A Richmond teen received $3,500 toward her education, with an award that recognized her resiliency in the face of personal struggles.
Hugh Boyd alumnus Maria Karaji is one of 44 recipients of this year's Standing Tall Education Awards, given out annually by Coast Capital to support youth who are facing adversity but stay committed to education.
"This Standing Tall Education Award means the absolute world to me," said Karaji, adding it will provide financial relief and allow her to better focus on studying.
While Karaji is currently studying psychology and political science at the University of British Columbia, she said it has not been an easy road to get to where she is now.
She and her family arrived in Canada in 2016 from Syria and found themselves with a lot of financial burdens.
"As a refugee immigrant who came to Canada at a young age, I have experienced and understood how hard it can be for parents and students to support themselves in life and their education financially," said Karaji.
The financial burden also caused mental stress as Karaji had to balance her studies while trying to make a living, she added.
However, thanks to this award, she can now pursue her dream of going to law school one day.
Karaji said she hopes her personal experience will inspire more refugees to achieve their goals in Canada.
"At the beginning, when I told people I came from Syria, they did not understand what that meant and it was difficult for them to picture what I went through,” Karaji said. “As a teenager at that point, I sometimes did not feel 100-per-cent comfortable opening up.
"I know sometimes it's sensitive and hard to tell others about your struggles. So, I aspire to work toward empowering the refugee community and encourage them to speak up to get help when they need it,” she added.
This is the 17th year the Standing Tall Awards have been given out. The program was established in 2004 and has since supported almost 1,000 students in their post-secondary studies.