Waterloo Unlimited program cancelled after 13 years

After 13 years and 39 programs, the Waterloo Unlimited program at the University of Waterloo for high school students will be shutting down, leaving director and many former Waterloo Unlimited students disappointed.

Ed Jernigan started Waterloo Unlimited in 2004 and has helped run 39 programs throughout the 13 years

Several findings of a recent province-wide survey by the Ontario Student Trustees Association (OSTA-AECO) of high school students, parents and educators, shows findings on mental health and well being and student voice. (Waterloo Unlimited)

After 13 years and 39 programs, the Waterloo Unlimited (WU) program for high school students will be shutting down after they host their last program for Grade 10 students in May.

"I'm quite disappointed," Ed Jernigan, director of WU, told CBC's The Morning Edition on Thursday. "I gave a large part of my life to building this program."

WU is a week long enrichment program for outstanding high school students from across Canada, held at the University of Waterloo.

Jernigan started WU from scratch in 2004 at the request from the then-provost at the University of Waterloo. He and other faculty member have helped host 39 programs for high school students over the past 13 years.

He said the WU program has always been funded at the discretion of the provost and it was decided last summer that the University would no longer fund the program.

"Provosts have to deal with many budgetary constraints and changing priorities and that's what I think we got caught in," he said.

'Hugely beneficial'

Three times a year, the WU program gave students in Grade 10 to 12 a learning experience in a post-secondary environment, while also giving them an opportunity to take a deeper look into programs in the arts, science and math faculties.

"We have found it to be hugely beneficial to our kids to open up their minds to what's going to be available for them in their post-secondary lives and start to prepare them for what they will be needing when they go to university," said Sara Kaune from Guelph.

Ed Jernigan started Waterloo Unlimited from scratch in 2004. “I gave a large part of my life to building this program," he said. (Waterloo Unlimited/ Facebook)

She said two of her sons have attended WU and is sad that her third son won't be able to experience the program.

"I feel reaching out to students when they are starting to think about what happens next is a really good thing to do, I think it was a great thing for the university to have done for 13 years," said Jernigan.

Petition to reconsider

Jernigan is not the only one who is saddened by the end of the program. Many former students of WU have taken to social media to express their disappointment that the program is shutting down.

"The program was so important to me and I'm so sad to see it go," Oskar Kaune, 16, told CBC News.

"All the years for me have been so incredibly awesome and I've been telling all of my friends in Grade 10 that they need to go to the final Grade 10 program coming up soon," adding he wishes there was some way to keep the program going.

He is not alone. Leslie Wilkinson from Petawawa Ont., who attended the Grade 11 WU program over March Break, started an online petition last week to try and get the university's provost to reconsider.

"I made that effort myself last year but came up short," said Jernigan. "Perhaps the students will be more successful."

In May the program hosts its final program for Grade 10 students. Jernigan said that they plan to do a special farewell lunch to give back to those who have been involved over the years.

"It's a way for us to sort of thank the university's faculty, staff and students who have volunteered their time to help us provide this experience to the high school students," said Jernigan.