The Westland Foundation
The Westland Foundation was created in 1993 through the vision of the then Winnipeg City Councillor John Prystanski.
The Foundation began with the goal to help a group of inner-Winnipeg school parent councils and area organizations raise $10,000.00 toward funding summer school recreation programs.
Consultations with the parent councils and other bodies established four original criteria:
- $10,000.00 was confirmed as the target figure;
- Groups who would receive funding had to participate in the fundraising process;
- Projects which we embarked on would have to benefit the community as a whole and project a positive image; and
- Projects had to be fun.
It was then suggested that a neighbourhood fair similar to events such as the Charleswood in Motion Days, Buffalo BBQ, and other community carnivals would fulfill all of the criteria we had set out. This was the genesis of our first big project, simply named Carnival. The inaugural year of Carnival was a resounding success. It included a children’s talent contest, a midway, and a 24 team slo-pitch tournament. Most importantly, our fundraising target was met.
The name of the Foundation sprang from the fact that two of the original board members were also on executive boards of the Weston and Brooklands Community Centres. It was agreed that blending the names would help to reflect the grassroots origin and orientation of the Foundation.
The Vision and Creation of the Westland Foundation Education Fund (WFEF)
With the Carnival program now well-established, the Foundation began to search for other ways to address its mandate of helping to create a better way of life for inner-Winnipeg residents. Consultations with the community groups who helped build the Carnival program resulted in Westland’s decision to focus on education as a field where it could make a positive difference.
Westland was struck by the fact that graduation rates in area schools lag consistently below those found in other parts of Winnipeg. It felt this is unacceptable as lower academic achievements of children in any one particular area of the city will create an economically and socially deprived community. The lower standards will also be reflected as a higher cost to society with higher social assistance expenditures, higher crime levels, and less opportunity for children. Additionally, as the employment market standards are being raised, young people will need more education than ever before in order to adapt.
Westland’s response was to create a program that will help students continue their education after high school and motivate them to stay in school until they graduate. This program is called the Westland Foundation Education Fund (WFEF).
The WFEF supports the existing education system. Westland believes the existing educational organizations need additional community support to help ensure the successful completion of the students’ education. Success at school does not start at any particular level; rather, it is a lifelong learning process. When students discover they can earn a scholarship by participating in school and applying their energies, they see there is a future because of the educational system, and they begin to develop a positive work ethic.
Westland also believes an all-inclusive scholarship that recognizes and supports the student’s effort beginning in Grade 7 and continuing into Grade 12 will help students develop a vision where they believe their future is based on their efforts and accomplishments. The scholarship will increase graduation levels for high school students and help them realize attending post-secondary school creates a healthy community as they recognize their future is based on their abilities. As a result, external factors that would prohibit students from successfully completing their education would be reduced, such as being born into an economically challenged family, the community they live in, or any other factor that has traditionally been seen as an acceptable reason to allow the student to accept sub-standard results. In the long term, the Foundation is creating a healthy community that will increase the educational level of students, reduce local crime, and increase pride in the community. Westland believes with the support of the community, the current educational system, and hopefully the parents, these will happen significantly.
The ultimate goal of the WFEF is to raise sufficient funds to support the entire post-secondary studies of inner-Winnipeg students. The life span of the WFEF is indefinite. With sound financial planning, Westland believes it will be able to serve the community for the next 100 years and beyond.