VIU Tuition Waiver Student Researches Supports for Former Youth in Care

Ruby Barclay, a third-year Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care student, is working with students in VIU's Tuition Waiver Program to create awareness about the unique needs former youth in care have.

January 12, 2017 - 2:45pm

Ruby Barclay works with students in VIU’s Tuition Waiver Program to create awareness about needs of former youth in care

 For Ruby Barclay, a third-year Vancouver Island University (VIU) student in the Tuition Waiver Program for former youth in care, post-secondary education has done more than broaden her mind. It’s helped her redefine who she is as a person.

“For a long time, my identifier was that I was a youth in care,” she says. “Everyone says you learn a lot at university, but on top of the academic knowledge, I’ve also learned a lot about myself and my values and had the opportunity to explore my place in the world. Now, I identify as a university student, I have a good set of friends and I’m taking advantage of some leadership opportunities here. Having the opportunity to change my narrative and break the cycle in my birth family was really important to me.”

Barclay, a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care student, wants to make sure other former youth in care enrolled at VIU have a similar experience. That’s why she’s created a practicum placement for herself that aims to help other Tuition Waiver Program students at VIU have a successful experience. Through her practicum, she’s connecting with these students and boosting awareness institution-wide about the specific needs of Tuition Waiver students.

VIU’s Tuition Waiver Program, established in 2013, waives tuition for eligible students who have grown up in the youth in care system. The first institution in BC to offer such a program, VIU has supported more than 100 youth in care – the most of any institution in BC – to attend a wide variety of certificate, diploma and degree programs.

Nearly 70 Tuition Waiver students are currently attending VIU and through Barclay’s practicum, run through the University’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care, she’s been touching base with many of them, hosting community gatherings and providing one-on-one support. She’s also working on a series of workshops that can be delivered in a professional development format.

“Just like an international student or an Indigenous student, students in the Tuition Waiver Program come with special needs, needs that go beyond financial support,” says Barclay. “For some of these students, it’s the first chance they’ve had to really be successful at something other than simply staying alive. A lot of them are socially isolated and lacking in life skills due to trauma histories. One of their basic needs is to feel validated and valued, because due to their backgrounds, every day they live with a fear of being cast aside. I think it’s important that we model that they are not alone in the education system.”

Jennifer Jensen-Richards, Coordinator of VIU’s Financial Aid and Awards Department, says Barclay has assisted her in connecting with Tuition Waiver students to get the word out about all the different avenues of funding available to them. For example, many youth can access funding from the provincial government, and generous community donors have allowed VIU to create emergency bursaries.

“Many of these students aren’t aware of the funding that’s available to them,” she says. “It really helps to have someone like Ruby on the ground, connecting face-to-face with students. She pulls together her knowledge of supports available through the ministry with supports available through VIU and in the community.”

What makes Barclay so effective in this role is her level of skill as a practitioner and her previous experience in government care, says Ashleigh Martinflatt, Barclay’s practicum supervisor and Coordinator for the Centre for Community Outreach and Care, which provides CYC students with hands-on learning experiences by partnering with the local community to engage in child, youth and family-focused activities.

“She brings a unique perspective that many of us who haven’t had the experience of being in government care would understand,” says Martinflatt. “I think the average person doesn’t understand the journey and what happens when you age out of care and move on to post-secondary education. During her workshops with faculty and staff, many people are surprised to learn about the unique obstacles these students face and they come out of the workshops more aware and empathetic.”

Barclay, 21, grew up in Powell River, where she was in a foster placement from age 14 - 16 before moving out on her own.

“It was not an easy experience to go through, but I had the skills and ability to take care of myself,” she says. “In the end, there is a purpose to my experiences and story. My experiences fill me with purpose and the desire to move forward and help others.”

Barclay chose VIU to help her move forward because the University was one of the first to offer a Tuition Waiver Program, and because she’d heard good things about the Child and Youth Care Program.

“I heard the program here focuses on practical skills, which suits my learning style,” she says. “At first, I was really worried about the academics because during my time in care, I lost a lot of my academic learning, but I’ve found the professors to be very personable and the small classroom settings really help. I’ve been on the Dean’s List twice now and I’m really proud of that.”

Click here to learn more about VIU’s Tuition Waiver Program and here to learn more about the Centre for Community Outreach.

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MEDIA CONTACT: 

Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: jenn.mcgarrigle@viu.ca | T: @VIUNews


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