Philanthropy in Ottawa: Support for STEM blooms at Algonquin thanks to Leacross Foundation

Roslyn Bern
Roslyn Bern
Editor's Note

WCPD logoPhilanthropy in Ottawa is supported by The Foundation (WCPD), an Ottawa-based philanthropic tax planning advisory firm that helps individuals and foundations increase the size and impact of their charitable donations.


Who: Roslyn Bern, president, Leacross Foundation    

The donation: $60,000

The recipient: Algonquin College   

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The inspiration: “Algonquin College’s mission is to transform hopes and dreams into lifelong success, and through the commitment of the Leacross Foundation, our female students can realize their dreams in science, technology, engineering and math careers.” – Mark Sakenkoff, vice-president of advancement, Algonquin College

The Leacross Foundation wants nothing to get in the way of women studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at Algonquin College during the pandemic. Roslyn Bern, the president of the Chelsea-based Leacross Foundation – which works to support educational opportunities for women and children – saw how limits on in-person gatherings and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 could have a detrimental impact on education, and is working to find innovative solutions.

“Our hope is that women and girls can participate in whatever career they choose without discrimination (or) bias, and have wraparound support networks to succeed,” Bern says. 

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A partnership between Algonquin College and the foundation is supporting female students in two significant ways. 

First, in response to COVID-19, Algonquin College developed an innovative off-campus adaptation of conventional in-class learning. Take-home lab kits, with necessary equipment for applied research projects, were provided to students to support remote hands-on learning for students. The Leacross Foundation’s gift of $60,000 helps to fund kits for 75 women.

Second, in response to the gap in the percentage of female applicants and graduates in STEM, the We Saved You a Seat (WSYAS) program was established at Algonquin College in 2018. The program actively recruits and supports women pursuing education in STEM. 

Twenty female students will receive WSYAS bursaries in Algonquin College’s STEM programs in 2021 thanks to the support of the Leacross Foundation. 

The goal of WSYAS is to create an environment in which women feel a sense of true belonging. WSYAS works to achieve this through active and intentional recruiting, building awareness with women about the value of STEM programs, connecting students to female mentors and equipping instructors to teach in gender-inclusive classrooms.

We Saved You a Seat allocates 30 per cent of available seats in several Algonquin College programs, including electrical engineering technician, computer systems technician and powerline technician, for women who meet the admission standards.

“These two programs – the take-home kits and We Saved You a Seat – augment and continue our practice in supporting women in underrepresented fields,” adds Bern.

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