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Young parents get a second chance at university thanks to $215,000 gift

Mitch Kendall and Mark Sherman donate to the Campaign for Concordia to support residents at non-profit community organization, On Our Own
August 23, 2021
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By Joanne Latimer, MFA 94

On Our Own resident and her daughter in the garden A student resident enjoys the garden at On Our Own (O3) with her daughter. O3 provides affordable housing and teaches independent living skills to young parents in Montreal.

Ushana Houston, BA 20, gets emotional when talking about one of the most gratifying new aspects of her job — seeing young parents go to university to change the trajectory of their lives.

“I’m welling up!” says Houston, the director of On Our Own, a non-profit known as O3. It provides affordable housing and teaches independent living skills to young parents in Montreal.

Thanks to gifts totalling $215,000 from Mark Sherman and Mitch Kendall to the Campaign for Concordia. Next-Gen. Now., parents living at O3 can apply to have their Concordia tuition paid in full.

Ushana Houston, BA 20, “The funds are reframing our residents’ futures,” says Ushana Houston, BA 20, director of On Our Own (O3).

“Because of the Media Experts bursaries from the company’s founder and CEO Mark Sherman in 2019, six of our single moms are at Concordia, studying everything from accounting to political science,” says Houston, who created workshops at O3 to demystify the university experience for residents. “Many have never stepped foot on campus and don’t understand that bursaries can help with the costs.”

Houston wants people to know that the Media Experts scholarships are making a difference.

“The funds are reframing our residents’ futures,” she notes. “And they’re also inspiring more donors to match the original $100,000 from Media Experts and Mark Sherman.”

Indeed, entrepreneur and investor Mitch Kendall recently came forward and endowed $115,000 — a fund that will perpetually generate sufficient income to support the education of one student pursuing a three-year degree, plus books.

Mitch Kendall holds a big fish “I believe philanthropy is both nature and nurture,” Kendall states, “It has to come from the heart, but if you have a family background that gives back, you’re more likely to get involved on your own, as an adult. I hope my children will.”

“My daughter told me about O3 while she was working at Media Experts,” recalls Kendall. “The more I read about it, the more I wanted to give. This gift is my way of breaking the cycle of poverty by one person every year. Then the effect multiplies; when you change a person’s life, you also change their children’s lives.”

Paul Chesser, vice-president of University Advancement, BA 94, GrDip 97, is heartened by how Sherman and Kendall’s philanthropy is helping O3 students succeed.

“We thank Mark and Mitch for their generous support for some of our most vulnerable students — parents with young children who have limited resources and time,” says Chesser. “Gifts like the bursaries to O3 residents have significant impact on not just the recipient, but ongoing generations of each family who see first-hand the value of higher education.”

A family affair

Philanthropy runs in the Kendall family. His maternal grandfather, Gordon Brown, was awarded the Order of Canada for his ceaseless canvassing. Brown’s affectionate nickname in the Montreal Jewish community was Mr. Campaign.

“I believe philanthropy is both nature and nurture,” Kendall states, “It has to come from the heart, but if you have a family background that gives back, you’re more likely to get involved on your own, as an adult. I hope my children will.”

The family’s ties to Concordia are deep. After founding an international packaging and labelling business in 1932, Kendall’s paternal grandfather Hyman went to Sir George Williams College, one of Concordia's founding institutions, as a mature student. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951 and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1953. Mitch Kendall’s son, Matthew, BA 18, studied political science.

Mark Sherman leans on a sportscar "Success" says Mark Sherman, "is seeing a young parent get on the education ladder, with a career-track mentality."

Kendall has known Mark Sherman for years, through philanthropic causes and community events. The two also know Concordia Chancellor Jonathan Wener, BComm 71, and Sherman encouraged Wener to donate an additional $10,000 toward O3 bursaries.

“It’s our privilege to help, share the wealth, recognize community responsibility and improve opportunities,” says Sherman.

Typically, Sherman’s philanthropic goals focus on immediate problems — feeding people who are hungry and can’t feed themselves.

“Concordia was so flexible that it found a way to meet those goals by creating the O3 bursaries. We named them in honour of my Media Experts employees who embraced the organization with a big hug,” he says.

“This is really a story about an institution being an excellent partner that can tailor to donors’ needs and wishes. That’s when the magic happens.”

A single mom reshapes her life

Success, Sherman adds, is seeing a young parent get on the education ladder, with a career-track mentality. That’s why he was pleased to learn about a particular O3 resident in her third year studying political science and women's studies at Concordia.

The new Canadian — who wishes to remain anonymous — has a young daughter and is involved in student government. At Concordia, she’s active in the Women's Studies and Sexuality Studies Student Association, involved in the Anti-Racist Pedagogy Project, and works part-time at the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

“The Media Experts bursary changed how my life will unfold,” says the student, who originally came to Montreal from the outskirts of Mexico as a pregnant 19-year-old. “The culture shock was extreme, but now I can live independently with my daughter, and I’ll have a stable career. A load is lifted from my shoulders, and I’d like to thank everyone who has made this possible.”

Back at O3, Ushana Houston is busy building their community of 29 families, all striving to raise their income potential.

“It’s a pleasure seeing parents blossom, broadening their horizons and building community ties outside O3,” says Houston. “The donors who partner with Concordia have an enormous impact on many young lives.”

Media Experts is hosting its 10th annual fundraiser for O3 on Wednesday, August 25, 2021. Click here to purchase tickets and for more information.



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