversity, being awarded.
Real estate developer Beedie this year expanded his scholarship program to provide 105 promising students with up to $40,000 to fund their post-secondary studies at any public university, college or trade school in the province.
“Financial hardship should not stop talented British Columbians from pursuing higher education and realizing their full potential,” said Beedie.
The program launched last year with a $50-million donation from Beedie, coinciding with his 50th birthday.
The chosen recipients “demonstrate not only academic readiness, but also shared compelling personal stories of adversity and resilience.”
Twenty-seven per cent of recipients are the first in their family to pursue post-secondary education, while 38 per cent come from single-parent households and 60 per cent live in rental housing.