Niko is only one course away from completing the Social Service Worker program at Centennial College. When he does finish, it will be a milestone for his family.
“I’m the first in my family to ever to go to college and I will be the first to ever graduate,” he says, noting that he hopes his achievements will inspire his nephews to follow suit.
Despite his determination and 4.0 GPA, education wasn’t always a priority for Niko. He struggled to receive his high school education, and despite having a scholarship for a post-secondary education, didn’t take it as he didn’t see how it could help in life.
After working at Toronto Community Housing for some time, Niko came to Homes First in 2018 as a front-line shelter worker. He then moved onto an Intensive Case Management worker position, supporting residents in various ways. It was working in this position that Niko began to notice the many barriers and gaps that residents faced, and he decided to go to school so he could gain the skills and knowledge he needed to better address those gaps.
Niko applied to HFS’s Access to Education Scholarship with the belief that he wouldn’t win. He had applied to scholarships through school before, but was often rejected as he worked full-time the first year, and therefore made too much money to be awarded a scholarship. However working full-time and going to school wasn’t easy, so Niko dropped back to part-time so he could focus on getting the grades he wanted.
He notes that despite proof that many people of colour face financial challenges in accessing education, not many scholarships were designed to fix such issues. He was happy to learn Homes First was taking the step to support students of colour, and even happier to learn he would be one of them.
Congratulations to Niko on receiving the HFS Access to Education Scholarship in its inaugural year!