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Joyce Foundation bursary recipient does not, will not, quit

Student Life

By Heidi Wicks

Adversity didn’t slow Blake Colbran’s educational and personal journey towards greatness. In fact, it only propelled it.

A male student wearing all black and glasses with brown hair sits on a hillside.
Blake Colbran is the recipient of a Joyce Foundation bursary.
Photo: Submitted

A 2019 recipient of the Joyce Foundation Bursary at Memorial University, Mr. Colbran’s mantra is “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Due to the extreme bullying he experienced during middle school, Mr. Colbran made the decision to leave school at the age of 15. However, three years later, he decided to return.

“[Leaving school] was probably the best choice I’ve ever made,” Mr. Colbran told The Telegram in 2020.

Upon his entry to post-secondary education, his emotional state was not unlike most students. Thankfully, the resources available at Memorial gave him the confidence he needed.

“Building a relationship improved the advice.” — Blake Colbran

He says he was nervous but ready for the challenge. He enrolled in Memorial’s Kickstart program over the summer, taking Business 1000, and did “really well.”

“I won’t mince words, though. I was working three jobs during my first semester, which really bogged me down,” he said.

“Then my grandfather, who was more of a father to me, was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer and passed away right around mid-terms. It was a Murphy’s law-type situation. I fell ridiculously behind in my course work and had to drop to three courses.”

He says the experience taught him not to bite off more than he can chew.

“Doing really well on three courses is way better than just barely passing five,” he said, coming to a conclusion that many students make only after seeing the numbers on their transcripts.

“I decided that education would be a better investment of my time than the money I made from working. I quit two of my jobs, which made my budget a bit tighter, but I managed.”

Encouraging advice

He is quick to acknowledge the advice he received in advance of making those decisions – advice from academic advisors, faculty heads and his own professors, friends and family.

A woman with brown hair and a black shirt in front of a painting of a cow.
Natalie Spracklin 
Photo: Submitted

“Being informed makes it easier to decide,” said Mr. Colbran, who is majoring in science and hopes to be admitted to the behavioural neuroscience program this fall.

“My academic advisor, Natalie Spracklin, was a huge influence. I was lucky to get to know her early due to this bursary, but meeting with her regularly made the process better, building a relationship improved the advice.”

The Joyce Foundation Bursary at Memorial University was originally created in 2014 thanks to a landmark donation of $5 million from The Joyce Family Foundation.

The foundation, established by the late Canadian businessman and philanthropist Dr. Ronald Joyce, created the bursary program to assist students who are committed to education but face critical financial need and personal challenges to attend post-secondary education.

“I’ve met so many other resilient young people through the bursary. I’m in good company.” — Blake Colbran

The bursary is available annually to high school graduates in Newfoundland and Labrador who meet this criteria and are entering their first year of study at Memorial.

Receiving the Joyce Foundation Bursary, Mr. Colbran says, has made the biggest impact on his life so far.

“Knowing someone has entrusted me with $20,000 to complete my degree means so much. I’ll always remember opening the envelope saying I was a recipient. Everything I do in university and the next three years will be because a committee of people at the scholarship office thought I was capable of achieving something, and deserved support to do that. I’ve met so many other resilient young people through the bursary, as well. I’m in good company.”

Earned perspective

After two previous attempts, Mr. Colbran is now a volunteer with the Marystown Fire Department. Considering this and how he rebounded academically, it is fair to say he has a good handle on how to recalibrate his life when necessary.

“Focus on the long term. Mistakes mean less when you look at things in a ‘five years from now’ perspective. Five years ago, I was barely getting by, without any qualifications, and sweeping the dusty floors of a warehouse for $10.25 an hour. Not a single stressor from five years ago matters to me now. Five years from now, I imagine, I’ll feel the same.”

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