In SCI BC News, News & Blog, Peer Profiles

Thanks to the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust, these students were awarded scholarships to pursue their education—and for many, their lifelong dreams. Learn more about their bright futures below.

young Asian woman with shoulder length dark brown hair, in graduation gown and cap looking over the camera and to the left.

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.  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.

Meet some of the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust recipients!

Mujtabaa Saloojee

Mujtabaa is enrolled in the art program at Emily Carr University, taking 3-D digital design in an animation course, as well as a building codes and barrier-free design class in the interior design program at LaSalle College Vancouver. “The scholarship is exactly what I needed to take the next step in my career development, ” he says, “It gave me the freedom to do different classes at different schools and I would highly recommend it to anyone that’s interested.” Read more about Mujtabaa here.

Mitch Wheeler

Mitch is focusing his studies on courses necessary in pursuing a career in construction, with the goal being to work and provide for his family again. “The greatest lesson I’ve learned since receiving the scholarship and starting school is that there is help if you look for it,” he says, “In my case, the biggest burden to going back to school was being able to afford it, but the scholarship funding has made this possible.” Read more about Mitch here.

Fiona Ma

Fiona is working on her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at BCIT. “Receiving the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust from Spinal Cord Injury BC has allowed me to cut down my hours at my part-time job so that I can focus on my academics, as well as pursue my extracurricular interests in mental health advocacy.” Read more about Fiona here.

Agasha Mutesasira

Agasha is studying Hospitality Management at Vancouver Island University, with the goal to own and operate a boutique hotel in Uganda. “I thought that the application would be quite involved, because at the end of the day you’re getting money for your education. I was surprised to find that the form just requires basic information, and that it was all very simple and straightforward. I’m so happy I applied—there’s been a lot of momentum from this one act—it’s opened so many doors.” Read more about Agasha here.

Tomas Bourassa

Tomas studies Mechatronics Systems Engineering at Simon Fraser University and is a successful wheelchair tennis player who has represented Canada in international competitions. “I am supremely grateful for your continued support of my education and your advocacy for individuals with disabilities to pursue higher education,” he says.

Dan Duffy

Dan’s working towards a Recreational Therapy degree at Langara College. He’s an active SCI BC peer and an avid chef who hosted fun and engaging Zoom cooking classes during the pandemic. Visit him @quadchef on Instagram.

Benjamin Hagkull

Ben is a previous BCPF Scholarship Program, and a GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust recipient who is working toward a Visual Arts Diploma at Camosen College. Ben’s award has supported his tuition and books, as well as his housing in Victoria.

Emily de Boer

With her GRAGOPEAN scholarship, Emily has been studying Fine Arts at the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, in Vancouver.


Pierce Pineau

Pierce studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, and is pursuing a Bachelor degree in Business Administration (Aviation) with a career goal in air traffic control.

Gabriel Chesman

Gabe holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and has enrolled in a 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 pursuing a Ph.D. in History through the University of British Columbia and receives support for tuition, textbooks and research assistance from the GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust.

Sam Douglas

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

Ethan Spencer

Ethan attends Trinity Western University, taking courses in Political Studies. His scholarship provides 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

Natasha attends Kwantlen Polytechnic University part-time, working toward a Bachelor’s degree, with a major in Geography.

Kenneth Ngai

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

Riley Martin

Riley is a recipient of both a GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Award and a BCPF Award. With an MBA from Thompson Rivers University, Riley studies 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. Read more about Riley here.

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 attends UBC Okanagan for Indigenous Studies. She is a dedicated community volunteer and has provided outstanding peer support to young children affected by spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a disease with which she lives with. The Trust has funded her tuition, books, housing and transportation, as well as some non-funded medical expenses. Read more about Holli here.

Rahul Shandilya

GRAGOPEAN Scholarship Trust is supporting Rahul in his studies of Applied Science (Engineering) at UBC by 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

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 Ph.D.”

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

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