For some people $500 isn’t a lot of money. For Angie Banh, it helped make the difference in her being able to continue her education.
In January last year, Banh received one of the 10 scholarships awarded annually at the Vancouver Girls Basketball Association Challenge, a tournament that attracts high school teams from across the city. Without that $500 bursary, there's a chance Banh might not be studying social sciences at Langara College this year.
"Five hundred dollars may not be a lot for some families," said Banh, who attended high school at Britannia Secondary School. "Coming from a single working household, my dad is the only one that works. With that [money] I didn't have to put any financial stress on my dad to try and pay for my tuition. I was able to go to school."
For the last six years, the VGBA has hosted its tournament at Langara College. For the last three years, Telus donated $5,000 to fund the scholarships awarded to Grade 12 students for post-secondary education. Langara also awarded two $1,000 scholarships for students to attend the college.
This year Telus decided not to participate in the VGBA tournament although the company will sponsor the boys' AAA provincial championship. The company’s withdrawal has left the VGBA searching for money to continue the scholarships.
"We could run the tournament [without the scholarships] but I think it would lose a lot," said Mike Evans, the VGBA president and basketball coach at Britannia.
At a recent VGBA board meeting, it was decided this year's scholarships would be funded out of the pockets of board members or individuals willing to make a contribution.
Moving forward, the VGBA will continue with individuals funding the scholarships. One person can contribute the whole amount, or several people can pool their resources. Eventually, Evans would like to see the scholarships grow from $500 to $750 or $1,000.
Russel Black, another VGBA board member and one of the tournament's chairs, likes the idea of individuals filling the void left by Telus.
"They are stepping forward because of an individual commitment," said Black, who co-founded RBL Basketball in 1997, a program that operates basketball leagues and camps across the city.
"It makes it special. It shows support. It makes it personal."
Evans said the idea reverts to the original concept of the VGBA.
"It fits the original philosophy of overcoming barriers," he said. "The original idea was to develop skills among the players at a younger age and overcome some barriers for these kids. We looked at is as more than a simple basketball thing, to try to build confidence."
During the tournament, a three-member committee decides which graduating players receive the scholarships. Basketball skill, marks and community involvement are all part of the criteria.
Wendy Lin was manager of the Britannia team when she received a scholarship in 2012. She is now attending the UBC Sauder School of Business. The money made a difference to her.
"UBC tuition is pretty expensive and it's only getting even more expensive," said Lin. "It helped me buy five books."
Kindi Do, another Britannia student who received a scholarship in 2013, said not having the money would impact other young women.
"What if they depend on this scholarship to go to school?" she said. "It's a loss of opportunity."
Marinel Santiago said the $1,000 scholarship she received from Langara didn't just benefit her.
"It lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders and my parents’ shoulders," said Santiago, who attended Churchill Secondary. "That money that would have been used to pay off my tuition, it helped my younger brothers pursue their athletic goals as well."
Many of the players in the VGBA tournament come from low-income families. Banh believes having an individual, maybe even someone from the same neighbourhood, step up with money for a scholarship means more than the cash coming from a corporation.
"That is pretty cool," she said. "A corporation is like a name. If it's an individual, that one person actually took the time to think about these kids using this bursary to go to school. That person stepping up is real meaningful.”
Jim Morris is a veteran reporter who has covered sports for 30 years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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