Project Hero, a new scholarship program that waives tuition for the sons and daughters of fallen Canadian soldiers, has made its way to Concordia University and several other Canadian universities.
Initially the vision of retired Canadian general Rick Hillier and honourary lieutenant-colonel Kevin Reed, Project Hero will reach out to financially dependent children of soldiers killed while on active duty. Eligible candidates must be 26 years old or younger and full-time undergraduate students at participating universities.
Concordia’s Director of Media Relations, Chris Mota, said the decision to adopt Project Hero was a simple one.
“We learned about the project from a member of our board of governors. Soon after, the University wanted to get on board right away,” explained Mota. “It simply made sense.”
At McGill, Project Hero has not been overlooked. According to Morton Mendelson, McGill’s Deputy Provost, the program is being put into effect here as well.
“We have been working on implementing the program for some time and it was finalized this week,” said Mendelson. “Although no general advertisement has been made as of yet, we will be announcing this decision to the McGill community shortly.”
Once an announcement has been made, applications will be available to students in the Scholarship and Student Aid Office.
“After hearing about the project, we looked at our own scholarship program and asked ourselves, ‘How can we make this work?’” Mendelson explained. “It fit into our program reasonably and allowed us to do our part in supporting the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Judy Stymest, Director of McGill’s Student Aid, felt that Project Hero reflected McGill’s tradition of aiding the families of Canadian soldiers.
“McGill, like many universities, has a history of support for the families of soldiers,” said Stymest. “We have an aid program for the families of soldiers who were in World War I and II, which is still in existence.”
According to Mota, Concordia has had a long-running relationship with the military.
“After World War II, when many G.I.’s returned home, several attended Concordia,” said Mota. “We’ve been there to get them back on their feet.”
“Although there may be individuals who are for or against Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, the University decided that this was not the time for such a debate,” Mota said. “Instead, we chose to support the families.”
According to Heather Mac-Donald, the Media Relations Officer of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), VAC does have programs to assist children of veterans or members of the Canadian Forces in financing their educations.
“One such program is the Educational Assistance Program, in which surviving children of deceased veterans and Canadian soldiers receive funding for their education,” said MacDonald. “Another is a program that partially reimburses the tuition of former students.”
Nevertheless, MacDonald does not feel that Project Hero is redundant. “Project Hero is very important in demonstrating that Canadian universities are recognizing veterans and the service they provide. This is invaluable support.”
“Those who serve our country deserve our respect,” Mota said. “They have made the ultimate sacrifice and the least we can do is help their children aspire to a higher education.”
For Mendelson, giving special aid to the children of fallen soldiers is McGill’s duty as a Canadian institution.
“Symbolically, Project Hero is very important,” Mendelson emphasized. “It is a small measure we can take to demonstrate our support for the families of Canadian soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice.”