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Life-changing moments

Joyce Foundation bursary recipient embraces opportunities

Campus and Community

By Lisa Pendergast

Before Hannah Breckenridge (BA’21) received the Joyce Bursary, attending university, coming right out of high school, wasn’t a viable option. Her family wasn’t able to afford to help pay for university. She also knew, from her experience working customer service jobs throughout high school, that her financial circumstances wouldn’t allow her to give post-secondary education the attention it needed.

But, thanks to an encouraging teacher who saw her potential, Ms. Breckenridge decided to apply anyway.

“The reason why I’m where I am today is because the Joyce Foundation bursary was so much more accessible to me,” she said. “Most other scholarships that were primarily focused on academic achievement weren’t an option because in high school my grades suffered due to the fact that I missed so much time, working and dealing with things at home. In my final year of high school, when I asked my English teacher about this program she said, ‘Hannah this is made for you. You have to apply.’ That turned out to be a life-changing moment for me.”

A supportive start

Fast forward to today. Ms. Breckenridge now has an undergraduate degree in political science from Memorial under her belt. She was also awarded the University Medal of Academic Excellence for Political Science in spring 2021, along with the Reginald H. Brown Q.C. Memorial Scholarship. That success has paved the way to the next stage of her journey.

Accepted for fall 2021 at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, she is now close to completing her first semester of law school.

Looking back on her start at Memorial four years ago, she reflects on the decisions she made and guidance she received that helped her embrace opportunities.

“I’ve thought about the conversations I had with Natalie Spracklin, who is the program coordinator, and just knowing that if I had any problems, there was someone to reach out to … it made all the difference for me. Knowing that there’s someone rooting for you and believing in you and wishing for your success, it’s amazing. And Natalie has always been in touch, sending me things of interest or other opportunities. She helped me with my résumé and networking and finding research jobs on campus.

“That career development support led to my student job at the Muskrat Falls Commission of Inquiry.”

Inspired learning

That student work experience proved to be another turning point for Ms. Breckenridge.

“I started there during my first year as a summer student and I stayed on part time for a second year,” she said. “It really had an impact on me in terms of my decision to go to law school. I thought it was so interesting, the problem-solving aspects and the way that the lawyers approached evidence and questioning. I was fascinated by the way many different lawyers question witnesses and present evidence. And the public speaking aspect was really appealing, as well.”

She is excited and optimistic about what lies ahead, and grateful for where she is today.

“I used to carry a lot of shame about facing financial barriers. I now know that overcoming adversity is a strength and if you ask for help, there’s a lot of people who want to help you. I’ve seen, though this bursary, that when you empower people and believe in them, they can accomplish a lot.

The way things have worked out for me, I’m so thankful. I’ve got this wonderful freedom to choose now and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

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