Scholarship win helps South Surrey student reach for dreams

Leeza Robertson, 17, accepts a $3,000 scholarship from Surrey firefighters Matt Johnston (right) and Kevin Copeland. - Sarah Massah
Leeza Robertson, 17, accepts a $3,000 scholarship from Surrey firefighters Matt Johnston (right) and Kevin Copeland.
— image credit: Sarah Massah

A firetruck at a high school is often not a good sign.

But for Semiahmoo Secondary student Leeza Robertson, the big yellow truck parked outside her school Tuesday morning was a welcome sight.

And it wasn’t just because it gave her a break from essay writing in her English class. The 17-year-old Grade 12 student was surprised by Surrey firefighters Matt Johnston and Kevin Copeland, as well as a crew from the Crescent Beach fire department, to be told she was among five students who had been selected to receive the $3,000 Ignite a Dream scholarship.

“We had about 38 applicants and they all met the criteria,” Copeland said. “We wanted to give it to everyone.”

The scholarship is a part of a program created by the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society, which also hosted their first-ever fundraiser of the same name at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre in February.

When going through the applicants for the scholarship, the eight-person committee tasked with finding the recipients was looking for academic excellence, community work and a person who had overcome disadvantages and surmounted barriers placed before them.

“I feel that we really found the top five resilient youth in Surrey,” Johnston said. “They all have a great story.”

Semiahmoo teacher Terry Lescisin, who encouraged Robertson to apply for the scholarship, noted the teen fit the bill when it came to the criteria.

“She’s a very good student, well-respected by her peers and she’s overcome a very difficult home situation,” he said.

The soon-to-be grad, who plans to go into nursing, told Peace Arch News that without the scholarship, post secondary would have been a financial struggle.

“I am paying for it all myself, so to have $3,000 towards my education is so reassuring,” she said, noting she also works part-time at McDonald’s.

Robertson’s decision to become a nurse stems from a childhood filled with visits to the hospital due to her asthma.

“I grew up in a broken home and my mom was a very heavy smoker,” Robertson said. “So when I was smaller, I would have to go the hospital and being there, comforted by the nurses and knowing they were here to take care of me, really helped.”

The surprise win has proven that hard work and dedication can pay off, she added.

“For me, post-secondary is a dream. So, if you want to pursue something, you should pursue it, because dreams can happen,” she said.


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