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Inspiring Women Among Us Award Helps Students Facing Challenges

Entering her final year of studies for her undergraduate degree in Public Administration and Community Development, Sara-Lynn Harding was facing a series of challenges and a sudden case of financial hardship. The Inspiring Women Among Us award arrived just in time to help her deal with her financial obligations so she could focus on her studies.

March 7, 2018
Sara-Lynn Harding
The Inspiring Women Among Us award helped Sara-Lynn Harding overcome sudden financial obstacles and complete her requirements for her undergraduate degree and begin graduate studies at UNBC.

The September 2017 semester was fast approaching and Sara-Lynn Harding was in a bind.

Entering her final year of studies for her undergraduate degree in Public Administration and Community Development at the University of Northern British Columbia, Harding was facing a series of challenges and a sudden case of financial hardship.

Wildfires were raging throughout the Cariboo region and many of her family members in Williams Lake and Esk'etemc First Nation were evacuated and some came to live with her and her family in Prince George. She was unable to work and the fires also prevented Harding from returning home to Esk'etemc to conduct her traditional gathering activities and get supplies for winter.

On top of that, Harding was also supporting her mother who was undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy at the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North.

And then the bills started to pile up. Daycare for her younger children and high school fees for the older kids on top of the day-to-day living expenses for herself, her husband and their five children. 

“I needed some kind of assistance and I was unsure of where to turn to get it,” Harding recalls.

That’s when Harding found out about the Inspiring Women Among Us (IWAU) Award. Funded by donations to UNBC’s Northern Leadership Campaign, the IWAU award is designed to help women who are facing challenges and can benefit from financial support.

Harding found out in early September that she qualified and says the timing couldn’t have been better.

“The IWAU award came just exactly when I needed that little boost of financial support. It was essentially my last chance to get any support,” she says. “It took such a strain off of me and allowed me to be able to focus on my course work.”

Harding’s educational journey began in 2003, when she started taking courses at UNBC through what was then known as the Weekend University Program in Williams Lake. Then she moved to Prince George to pursue a Psychology degree, but with two young children at the time, she chose to enter the workforce before completing her degree.

After a nine-year hiatus, Harding returned to UNBC in 2015 with a renewed interest in learning how a post-secondary degree could help her assist her community as it went through a review of its housing policy.

“The Public Administration and Community Development degree is something that really fits in my line with all of my work history,” she says. “I’ve held so many different positions where you have to do community engagement and you have to know how to work with people and in tough situations.”

Harding is specializing in Environmental Planning, which she describes as her new passion. In January, she began a master’s program under the supervision of Environmental Planning Assistant Professor Dr. Mark Groulx.

Support from those who made gifts towards the IWAU Award helped her thrive during her final year of undergraduate studies and transition into her role as a graduate student.

On April 21, Harding will be speaking at the IWAU Wine, Women & Song event taking place at the Prince George Playhouse. She will share firsthand knowledge about how donations to the IWAU Award can truly make a difference.

“I was so happy and honoured to receive the award,” Harding says. “There are so many amazing women on this campus. I wasn’t expecting to be selected.”

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