In News & Blog, Peer Profiles, SCI BC News

In fall 2019, the start of a new school year came with an added bonus for 16 British Columbian students with spinal cord injuries. Thanks to the second disbursement of the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust, these students were awarded more than $170,000 to pursue their education—and for many, their lifelong dreams. Learn more about their bright futures below.

Photo:Esther Tuttle

Since 2018, the Vancouver Foundation and Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC) have been partners in administering the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust. The Trust—established by Vancouver Foundation donors with a request that SCI BC manage the application and recommendation process—aims to promote the advancement of education of persons with a spinal cord injury in British Columbia.

In its inaugural year, just over $83,000 was awarded to 11 worthy individuals attending BC post-secondary schools. This year, there were more applicants than ever resulting in 16 recipients being awarded over $170,000! This unique award covers tuition and text book expenses, and also supports additional supplemental costs related to disability, including transportation, housing, medical expenses and more.

We are excited to offer this funding again! Please visit our Scholarships and Bursaries page for more information and details on how to apply.

Congratulations to the 2019 GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust recipients!

Tomas Bourassa

Tomas is a second-year recipient of a GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust Award. He is studying Mechatronics Systems Engineering at Simon Fraser University. Tomas is also a very successful wheelchair tennis player and has represented Canada in international competition.


“I am supremely grateful for your continued support of my education and your advocacy for individuals with disabilities to pursue higher education,” says Tomas.

Dan Duffy

Dan is another second-year recipient of the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust. He is attending Langara College, now in his second year of Arts. He is working towards the goal of a Recreational Therapy degree, is a very active SCI BC Peer and is an avid chef who goes by @quadchef on Instagram.

Benjamin Hagkull

Ben is a previous BCPF Scholarship Program recipient; this is his first year to receive a GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust Award. Ben is enrolled in his second year at Camosun College, working toward a Visual Arts Diploma. Ben’s award will support his tuition and books, as well as his housing in Victoria.

Emily de Boer

Emily has previously received this award, as well as support from the BC Paraplegic Foundation. She is in her first year at the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, taking courses in Fine Arts.

Pierce Pineau

Pierce is a former recipient of both a GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Award and a BCPF Award. He is in his third year at the University of the Fraser Valley, pursing a Bachelor degree in Business Administration (Aviation) with a career goal in air traffic control.

Gabriel Chesman

This is Gabe’s first year for this award. Having studied previously in the United States, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and is now taking some prerequisite courses in preparation to enter the Master’s of Counselling Psychology Program at SFU with support from the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust. He is a former SCI BC staff member, and plans to “pursue a career in counselling with the long-term goal of supporting people who have experienced a spinal cord injury.”

Barbara Schober

Barbara is a previous recipient of the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust and the BCPF Scholarship Program. Barbara is continuing to pursue a Ph.D. in History through the University of British Columbia.. She is a highly intelligent, entrepreneurial and determined individual who is considered by her supervisor as one of the strongest PhD candidates he has encountered. Barb receives support for tuition, textbooks and research assistance from the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust.

Sam Douglas

Sam is a first time applicant to the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust. With a previous undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria, Sam is now attending BCIT studying Project Management. Sam was also awarded the Scott Stanley Scholarship Award from the BC Paraplegic Foundation (BCPF). Funds from both sources will support his tuition, as well as the purchase of required textbooks and software licenses.

Ethan Spencer

Ethan received his first award this year from the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust. He has just begun his first year at Trinity Western University, taking courses in Political Studies. He is being supported with funds for tuition, textbooks and housing. Ethan said, “After getting my degree I plan on either working towards a teaching degree and becoming a teacher or working in the foreign service. Thank you for making this possible.”

Natasha Kaweski

This is Natasha’s first GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust Award. She is a previous recipient of a BCPF award. She is attending Kwantlen Polytechnic University part-time, working toward a Bachelor’s degree, with a major in Geography.

Kenneth Ngai

Kenneth received support this year to help him complete his certification as a Payroll Compliance Practitioner through the Canadian Payroll Association.

Riley Martin

Riley is a former recipient of both a GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Award and a BCPF Award. With an MBA from Thompson Rivers University, Riley is now in his second year of Law at the University of Victoria.


“I was just as overjoyed and relieved when I received this news as I was last year […] I look forward to when I am able to give back to the Trust and contribute to making this same difference for others,” says Riley.

James Shaw

James is attending Selkirk College in the Kootenays for an Advanced Diploma in Geomatics (Geographical Information Systems). He plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Geography at UBC following completion of his program at Selkirk. James is receiving support for tuition, books and equipment, as well as transportation.

Holli Vander Wyk

Holli received an award from the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust last year as well as this year. Holli lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which has similar limitations to that of a spinal cord injury. She is entering her third year of University, at UBC Okanagan for Indigenous Studies. She is a dedicated community volunteer and has provided outstanding peer support to young children affected by SMA. The Trust has funded her tuition, books, housing and transportation, as well as some non-funded medical expenses.

Rahul Shandilya

This is Rahul’s first time receiving a  GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust, which is supporting his first year in Applied Science (Engineering) at UBC. GRAGOPEAN is helping him with tuition, books, housing and transportation costs. According to Rahul, after completing his schooling, he “wants to improve the lives of underprivileged people across the world with the help of computer technology.”

Robert Shaw

Robert is a past recipient of awards from the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust and the BCPF Scholarship Program, as well as a champion wheelchair tennis player and a Peer mentor. A spinal cord injury in 2011 did not inhibit Rob’s impressive post-secondary career. With an undergraduate degree in Physical and Health Education, Rob is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies at UBC. The GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust is supporting tuition and textbook costs for him.


“I can’t thank [the committee] enough for selecting me for this award,” says Rob. “Having SCI BC in my corner during my studies means a lot as it is an organization I hope to work with after I complete my PhD.”

Interested in applying for the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust? Head to SCI BC’s Scholarships and Bursaries page for details!

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