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Mental health champion launches scholarship at GCVI

In this Following Up, Noah Irvine talks about the Lesley Irvine and Kent Martin Memorial Scholarship to help other students who have lost a parent
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Mental health advocate and former GCVI student Noah Irvine has launched the Lesley Irvine and Kent Martin Memorial Scholarship at his former high school.

A new scholarship at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute aims to recognize and support student who are struggling after losing a parent. 

The Lesley Irvine and Kent Martin Memorial Scholarship provides $750 to a GCVI student in Grade 12 or Grade 12+ who has lost one or both parents, and is pursuing a post secondary program, including in the trades or an apprenticeship.

Mental health advocate Noah Irvine, a Guelph CVI grad who now attends the University of Guelph, is behind the scholarship. Irvine describes it as 'the one you don't want.' 

"The scholarship is for kids who have lost a parent or both, so obviously, there is a substantial amount of challenges that have come from this, both social and economical in scope," said Irvine. 

"It's important to support students who may not be eligible for academic awards based on what's happened in their personal lives."

The scholarship is named after Irvine's mother and father, both of whom passed away due to mental health issues. Even today, Irvine said there is stigma around individuals who pass away after struggling with their mental health. 

"It's my hope that the kids who receive this get to say my mom and dad's names in a positive way, and that my mom and dad are no longer defined by the way that they died, but by the gift that they give to these kids," said Irvine.

Funding for the scholarship was made possible through sales of Irvine's self-published book, Learning to Live. Copies of the book are still available at the book's website

Irvine adds additional funding for the scholarship came from honorariums he received from speaking events and donations. 

"There were some very generous individuals that gave, far above what was required of them, but they recognized and acknowledged the inherent value of this and it really is a Guelph story in a number of ways," said Irvine.

Over the next 15 years, the scholarship will be given to 30 GVCI students to support their post secondary studies. Irvine said this a substantial achievement as he initially hoped the scholarship would support students for three or five years.

"I will be 36 years old by the time it runs its course," said Irvine, adding the scholarship amount will rise with the rate of inflation.

Irvine calls the the high school his 'second home.' Going above and beyond to support him after his father passed in 2015, Irvine said the staff at the school are the reason he is alive today and he wanted to give back. 

"I know that at any given time, there are 30 kids between between Grades 9 and 12, have lost a parent or both at that school, and to be able to help not all of them, but few of them, I hope I've been able to give back to the kindness that school showed me," said Irvine.

Reflecting on the past two years, Irvine said they have accelerated conversations around mental health and led to more people having open and honest conversations around mental health.

He said the next steps from here are to listen to those with lived experiences and increasing peer support.


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Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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