TORONTO — Sheralynn Kennedy says if her stepfather were alive today, he’d be proud she wants to dedicate her life to helping troubled teens.
The 18-year old is entering the University of Winnipeg on scholarship with the ultimate dream of earning a PhD in psychology and working with teens in jails or group homes.
But he isn’t around to congratulate her.
Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson died in an armoured car rollover in Afghanistan four years ago. He was the 10th Canadian soldier to die during the mission.
Kennedy was just a month shy of 14 and says her younger teenage years were hard without him.
“There were a lot of influences in my life and some of them were unstable, so I just want to be there for adolescents who are going through the same thing that I am,” Kennedy said Friday.
“I think I have a lot of life experience from that that I can definitely help them.”
Kennedy is one of eight children of soldiers killed in the line of duty who will be heading off to college or university next week with a scholarship to help cover the cost of their education.
The students are receiving up to $16,000 each in funding over four years from a group of companies and wealthy business people under the banner Canada Company. That group includes banks, insurance companies, Barrick Gold chairman Peter Munk and Research In Motion billionaire Jim Balsillie.
The students received their scholarships at a ceremony Friday aboard the HMCS Fredericton, which is in Toronto to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay was on hand to congratulate the students, who hail from Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
The fathers or stepfathers of the students died while on duty in Afghanistan, and one died during a failed fighter jet training exercise in Alberta.
Kennedy was one of three winners to receive their first payment.
Jocelyn Ranger, 25, and four others received their second installment of the scholarship.
Ranger’s father, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2006.
She and her two brothers were too old to be considered dependants under other programs, she said.
Ranger’s husband is currently on duty in Afghanistan, and she says without the scholarship it would have been impossible to go to school, pay a mortgage, and raise her two-year-old son. She also has a baby on the way, due in 15 weeks.
Ranger is studying business at Algonquin College in Pembroke, Ont., and hopes to continue on to a human resources degree, and eventually work in government.
“It was always a goal of my dad to encourage us to obtain a post-secondary education, and he was reaching a point in his career where he possibly could’ve assisted us,” she said, explaining that financial difficulty followed the emotional struggle of losing her father.
The other scholarship winners will be tackling subjects as diverse as interior design, nursing, and law. Some are hoping to follow in the footsteps of their parent in the military.