One Day for Students Highlights Help for Student Experiences

[caption id="attachment_526" align="alignnone" width="584"] U of S student Jacinta Classen received a helping hand from donors in her experience outside the classroom planning a conference for high school students from the North[/caption] One Day for Students is the University of Saskatchewan’s day of giving, where the campus community, our alumni, donors and friends are invited to make a special donation that can enhance the U of S experience for one or more of our over 20,000 students. On March 20, 2015 we asked donors to give to the President's Student Experience Fund, which supports unique and innovative projects and activities that give students an opportunity to grow their knowledge, apply their learning, or pursue an “once-in-a-lifetime” experience outside of the classroom. This fund has made a difference to students like Jacinta Classen, a fourth-year Arts & Science student who works hard to balance her studies with activities outside of the classroom. [caption id="attachment_531" align="aligncenter" width="263"] Jacinta Classen describes her experience outside the classroom planning a conference for Northern Saskatchewan students[/caption]

Jacinta grew up in Northern Saskatchewan, about fifty kilometers from the Northwest Territories border. Access to education was one of the struggles she faced in the North. In her hometown of Uranium City, schooling wasn't available past Grade 9. She was fortunate to move to Humboldt to attend high school, one of the few of her Northern classmates to complete Grade 12. Jacinta was offered opportunities to pursue her education and chose the U of S.

Arriving in Saskatoon came with feelings of culture shock. "Growing up in an isolated fly-in community doesn't prepare you for life in a big city. Finding your way around or even buying groceries is overwhelming. Living alone in residence or with a stranger is a huge adjustment," says Jacinta.

One way to manage in a new setting is to find the comforts of home, whether it's familiar foods, activities or people. Jacinta found her comfort with a student group on campus called the North Administration Students' Association (NASA). "Connecting with other students from the same background was reassuring and created a sense of community," says Jacinta. "NASA provided me with social opportunities and cultural support to cope and be successful in my studies."

Today, Jacinta is a proud volunteer of NASA involved in one of their biggest projects – planning and hosting the annual NASA Exploration Conference, a three-day event that brings over 100 of the brightest high school students from the North to the U of S, SIAST and SIIT. Students tour the U of S campus and Saskatoon, learn how to apply to the U of S, visit a career fair, stay in campus residences and participate in sports and culture activities to socialize and build relationships.

Jacinta and the conference planning team – who dedicate time to the conference on top of their full-time course loads – know the conference is working. Two of their members attended the conference in 2012 and are now U of S students.

Support from donors helped to make this conference a reality last year. Because of donations to the President's Student Experience Fund, NASA received $10,000 towards hosting the conference, bringing 122 students to Saskatoon, including a large number of Aboriginal youth who had never been outside of their home communities. "Without the support of donors, the NASA Exploration Conference may not have the money to power our ideas and put them into action," says Jacinta.

Jacinta and the conference planning team is busy planning this year's conference for the start of May and applied for funding from the President's Student Experience Fund once again. We are happy to say that Jacinta and her team are receiving $5,000 this year from the President's Student Experience Fund to help put on their conference for students from the North.

This year on One Day for Students, $27,696 was donated to the President's Student Experience Fund by 302 donors to enhance the U of S experience for students like Jacinta. Best of all, we were able to have twice the impact on the student experience thanks to Professor Emeritus Kay Nasser, his wife Dora and their family who had committed to match every dollar donated to the fund up to a maximum of $25,000, but were so inspired by the community response, they added another $5,000 to their donation.

"I feel all university students need to have a well-rounded education," shares Kay. "Part of that is participating in activities outside of academics – whether that's in sports, clubs or extracurricular activities. Very few students can afford to pay for these activities out of pocket. If I didn't get help at many stages when I was a student, I wouldn't have done as well as I have in my life."

In total, $57,696 was donated to the President's Student Experience Fund on One Day for Students. Says Jacinta, "One Day I will inspire students from my home community to dream of post-secondary education and show them they can achieve it."

By Raylene Kershaw
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