BURNABY (CUP) ? Over 120 Canadian soldiers have died in the war in Afghanistan since it began in 2002; these fallen soldiers often leave behind significant others and children.
Kevin Reed, a Toronto businessman, has worked with retired general Rick Hillier to develop a new scholarship program geared towards sending the children of fallen soldiers to post-secondary institutions.
These Project Hero scholarships will be offered exclusively to children who lost their parents in the line of duty. The program, effective September 1, 2009, will be available at Memorial University in Newfoundland, the University of Ottawa, the University of Windsor, and the University of Calgary.
It will offer the children four years of post-secondary education to earn their undergraduate degree; on-campus residence fees for the first year are also included.
Project Hero was inspired by Reed, who in December was made an honorary lieutenant colonel of an army reserve unit in Ontario where he became familiar with the struggles of the families the soldiers left behind.
With the help of Hillier, the former chief of defence staff who is now chancellor of Memorial University, Reed brought the idea to Allan Rock, the president of the University of Ottawa.
?At university we feel this is a very tangible way to say [to the families of the fallen soldiers] that we value their contribution and we want to do something to demonstrate that gratitude,? said Rock.
Reed personally went to each school to convince them to join the program.
?It’s my goal to get broad-based, national support from all Canadian universities,? he told The Canadian Press. He claimed getting support from the University of Calgary is a ?big step forward.?
Ann Tierney, the vice-provost of students at the University of Calgary, stated on Tuesday that the program ?is an expression of support for [the] Canadian Forces? soldiers and their families, and a way of honouring those who pay the ultimate price for serving their country.?
Students must be under the age of 26, and must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Rock added that the program is a long-term commitment and will be evaluated every five years to see if improvements can be made.
?We hope this scholarship will help the sons and daughters of these military personnel realize their dreams and plans by making a university education possible after suffering such a loss,? continued Tierney.
Project Hero is the first free tuition program in Canada.