Manitoba

15 Sisler students surprised with full scholarships to Vancouver Film School

Philanthropist Walter Schroeder is at it again, opening his wallet to help 15 inner-city Winnipeg students head to the to Vancouver Film School on full-ride scholarships.

'The road ahead is gilded golden for you,' head of animation school tells students

A total of 70 CREATE students have received scholarships to study at VFS in the past five years. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

Philanthropist Walter Schroeder is at it again, opening his wallet to help 15 inner-city Winnipeg students head to the to Vancouver Film School on full-ride scholarships.

"No way," was blurted out by more than a few of the students, from Sisler High School's CREATE post-grad program, when the surprise announcement was made during a live-streamed video conference on Tuesday.

The students were gathered in a large room at the school, expecting to hear a handful of names read out as the lucky recipients when CREATE department head Jamie Leduc revealed they were all getting the full ride.

The announcement, through emotional pauses by Leduc, was also met with tears from parents who had tuned into the live stream.

"This support has changed the lives of our program and our students," Leduc said. "Thank you for believing in our students and allowing them to chase their dreams."

Philanthropist Walter Schroeder, along with the Vancouver Film School, are contributing $500,000 to cover the 15 scholarships. (CBC)

The Walter and Maria Schroeder Foundation is covering 60 per cent of the scholarship while the VFS is covering 40 per cent. The total contribution is $500,000.

 "It was initially going to be 10 scholarships but when VFS and [the] foundation heard we had 15 students interested and qualified, they just made it happen," Leduc said.

In March 2018, Schroeder donated $10 million to Sisler and two other inner-city high schools — Daniel McIntyre and St. John's to help them support underprivileged students.

He then followed that up in September by committing close to $500,000 to those same schools to finance scholarships for 39 students.

Schroeder made his fortune founding the global credit rating agency DBRS. Now retired, he has decided to give back to his hometown

The 15 CREATE students will be pursuing studies in classical animation, game design, and animation concept art. They will begin their program this fall through distanced learning while living in Winnipeg.

Gab Reyes and Jemimah Suba, two of the scholarship recipients, were shocked by the news.

"It's just been some that I've been wanting for years," said Reyes. "It still hasn't sunk in yet, but it's a crazy feeling."

Suba used the word "ecstatic" to describe her family's reaction.

"Not only did I get accepted into the school of my dreams, but I also got my tuition free along wi-th that," she said. "They were very, very, very happy."

Both students are excited to start their post-secondary education, they said. 

"We are thrilled to invest in these talented students and help them achieve their full potential," Schroeder stated in a news release.

"These hardworking young animators, many of them new Canadians or first generation, deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams."

The Schroeder foundation has supported the CREATE program since 2019, having also provided nearly $900,000 in equipment to the high school and post-grad program.

The foundation also funds an industry liaison and communications manager to help provide job opportunities for students.

'Filled with passion, wonder'

The VFS contribution to the scholarships is the latest offer in the post-secondary school's long relationship with the CREATE program. Including the latest 15, a total of 70 CREATE students have received scholarships to study at VFS in the past five years. 

"The road ahead is gilded golden for you," Colin Giles, head of animation and VFX at the Vancouver Film School, told the students during the video conference.

He noted how past CREATE students who have attended VFS are now working in numerous film, animation and game studios around the globe. 

The online meeting was also attended by representatives from some of those studios, who praised Leduc and raved about the CREATE program, calling it one of the best for cultivating successful students.

"What Jamie Leduc and the staff at Sisler High School have created is a progressive and special program. Having had the privilege of visiting a number of times in person, working with Sisler grads at VFS, and hiring numerous Sisler CREATE grads as teaching assistants in my own staff, I am personally invested in the special relationship we have," Giles said.

"The students that arrive in Vancouver from Sisler are special people filled with passion, wonder and drive that has been instilled by the amazing program there."

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca

With files from Faith Fundal

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